How to Build Custom Shelving for Any Room

Shelving lends style, function and panache to any room of the house. From the smallest, most ornate decorative shelves meant to hold one vase or ornament to full wall bookshelves, you can design shelving to fit any decor easily. Shelving is a DIY-ers dream. It’s easy, quick and even fun to create. Here are 10 shelf units in various home decor themes to make quickly, easily and inexpensively.

First, a word about the installed shelving units that are screwed into the walls: forget them. They labor intensive, difficult to get straight and they damage your walls. Most of us rearrange our spaces periodically, so you want shelving the grows and adapts to your life. Essentially, portable shelves are the answer.

Retro 1970’s shelves: My mother made a wonderfully artsy set of shelves for our living room with red bricks and wood planks back in the early 1970s. You will need 6 red clay bricks and one plank per shelf. Treat the wood in a oil stain of your choice. If you want to make really green shelves, stain with cold coffee and apply a coat of olive oil to seal. Stack three bricks on each side and lay the plank across the bricks. It’s that simple. These shelves will hold books, lamps, even baskets with items in them. These shelves make great bedroom of bathroom shelves. Place woven baskets on the shelves to hold and organize clothing, toiletries, accessories, towels, etc. Purchase bricks and lumber from any home improvement outlet.

Vintage shelves: Choose two book ends or flat topped statuettes; Victorians loved carved elephant, giraffe or other safari animal statues. Place a wooden, wicker or metal tray atop the the bookends or statues. Use one statue and place a round metal, mosaic or wood tray atop. Use for accessories and books. TJMaxx, Barnes and Noble, Target, Kirkland’s and Pier One Imports have attractive, unusual and affordable bookends. Gardening centers and flea markets are a great source also. Yard statues often have flat tops or upheld hands to hold a table top or tray.

Improvised shelves: Give all sorts of old pieces to work as shelves. I love to scavenge flea markets, secondhand shops, garage sales and estate sales for unique pieces to reinvent into a nifty shelving unit. Here are some of my favorite improvs.

Wooden changing tables: some baby changing tables are quite ornate; give them new life as shelves. The top surface with a piece of lace makes a lovely vanity. Place baskets and decorative cardboard boxes of all sizes on the shelves to hold all intimates, accessories, etc.

Tea carts: I fell in love with wheeled tea carts decades ago. The cart has a lift off tea tray and handle. It can be moved anywhere. This is a great place to display china or glassware. The rolling tea cart can do double duty as a portable vanity table also.

Plant stands: Make your decorator statement with wrought iron, mosaic tile, wooden or wicker plant stands. The multi-level stands with round plant holders are especially whimsical and fun. Use these for end tables, bedside stands, and more. I place a lamp on the top level, a coaster on another level as a beverage holder, a vase of flowers or a plant on another and a pile of books on another. A rolling wrought iron plant cart makes romantic shelving also.

Baker’s rack: Choose elegant art deco wrought iron, modern chrome, utilitarian gun metal, romantic wicker, functional butcher block, etc. These multi-level, multi-height shelves make perfect book shelves, plant stands, utility shelves and more.

China cabinets: Being blessed with a plethora of books, but less China, I’ve converted my china cabinet into a bookshelf.

Old cabinets with damaged doors: remove the doors and hardware. Sand and paint over the spot where the hardware was. Convert to a shelving unit.

This list should give you a multitude of easy and inexpensive DIY ideas for all your shelving needs and design wishes.

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