I used to love George Carlin’s take on houses. He said we all had more “stuff” than we knew what to do with, so we bought a bigger house for all the stuff. Now that we had a bigger house, we went out and bought more “stuff.”
When you think about it, the eight inches up to 12 to 15 inches between floating shelves isn’t that much room to put all our “stuff.” We wouldn’t even need floating shelves if the cabinets held all our stuff, yes? So what is it about shelves that fascinate us so? Grab a coffee and let’s find out.
How Did Someone Arrive At The Answer For How Far Apart Should Floating Shelves Be?
There’s no written proof, but the first shelving is thought to have been formed by an 18th-century sailor intent on organizing the goods in the hold of the ship.
The first patent for a shelving system came in the 19th century for a shelf set for storing and aging cheese. Now we move to the 20th century when the pallet rack was invented and patented. Now merchandise of all types has a shelving system to hold them.
Notice that commercial goods come in larger boxes or other containers, so they need a lot of room on warehouse shelves to be stored. That doesn’t translate to home shelving systems at all. But then, we’re not storing a pallet full of “stuff” on our floating shelves, so they can have whatever range of space we specifically need.
So The Typical Space Between Floating Shelves Is 12 Inches. What If I Don’t Need That Much Space?
Only you know why you need floating shelves. Only you know what you’ll put on them. So take a look at your available space and draw up a plan.
Placement Of Floating Shelves In The Kitchen
I love Christmas and birthdays, don’t get me wrong, but I swear I need a whole new house to store the “stuff” I get: cutesy coffee mugs, things the grand made for me in art class, that set of coasters I just couldn’t resist at that yard sale, and a dozen more things with which I simply can’t part.
So you have plenty of room in the cabinets, but you have nowhere to put all the cute stuff you receive as gifts. Floating shelves to the rescue! Keep in mind that the counter is about 36 inches high, so you’re going to have to stretch an extra 18 to 24 inches to put new “stuff” on the bottom floating shelf. Get out the step stool; if your second shelf is 12 inches above the bottom one, then you’ll need help.
Since reaching the shelf is the goal here, it might work if you place your shelves a little lower over the kitchen counter. You could always place them on a wall with no cabinetry or major appliances, then you could place them at any height you need.
Placement Of Floating Shelves In The Bathroom
Bathrooms are where we’re alone with our thoughts. One of them, though, doesn’t seem to be storage in the bathroom as we contemplate the next day’s activities. You’ll have towel racks for towels and holders beside the toilet for the paper. What more storage do you need?
It’s rare to find a bathroom these days (or even a hallway outside a bathroom) complete with a linen closet. No bed linens, no bath towels, or bath mats. No shelf for new bottles of personal care products.
There isn’t always a shelf in the shower or above the tub for music, digital temperature controls, folded fluffy towels and bath mats, or neck pillows for soaking in the tub. This, boys and girls, is why we need 12 to 18 inches of floating shelves in bathrooms.
That Makes Sense. How High Should I Install My Floating Shelves?
About the tallest thing on your counters would be the small appliances and maybe a cutting board resting against the wall up-ended. I, personally, consider counters a resting place for my coffee pot, so my floating shelves would be comfortably within reach no more than eight to 12 inches above that. In most cases, you can get away with placing your bottom floating shelf 12 to 16 inches above the counter.
Now there arises the question of what to do with the things you only use once a year or less. The turkey roasting pan usually goes in the drawer beneath the oven, but what do you do with the turkey platter? The cookie sheets usually go in a bottom cabinet, but what do you do with the three-tier cookie plates or the glass cake plate on a pedestal?
You usually don’t see floating shelves in the singular. You see a set of two or three. In the pictures, the cereal bowls, cups, and saucers rest on the shelves. I’ve always wondered why, since I put these items in a cabinet. I would place the turkey plate, the three-tier cookie plates, and the cake plate on a pedestal on the top shelf, since I rarely use them.
What all this boils down to is that it’s up to you what you put on your floating shelves. The three-tier cookie plate and the cake plate on a pedestal are going to require more space between shelves, so go with 16 to 24 inches between shelves. If all you’re putting on your shelves is crockery or a pot of succulent plants, then go a little less with, say, eight to ten inches between shelves.
What About Floating Shelves In The Living Room? How High Should They Be?
Living rooms are where we sit and chill. We look at the paintings on the walls, we admire the carving on the fireplace mantel, and we smile at the dog cuddling with her stuffed animal. Some people put floating shelves in their living rooms to showcase something of which they’re proud or something pretty.
No one wants to rise from a sofa and bash their head on a shelf. That’s why pictures of living room shelves are so high up on the wall. If you figure the general height of a sofa is 30 to 36 inches, then placing your floating shelves ten to 12 inches above that should prevent a head from being bashed on them. To be even safer, place them at eye level, or five feet from the floor.
Depending on what you want to showcase on your living room shelves, plan on placing them at least 18 to 22 inches apart. That will give you room to place a 13 x 18 inch or a 10 by 12 inch picture frame on the shelf, or a very tall vase, or a column candle in a decorative glass.
How Far Apart Should Floating Shelves Be FAQs
Why Do People Use Floating Shelves?
Floating shelves are a good alternative to cabinets when space is limited, a room is small, or you want to optimize nooks and crannies. Floating shelves give a room an open, airy feeling, in addition to giving a room extra storage.
Are Floating Shelves Still In Style?
Kitchens are usually where most people place floating shelves, and the trend doesn’t seem to be losing ground. If you want to give your kitchen or bathroom a classy edge, install some floating shelves.
How Much Weight Can Floating Shelves Support?
Always attach floating shelves to studs. Floating shelves can hold up to 50 to 100 pounds comfortably as long as they’re anchored to strong supports like studs.
Do Floating Shelves Sag?
Depending on how long the shelves have been there and the weight of the items put on them, open shelving can sag after a few years.
Is The Farmhouse Look Still In Style?
Do Floating Shelves Wobble?
Not every bottom of a floating shelf will rest flush against a wall. Any gap will cause the shelf to be out of true, but adding a shim to the equation should calm any wobble.
Will A TV Fall Off A Floating Shelf?
Placing floating shelves artfully around a wall-mounted flat-screen TV will showcase the TV instead of having just a black box on the wall. As long as the TV and shelf are well anchored to the wall supports, then go for it!
Do I Have To Anchor My Floating Shelves To A Stud?
While it’s the best support method of all, you do not necessarily need a stud to anchor your shelves. Also available are drywall anchors. These are expanding inserts that strongly attach to the drywall. Combined with the appropriate screws, they’ll anchor your floating shelves without using a stud. However, only put about 20 pounds on shelves not anchored to a stud for safety’s sake.
Must I Use Nails Or Screws In Anchoring My Floating Shelves?
No. There are bonding products that work just as well or better. Let’s say you live in a condo where drilling holes is frowned upon. Use a bonding agent such as wood glue, epoxy, and Command wall hanging products.