Your Technical Design Guide to Open Shelving (Plus Construction Tips!)

In this blog, we’ll teach you the tricky parts of open shelving such as construction, installation, and space planning.
Technical Design Guide to Open Shelving

A lot of homeowners fancy open shelving. It adds dimension to your space, completes the look, and gives you storage — all without taking up much real estate. In general, open shelves are easy to install, but there are tricky areas that you should know about like construction, installation, and space planning. Take note of these pointers, so your open shelving units at home will work well for you:

Before anything else…

You must conduct a little research before embarking on a design and construction project. We recommend looking at different design inspirations. We also recommend that you answer the following questions:

  • Why do you need open shelves?
  • What are you planning to store there?

The first two questions will help you determine the type of shelving unit is best for you. You need something that can support the weight of the displays.

  • Where are you going to put the open shelves?
  • How much space is available?

The two questions above will determine if this is a DIY project or you need the help of a design professional. If you can buy ready-made open shelves that suit the area, then you can do-it-yourself. Otherwise, you need an expert to build it for you.

  • Where are the anchor points?

Anchor points refer to the spot on the wall that you will drill to put your shelves. It is important to know what you’re screwing into. You don’t want to drill on a super hard surface or a frail material. The nails will only rip out of the wall.

What you want is to drill into a stud, the vertical framing members in the wall because that will give your shelf extra support. After conducting a little research, you will have an idea of what your home needs and you can decide what kind of open shelves will work in every room of the house.

Opting for custom shelves

If your budget allows it, custom shelving is the best way to go.

Typically, your designer will design storage that fits the space and suits your needs. Then, they’ll contact the right trades for the project:

For custom metal shelves, you need a professional welder. Here’s a slim shelf made of metal inside a reading area. Your carpenter can work on the custom wooden shelves for you. The shelves under the cabinets gave this kitchen more storage options. You will need a glass fabricator for customised glass shelves like in this home bar.

Custom block shelves

When you build open shelves in the kitchen, use it for storing all the necessities and regularly used items for easy access.

Construction notes:

Install wood blocking in the wall framing. Use a carbide-tipped masonry bit to drill through the wall. Then, install the shelving units using the right screws. Make sure that the screw penetrates at the wooden block.

Custom L-Bracket Shelves

L-brackets are easily brought from hardware stores. You can buy them and attach them to wood shelves as shown in this kitchen.

Construction notes:

Make sure that the L-brackets size matches the size of your wooden shelves. Use flat head screws to mount shelves to the bracket from underneath the shelf.

Using prefabricated shelves

If your budget is a little tight and your space is more flexible, then prefab shelving will work for you. Prefabricated shelves are units constructed beforehand and you can buy them in home improvement stores like IKEA and Bunnings. You can also buy them from the store of a local craftsman.

You should know that prefabricated shelves can only hold a little weight. You can only display a few items, books, or plants here. Before buying them, ask for the material’s weight limits. Read the instruction manual (if there’s any).Construction notes:

Most prefabricated shelves have a hidden bracket. Use this bracket to mount it to the wall using lag screws. Then, attached the shelf to the brackets.

Prefabricated open shelves are easy to install, that’s why a lot of homeowners like them.

Final tip

If you’re thinking of having open shelving units in your home, consider your needs, budget, space requirements, and the look you want to achieve. You can customise the shelves to buy prefabricated pieces. When in doubt, ask your designer.

Of course, tag us in photos of your project. We’d love to see how yours turns out! Liked this article? Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Or, ask help from our Sydney-based building designers.



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