Recessed Shelves: Your Key to Extra Space

There’s more space in your home than you realize! Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, you can create additional space with recessed shelves or “inset shelves’’—even faux recessed shelves. If you love the concept of hidden treasures, then learning how to build recessed shelves will be like finding a treasure map to the gold that’s right there in your home.

Let’s take a look at different types of recessed shelves and how to build recessed shelving. It’s probably a lot easier and less expensive than you could imagine.

Get inspired.

For inspiration, Pinterest is the perfect place to start.

Every time I look at a DIY-related Pinterest board, I feel inspired. The images give me a sense that I can create anything—even something (shelving) out of “nothing” (that wall I’ve been looking at for too long).

Recessed shelving takes advantage of the space behind the wall. There are opportunities just behind that drywall—for shelves, a glass display case, or a set-in medicine cabinet to make your bathroom feel like a spa.

The classic recessed shelf.

For recessed shelves, start with a wall in your home—a long, tall wall that’s part of a hallway, a 2’ x 3’ wall in your bathroom, or the place in the kitchen that would be perfect for a recessed cupboard. Using a stud finder (you can find one at Home Depot for less than $20), mark the locations of studs and, roughly, the space between could be your recessed shelving.

Next, you’ll need to check out what’s behind the wall. Cut a hole in the wall to see what’s going on behind it. Of course, you want to find a space that doesn’t have electrical cables or plumbing.

Then, you can build your shelving to fit the opening. Ron Hazelton, home improvement TV host, presents his ideas of how to build recessed shelves here.

Depending on your skills and how much money you’d like to spend, you can either custom-build your shelving unit or buy a pre-made shelf unit and add it to your wall. This can be “beautiful, practical and less than $50” if you follow the steps of the Family Handyman.

The renters’ options.

If you rent your home or apartment, yet still dream of adding more space via creative shelving, you have options. Without cutting into the wall, you can “build” a faux recessed shelf. What you’re doing is building a shelving unit with some depth and then hanging it in your bathroom, kitchen or living room to increase your usable space.

One way to do this is with utensil trays. Glue several of these to a piece of plywood, making sure the edges of the trays cover the plywood by at least a half-inch on all sides. Then, hang the plywood just as you would a picture frame. Utensil-tray shelving is perfect for displaying trinkets or collectibles.

Look up.

If you are lucky enough to have high ceilings, look at the spaces above door frames to build recessed shelving. You might be able to go the depth of a closet or pantry. This is great space to store seasonal items and sports equipment.

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Most likely, there’s space in your place. You’ve just got to get inspired, get creative and build it.

Conna Shannon

Conna Shannon

Conna is a writer, editor and aspiring filmmaker. She's into DIY, upcylcing and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in Monterey, California, with a yellow lab named Daisy.
Conna Shannon

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