Pick the Perfect Shelves for Any Room

Create space to display collectibles, stack books and store bulky items. Follow these tips to pick the perfect shelves and install them (no handyman required!)


Whether you want to show off prized possessions or bring order to a cluttered room, open shelving is a smart and inexpensive alternative to freestanding bookcases or built-ins. And because the shelves are installed individually, you can tailor them to your space and needs: Fill a whole wall or add just a pair above a sofa or desk, positioning the planks as far apart or as close together as you like.

You'll find three basic types of wall shelves, in a variety of designs and finishes.
Adjustable: The most common type consists of metal tracks (ranging from 24 to 80 inches long) that are screwed vertically into the wall. Brackets snap into slots on the tracks, and shelves lie across them.
Bracket: This is the simplest kind of shelf; supports, or brackets (often L-shaped), are screwed into the wall, and a shelf rests on them.
Floating: These are attached to the wall by a bracket that is hidden by the shelf itself, and therefore seem to float. These shelves have a minimalist look that doesn't compete with the items they display.


  • Store disparate items, such as files and notebooks, on adjustable shelves so you can tailor the space.
  • Put up adjustable shelving in closets, a home office or a laundry room―the utilitarian look of these shelves makes them best suited for hidden areas.
  • Pop out the brackets and rearrange the configuration as you acquire or eliminate items

Installation technique: Position one track on the wall. Drill a hole through one of the holes in the track, and drive in a screw. Use a long level to check that the track is perfectly vertical (draw a line along it with a pencil) and install the rest of the screws through the holes in the track. Insert a bracket in the track. Insert another bracket in the corresponding slot on a second, uninstalled track. Place a long level across the brackets; adjust the second track to make the brackets even. Install the second track as you did the first, followed by any remaining tracks, and then arrange the brackets and shelves.


  • Use bracket shelves to house books and other weighty objects. The heavy-duty brackets can hold more poundage than the decorative, floating shelves.
  • Brackets come in many styles, including sleek stainless steel, antique wrought iron and cozy carved pine, so they will work with any decor or room style.
  • Purchase a shelf-and-bracket kit, or pair vintage brackets (find them at flea markets or online) with shelves cut at a lumberyard.

Installation technique: Position a bracket on the wall. Drill a hole in the wall through one of the holes in the bracket. Drive in a screw; repeat. Align the other bracket with a level; install. Attach the shelf to the brackets by driving screws into the holes at the base and tip of the bracket.


  • Choose this minimalist style when you want the items that you're exhibiting (like vases, pretty bottles and keepsakes) to stand out.
  • Use these shelves for lighter items; while some models can hold up to 70 pounds, most are designed for smaller, decorative items. Be sure to speak to a salesperson about what you plan to put on the shelves before purchasing them.
  • Buy floating shelves in kits that include a panel with a set of deep holes along the back edge and a metal cleat with long bars that stick straight out. To install the shelving, you screw the cleat into the wall and then slide the panel onto the bars and into place.

Installation technique: Position the metal cleat on the wall. Drill a hole through one of the holes in the cleat; drive in a screw. Use a long level to straighten the cleat, and install the rest of the screws. Slip the shelf onto the cleat.