Best Floating Shelves

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for Best floating shelves

The right shelving isn’t just functional, it can also add a striking design element to a room. That’s because shelves provide a convenient place to store items like books and display collectibles like plates and artwork. For simple storage that’s easy to install, you really can’t beat floating shelves.

Floating shelves mount to the wall without any visible means of attachment or support, which means they don’t require as much space as other types of shelves. Floating shelves are often easier to hang, too, and the clean, simple design allows you to truly show off your items. But with so many floating shelves on the market, finding the right ones for your home can be challenging. You have to think about how you plan to use the shelves, what material you prefer, how many shelves you need, and any other features that will make a set of floating shelves the best fit for your home.

floating shelf1
Floating shelves don’t require much space, which makes them ideal for small areas like a hallway nook or the space above the toilet.

Key considerations

Uses

When you’re shopping for floating shelves, it helps to think about how you plan to use them. The best floating shelves for display aren’t necessarily the best ones for storage, so you want to choose accordingly.

Storage: If you don’t have enough storage space in a room, floating shelves can be an ideal solution. Large, horizontal shelving is your best bet because it provides more space for books and other items. 

Display: Floating shelves also work well for display purposes because they hold multiple items and you only need to drill a few holes in your wall. You can showcase your favorite plates, vases, collectibles, or framed artwork. Corner floating shelves are perfect for displaying items because they aren’t large enough for storage but make the most of limited space. 

Material

Floating shelves are available in several different materials. The following are the most common options:

Wood: This is the strongest, most durable material used for floating shelves. It has a classic, elegant look and handles wear and tear better than most other options. Solid wood floating shelves usually cost the most.

MDF: Medium-density fiberboard is made from wood fibers and resin, so it’s lighter in weight and less expensive than solid wood. It doesn’t warp or absorb water the way that real wood can, but MDF floating shelves aren’t as strong or durable as wooden shelves.

Plywood: This is made of stacked and glued layers of wood veneer. Plywood shelves are usually stronger and more durable than MDF shelves, but they still won’t last as long as solid wood shelving.

Chipboard: This is the most budget-friendly option for floating shelves. It’s made up of small wooden pieces that are glued together and covered with a layer of veneer. It can suffer water damage fairly easily, so these shelves won’t last as long as other materials.

Acrylic: This is a durable plastic material that’s sometimes used for floating shelves. Many styles are clear or transparent, which gives them a particularly striking look on the wall. They are fairly durable and strong, too. 

If you don’t want to add the bulk of a bookcase to a room, floating shelves are ideal for displaying your book collection.

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Features

Quantity

Floating shelves are sold in different quantities. Most are sold as part of a set that contains two to four shelves. Sets of three are the most common. 

You can find some floating shelves sold individually. These are a good option if you want to add shelves to an existing set or simply want a single shelf to display a few items.

Capacity

Since floating shelves are usually sold as sets, you should consider how much total capacity all the shelves offer together. Many sets have shelves of various lengths, so you can stagger them on the wall for a more dramatic look. 

  • Short floating shelves are generally 15 to 20 inches long. 
  • Medium floating shelves are generally 30 inches long. 
  • Large floating shelves are generally 40 inches long.

Pay attention to the width, too. Choose floating shelves that are at least 6 inches wide to make sure they can accommodate your items. 

Drawers

Some floating shelves offer more storage than just a flat surface. Instead of a simple board, the shelves are made up of boxes that contain drawers. In most cases, the drawers aren’t particularly large, so they don’t hold much, but they can add a fun look to a room. 

Hardware

If you want to get your floating shelves up on the wall as soon as possible, choose a set that includes the necessary hardware to mount them. Some shelves use brackets to hold them in place and include the screws and drywall anchors needed to stabilize them. 

floating shelf2
DID YOU KNOW?
Installing floating shelves is a fairly easy DIY project. With a cordless drill, you can hang them in less than an hour.
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Accessories

Flower vase: APSOONSELL Shabby Chic Pitcher Vase 
Floating shelves are the perfect spot to display an attractive flower vase, even if it’s empty. We love this rustic metal one because it pairs perfectly with French country décor.

Picture frame: Americanflat Picture Frame
Show off your favorite family photos or artwork in the right frames. This one from Americanflat is a favorite because it offers a classic design and can be used either vertically or horizontally.

Floating shelf prices

Floating shelves vary in price based on material, quantity, and size. Most cost between $15 and $275.

Inexpensive: The most affordable floating shelves are made of plywood or chipboard. They typically provide at least three shelves and offer a fairly generous amount of space. You’ll spend between $15 and $35 for these floating shelves.

Mid-range: These floating shelves are generally made of MDF or acrylic. They usually come with at least two shelves per set and provide a generous amount of space. These floating shelves typically cost between $30 and $70

Expensive: The most expensive floating shelves are made of solid wood. They can come as single shelves or in sets with two or more shelves that offer a good amount of space. You’ll pay between $58 and $275 for these floating shelves. 

Dress up your staircase by hanging a set of floating shelves and decorating them with photos or artwork.

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Tips

  • Mount the shelves to studs. Floating shelves should always be secured to wall studs for stability. If there aren’t any studs in the spot where you want to hang the shelves, you’ll need to use secure anchors to support the weight of the shelves. 
  • Measure carefully. When installing multiple floating shelves, make sure to measure the placement of all of them before you hang them. Consider the items you want to place on the shelves, too, to make sure that there’s enough vertical space between the shelves for your items. 
  • Use the right hardware. If you plan to place something heavy or valuable on your floating shelves, you might want to purchase your own mounting hardware. The hardware that comes with the shelves isn’t necessarily the sturdiest, and you can usually find better options at a hardware store. 
  • Pick a design theme. If you’re not sure how to decorate your floating shelves, consider using a particular color scheme. For example, you might stick solely to white, black, and silver items for your shelves. You can also create visual interest by varying the height of the items you place on the shelves. For example, stack a couple of books horizontally next to a tall candle or vase.
floating shelf3
Floating shelves can be an excellent option for the space above the countertop in your kitchen.

FAQ

Q. How much weight can floating shelves support? 

A. It depends on the material your shelves are made of and how thick they are. Most floating shelves provide a weight limit in the installation instructions, so you know exactly how much weight they can take. If you’re not sure, stick to items that weigh about 10 pounds or less on a floating shelf. 

Q. Where should I hang floating shelves? 

A. You can hang floating shelves anywhere you want. They work especially well in kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and nurseries. You can also hang them in a foyer or entryway, a hallway, above the desk in a home office, or any other spot where there isn’t enough space for a bookcase or other shelving unit. 

Q. How high on the wall should I hang floating shelves? 

A. The same rule that applies to artwork applies to floating shelves: hang them at eye level. In most cases, that’s approximately 4 to 5 feet above the ground. If you want to place your shelves above furniture, hang them at least 10 inches above the top of the furniture.

 

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