Once thought of as an organizational necessity hidden behind closed doors, shelves have come out of the closet and made a grand entry into the design world. Open shelving is not only an efficient and typically inexpensive way to sort, display and store your sundries, but can also make a space feel lighter, bigger and more … well, open.

Here are some clever open shelving ideas for incorporating them into your home for practical and creative living.

Room Divider

If you’re looking to carve out a separate space but don’t want to commit to building a wall, installing an open-shelf bookcase can effortlessly divide a room. This is seen in many loft-like rooms or studio apartments.

The use of divider shelves is practical and seamless. It lets light flow from one part of the room to another, yet it allows a distinct function in each space.

Open shelving room dividers can be tall (almost to the ceiling) or low (creating a mid-wall separation). In either case, curate them with items that suit both spaces by coordinating the color and type of objects on each shelf.  

Home Office

Challenged by a lack of space to work from home? Creating a streamlined home office is easier than you think — and one of the most clever and practical uses of open shelving.  

Whether it’s in your living room, bedroom or kitchen, find a wall or nook that has enough space horizontally for a desk (30 inches wide, minimum) and at least a 42-inch depth clearance for seating. Install your desk shelf at seat height, and add storage shelves above that.

Desk shelves can be supported by open bookcases or filing cabinets underneath, or placed as a floating surface with the right hardware and wall brackets. Super-easy to DIY and a huge space saver, your new workspace can become even more stylish by adding wallpaper or a contrasting paint color on the wall behind it.

Gallery Wall

Displaying your favorite photos or framed artwork doesn’t have to be limited to one or two. With the use of shelves, you can create a gallery wall and display multiple pieces of art or photos.

Open shelving for artwork can range from narrow ledge-type shelves to deeper bookcase shelving. Shelf finishes can be textured, such as reclaimed wood or metallic. You can space several of the same-size shelves evenly apart, or artfully create a random pattern.

When curating your gallery wall, try to create a visual story. For example, select all vintage-style photos or use all white frames with white matting. Whether it’s showing off family photos or your kids’ artwork, your goal is to design a wall that is eye-catching but not so dissonant that it seems cluttered.

Media Wall

Turn a boring TV wall into a stylish multi-functional feature with the use of selective shelving. Media consoles and hutches tend to feel heavy and often limit the use of the remaining wall space.

By placing shelves around your flat-screen TV, you have the ability to store small media gadgets or display stylish objects to balance out the technical aspect of the wall. Shelf objects should be carefully selected and streamlined so as not to compete with the main feature of the wall — the TV.

Curated Collection

The most obvious and popular use of shelving is for displaying well-loved collections. From Grandma’s teacups to vintage cameras, open shelving is the perfect spot to show off what you love to collect while creating a standout design feature.

When curating your visible collection, remember that less is more. Don’t cram all of your treasures onto one shelf; space your items. If you need to cluster a few, then allow a reasonable amount of space between the next group on the same shelf. Individual cubes are perfect for spacing parts of a collection.

Also think about coordinating color and shape, even when it comes to books; some people color-coordinate their book spines (a controversial act in the book world). Or alternate between vertical and horizontal stacking.

Finally, painting a shelved wall or adding undermounted or other lighting beautifully showcases your curated collection for all to admire.

What are your favorite open shelving ideas? Do you have any others that you’d like to share? Add them in the comments below!