All About Shelving

Book shelves are like files in a computer. They keep everything in its place, nice and tidy. When your space is organized you have more time to do other things. Shelving, whether it’s a book case or shelves hung on a wall, is an essential way of storing your belongings and keeping yourself organized.

How do you choose which shelving method is best for you? The following factors will help you come up with a plan before you make a purchase:



Size of the Room

A small room always needs storage. However, instead of a clunky bookshelf that sits on the floor and takes up valuable floor space, you can add shelves to the walls to store your things. What you do with the space also depends on the purpose of the room. If it’s going to be a home office, look at your space and think about your daily tasks. What does your job require? For example if you are an accountant who has tons of paperwork, then you need to plan for a filing system and unit. A computer genius, will need space for his multiple computers and tech gadgets. A fashion designer needs to plan a space to cut his or her patterns, place a mannequin, hang dresses and an area to store portfolios. Once you pinpoint your needs, you can begin to think of what kind of shelves will serve best in your allocated space. You also need to measure your space so you know how much room you really have.

Keep in mind that the weight of certain items, like toys and books, can get heavy and long shelves have a habit of dipping in the middle. To avoid this, I recommend buying shelves or a book case no more than 30 inches in width.

When it comes to height, there is much variety. My personal belief is that if you are going to use bookshelves, take full advantage of the given space and try to go as high as possible. If budget is not an issue have them built to go all the way to the ceiling. That space between the top of the bookcase and the ceiling is valuable real estate that only collects dust, so use it. IKEA, for example, sells great inexpensive book shelves (The BILLY) that are designed to grow in height. Their BILLY bookcase has a height extension unit that allows you to fully utilize the surface of the wall, while clearing floor space. Do not be frightened of IKEA bookcases. If you secure them properly to each other and the wall they will last a long time and look fantastic at an inexpensive price.

Open Shelves or Closed Shelves

There are two types of shelves that work depending on your organizational skills, as well as that of your family. Before choosing ask yourself, “Do I have the time to keep up with others in my household, especially my kids? How neat am I?” If you and/or your children are not very organized, (most children are not) the best thing to do is to select a unit with closed shelving. This way you can put doors on the bottom of the unit to hide things.

Color Palate

Look at the room where you want to add shelving. Take note of the decor. What color palate do you see? What color shelves will compliment the room? If you want to paint your shelves, remember to buy them unfinished. Unfinished wood shelves can be painted and customized because they have not been sealed. Gothic Cabinet Craft has a great selection of standard unfinished shelves and book cases. And for an additional price, they will customize the unit to any size and paint it to any Benjamin Moore color you choose. The IKEA book case that I mentioned earlier cannot be painted or modified in color. It already comes finished.

Shelves for the Kids

You cannot have an organized children’s room without shelving. Books and toys need to be housed and a collection of bins in the middle of the room is not always the best solution.

Sit with your children on a regular basis and ask them what they no longer play with and what they can do without. It will be hard at first. But if it becomes a routine they will not mind handing their old toys over to be given to the needy.

My son and daughter share a room, and what makes that room work is the customized bookcase I built for them. Yes, I built the bookcases myself. My daughter collects tons of dolls; Bratz and American Girl Dolls. My son, on the other hand, loves trucks and trains. He is very proud of his collection, and when his friends come over, the first thing he does is to bring them over to his side of the book cases.

I chose open shelving because I choose to come into their room on a regular basis and organize everything. But for parents who are too busy, I suggest bookcases with the option of doors at the bottom. Everyone likes to think that they can keep up with their everyday routine and maintain their children’s room. Don’t lie to yourself. Be honest. Are you really going to have the time and the patience? If not, don’t hate yourself and get the doors. I sometimes wish I had designed my bookcases with that option — too late for me, but not for you.

Quick Tips to Remember for Shelves:

  • Shelves should complement the color of your room.
  • If customized, you can purchase them at whatever height and width you want.
  • Make sure to secure the bookcases to the wall and to each other. It can be dangerous if you don’t as it can fall onto the little ones.
  • To keep from dipping in the center, keep shelves to a minimum of 30” in length.
  • Create shelving around radiator or air conditioning. It’s dead space that can be utilized better.
  • Do not be afraid to manipulate existing cabinets.

Make sure to come back to Casa Latina next week for another “Do It Yourself post!”

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