Home Decor Ideas: Staggered Wall Shelves

Written by danielle hill
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Home Decor Ideas: Staggered Wall Shelves
Staggered shelves add visual interest and maximise storage space. (plush toy image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com)

Shelving has been artfully arranged since at least 14th century Japan, when portable "chigai-dana," or staggered shelves, were used in the finest residences to artistically showcase tea utensils or special books. Nowadays, anyone looking to add visual interest to a room or to capitalise on a small space for storage can benefit from staggered wall shelving.

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Small Spaces

According to the British magazine, "Ideal Home," staggered shelves make great use of small and irregular alcove spaces. If ready-made shelving doesn't precisely fit in a narrow alcove space, mount even narrower shelves, each shelf flush with one side or the other of the alcove in an alternating pattern. A ladder-like design will let you fit even more items in the space without sacrificing style. Where the shelves overlap, place shorter items, such as shallow bowls or vases.

Easy DIY Solutions

To make a staggered shelving unit yourself, you can use two or more sets of the laminate or particle board shelving typically sold for shoe storage. Buy the shelves unassembled and use them for your own creative spin-offs on the basic design. For example, create variety in the design by removing the middle shelves from some of the units, creating custom spaces ideal for taller and shorter items. Once you have several of these shelf units assembled, mount them on the wall in a staggered design.


Staggered shelves add just enough visual flair to keep extensive shelving from looking too utilitarian. Varying shelf lengths or placement will break up an otherwise repetitive pattern. Convert a bare kitchen wall into an easy-to-reach pantry simply by installing shelves from floor to ceiling. The "floating shelf," a contemporary design with concealed support braces, adds to the stylish appearance of staggered shelves and reduces clutter, letting you seriously stock shelves without creating an eyesore.

Form Follows Function

While staggered wall shelves can lend an aesthetic touch of whimsy in some uses, they serve as a practical storage solution in others. Before installing the shelving, consider the items to be stored or displayed. Bookshelves may need to accommodate a large library of squat paperback novels, plus a limited number of large art books. Closely spaced bookshelves may be able to hold everything, but the art books will have to be stacked on their sides to fit. As a solution, make one of the upper shelves somewhat shorter than the others, or centre it slightly to one side. Staggering will create an interesting break in the symmetrical lines, and the staggered shelf will allow more space for tall items on the shelf below. Staggered shelves are perfect for accommodating art books, vases and candle sticks in the living room, or cookbooks and tall spaghetti canisters in the kitchen.

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