How to use corner shelves to save space in your home

As a woodworker and DIY expert living in a Chicago apartment, I know something about making the most of small spaces. One of my favorite tricks is using corner shelves to take advantage of wasted areas and maximize storage and display options. In this post, I’ll share my tips for selecting, installing, and styling corner shelves to create a more functional and beautiful home.

Why Corner Shelves Are an Underrated Gem

Most people don’t think about the corners of their rooms. But neglected spaces like corners offer prime real estate for shelves that can hold a surprising amount of items without taking up valuable wall or floor space elsewhere. Corner shelves are perfect for tiny homes, apartments, or rooms with tricky angled walls.

How to use corner shelves to save space in your home

Here are some of the benefits of utilizing corner shelves:

  • Space-saving: Corner shelves fit snugly into wasted corner space and can hold far more items than their compact footprint would suggest. Even a small shelf unit can corral books, displays, and knickknacks that would otherwise clutter horizontal surfaces.
  • Versatility: Corner shelves can be used in various rooms for different purposes. In the living room, they’re great for books, plants, and home decor. They provide a perfect perch for toiletries, towels, and self-care items in the bathroom. Kitchen corner shelves keep spices and cookbooks organized yet accessible.
  • Aesthetics: With the right design and materials, corner shelves add visual interest to any room. They can tie the space together while architecturally highlighting the room’s angles.
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The key is to select the correct corner shelf for your home. Let’s explore some of the most popular options.

Types of Corner Shelves to Consider

Floating Corner Shelves

Floating shelves make a modern, minimalist statement. They are thin, lightweight, and come in wood, metal, or glass. Because they hover on the wall, they give the illusion of more space. Floating shelves work best for displaying light items like plants, framed photos, or small decor objects.

Tiered Corner Shelving Units

Tiered units make excellent use of vertical real estate for storing bulkier items. The multiple-stepped shelves and cubbies hold everything from voluminous cookbooks to appliances and craft supplies. Tiered units come in many materials to match any room’s aesthetics. The compartmentalized design helps keep items organized and accessible.

Corner Ladder Shelves

Ladder-style corner shelves offer the best of form and function. The ladder frame adds decoration, while its horizontal rungs provide surfaces for both display and storage. Ladder shelves have an airier, less bulky appearance than tiered units, but they can still hold a fair amount of books, knickknacks, and accent pieces.

Utilize Wasted Space with Corner Shelves

DIY Custom Corner Shelves

Building custom corner shelves is the best option for a truly bespoke solution. This allows you to customize the design, dimensions, and materials to suit your space and needs ideally. One of the best parts of DIY shelves is choosing salvaged or upcycled fabrics that add character. And, of course, you’ll get the satisfaction of creating something by hand.

Choosing the Right Shelf Material

When selecting corner shelves, consider the overall decor and function of the space. Here are some material options that work well:

  • Wood: A natural choice for many rooms, wood corner shelves come in various stains and styles. They offer a classic, warm look and superior strength for heavier items. Reclaimed or upcycled wood adds character.
  • Metal: Metal shelves offer an edgy, industrial vibe. They’re sleek, modern, and lightweight compared to wood. Various metal finishes, like matte black or rustic bronze, allow you to control the aesthetic. Metal is also easy to clean.
  • Glass/Acrylic: Similarly streamlined, glass or acrylic corner shelves blend into contemporary spaces. Transparent frames maintain an airy, open feel, while frosted glass options provide a diffused, elegant look.
  • DIY Materials: For custom shelves, you can use everyday materials like planks, brackets, crates, pipes, and boards. Get creative with items sourced from the hardware store or scrap pile.
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Take stock of your existing furniture and overall design vision to select corner shelves that enhance (rather than clash) the room’s current decor.

Designing Your Corner Shelves

Once you’ve settled on the perfect corner shelves, it’s time to think about how to use them. Here are some ideas for organizing, decorating, and customizing your shelving to maximize the benefits:

Keep Clutter At Bay

Use Corner Shelves to Organize and Display Your Things
  • Use baskets, bins, and boxes to organize odds and ends on shelves. Group like items together to maintain a tidy appearance.
  • Label storage containers so you and your family can quickly locate your needs.
  • Rotate seasonal items to keep shelves from getting overloaded. Store off-season decor away until needed again.

Show Off Your Style

  • Accent shelves with decorative objects like framed photos, art, vases, candles, and small sculptures.
  • Illuminate shelves or items with built-in lighting or spotlights for dramatic effect.
  • Change up shelf displays with the seasons or as your tastes evolve.

Get Creative with Function

  • In the kitchen, corner shelves can hold recipe books, spices, oils, condiments, and kitchen tools. They can be installed above a prep space or island.
  • Convert a bedroom corner into a nightstand with shelves to hold a lamp, alarm clock, books, and charging station.
  • In a home office, shelves corral office supplies, files, and tech accessories to keep workstations tidy.

Installing Corner Shelves

Installing corner shelves securely is essential, especially if they hold heavy items. Here are the basic steps:

Gather Your Supplies

For most installations, you’ll need:

  • Drill and drill bits
  • Wall anchors (plastic for drywall, metal for concrete walls)
  • Screws
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Pencil
  • Stud finder (for walls with studs)
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Corner Shelves The Secret to Making Your Small Space Look Bigger

Safety gear like glasses, gloves, and a stepladder are also recommended. Before starting, you should have your shelves and any additional hardware ready.

Add Support

Determine if you’ll be drilling into studs or using anchors. Locate and mark studs or desired anchor placement. Use a level to ensure marks are even.

For studs, pre-drill holes are slightly smaller than the screw diameter. For anchors, drill holes as specified by the anchor instructions.

Insert anchors and lightly tap or screw them into the wall as needed.

Mount Your Shelves

Place the shelves on the anchors, using a level to double-check that they are even. Mark the locations of any additional support brackets or rails, then drill the holes.

Drill shelf bracket holes as marked. Attach shelf to anchors using screws, washers, and rail brackets as needed. Tighten everything securely, but not so much as to crack shelf materials.

When loading them, ensure the shelves are level and sturdy enough for intended use!

Style with Care

Avoid overloading shelves or forcing too many items onto them. To prevent scratches, use felt pads on shelf bottoms or items—dust regularly and clean with gentle cleaners suitable for the material.

With the right corner shelves installed and styled creatively, you can enjoy new storage, display, and design options without claiming more floor space. You might find yourself looking for unused corners to fill with shelves throughout the house! Let me know if you have any other questions about maximizing your space with corner shelves.