Decorating on a Budget: Frugal and Fun Shelving Ideas

 modern shelving

Flickr Photo Credit: B. Frahm

Since storage, display space and decorating seem to go hand in hand when you’re on a budget, who doesn’t need ideas for shelving solutions?

We are currently in the middle of moving into a lake cottage, and this issue has come up repeatedly in the last week and a half. Here are a few of the ideas we’re considering:

  • Hanging shelves. I’ve seen these in a few places and they’re a rather neat idea, particularly if you are renting and want to reduce the number of holes you put in the walls. The shelves basically hang from the ceiling and have two ropes or cables, one at each end (more if the shelves are longer because you’ll need some in the middle). Then, at equal distances vertically, you hang the shelf boards and either tie a knot (this is very hard to do evenly, by the way), or add a clamp cable that will hold tight to the rope or cable and provide lateral stability under the shelf. I’ve seen this done rustic-style with barn boards and ropes, or with a modern feel using glass shelves and steel cables. They are great against a wall, or can make a fairly decent room divider, if you want to use something more stable between the shelves. One great thing I’ve noticed about these types of shelves is since they don’t reach all the way to the floor, you don’t have to move anything when it comes time to vacuum or mop, making it much easier to clean.
  • Another cool shelf idea I saw recently was a weathered piece of board hung very simply on a wall with brackets. Because the wall was a dramatic color, and the decor above the shelf was very simple, the look really worked. It had a real “art gallery” feel to it, but was basically just a found object along the side of the road. The corners on this piece were a bit rounded, so you might want to pick something that doesn’t have very sharp edges if you want it to look more ancient.  Beach wood might be another interesting approach for this project. It might not work with every decor, but if you’re going for either a Zen, modern art, or a primitive look, this shelving idea might be just the ticket.
  • It may have been done before, but there’s a reason the old boards and bricks trick has stayed around. OK, two reasons. It works, and it’s cheap. You can rustic with raw wood and old brick, or more modern with glass shelves and decorative concrete patio blocks sprayed in a metallic shade.  Also, if whatever holds your boards apart can also store something else (open steel boxes turned sideways with the open end out), you haven’t even lost the storage space that the “bricks” hold up.

Some other ideas from around the net?

  • A three dimensional project that combines both art art and function. An unusual shelf, this set of directions and illustrations is provided by Lowes.
  • This is a neat shelf unit where a homeowner figured out a way to use wasted wall space, gain storage, and create a secret “bat cave” type of room that houses his hot water heater and brooms, etc. One section of the shelf unit (although it looks like all one piece) has a trigger that enables you to swing it out on hinges and access the room with absolutely no wasted wall or storage space. He even has the trigger hooked into an old Sherlock Holmes book that he bought so you can tip out the book and enter the bat cave. He sounded a bit disappointed that he couldn’t put a wine cellar behind there, but hey, take a look at the space he started with and you might be able to find a way to have your own bat – wine – cave. Pretty creative solution!
  • Here’s a page that shows how to unit.
  • Some directions on how to make a set of CD shelves out of an old wooden ladder and some smaller pieces of wood.
  • See how to make a set of shelves out of old skateboards. This one is a bit too sports-themed for my taste, but the idea is sound if this decorating look floats your boat.
  • Some ideas for dressing up cheap particle board shelving and giving it a custom look. 

I’m ready to start getting organized, how about you? Please feel free to post any other creative ideas you may have for shelving.  We’d love to feature you!