By Rebekah Carey and Nikhita Mahtani

Published on July 15, 2018

There’s no question that it’s essential to maximize storage in cramped quarters, but it can often be one of the hardest things to accomplish. Getting creative with storage comes with the territory when you’re living small, and clever shelving is the best way to create usable space that can pull double duty as a design moment.

Aside from being utilitarian, shelving in small spaces can add personality, let you display your favorite items, and leave precious floor space open. Here, check out some inspiring ways that are both useful and stylish to store books, art, and more.

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Photography by WHITE ARROW DESIGN

Instead of side tables, the bedroom in this Brooklyn home makes use of Murphy bed with a built-in shelving unit. When not in use, the bed can be tucked away, but the shelves remain.

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Photography by AARON BENGOCHEA

This tiny 265-square-foot apartment still has room for a full chef’s kitchen. How, you ask? Smart shelving. Super durable metal grates take the heavy weight of the pots and pans, and built-in hooks allow for smaller accessories to be hung, so that the countertop is clutter-free.

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Photography by AARON BENGOCHEA

If you don’t want to spend on built-in shelving, you can buy some super affordable options from your favorite retailers. This Urban Outfitters shelf is a gorgeous shade of rose gold, and looks lovely in Etsy Trend Expert Dayna Isom Johnson’s charming Brooklyn home.

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Photography by ALYSSA ROSENHECK

Yes, you can totally add shelving on wallpaper. In this colorful Oregon home, storage space is added to the laundry room by way of crisp white shelves, which blend in seamlessly with the decor, all while providing valuable room for towels and cleaning supplies.

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Photography by AARON BENGOCHEA

No closet? No problem. Take a cue from Sky Ting Yoga founder Krissy Jones, who makes use of all the space in her 500-square-foot walkup by way of smart shelving. The exposed look for lack of a wardrobe helps her stay organized and see exactly what she has at any given moment.

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Photography by Marianne Evennou

This beautiful, tiny Parisian apartment features an office area with ample storage that blends into the wall color, thus making it streamlined, instead of cluttered. 

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Photography by Nuevo Estilo

Creating a built-in is a great way to add additional storage. Adding shelving around the front door allows for floor-to-ceiling storage while barely using any floor space, as well as taking advantage of a spot that would most likely go unused. This option allows for tons of storage and keeps you more organized, too.

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Courtesy of Ikea

Who says you can’t have a library in a small space? Again, by making use of an area that would otherwise be wasted space, you can display your books and add more character to your petite abode. 

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Photography by MICHAEL WILTBANK

Just because you live in a small space doesn’t mean you can’t work from home: We love how this floral designer turned her very small New York City apartment into a live-work space for her business.

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Courtesy of Stadshem Real Estate

We love this modern, relatively sparse space that allows nearly out-of-sight shelving to add color and a touch of wabi-sabi. The fact that the shelving wraps around the door frame is fantastic because it takes up absolutely no floor space. 

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Courtesy of & PARTNERS

Under-stair storage is a great way to maximize space and make use of another commonly underutilized area. We especially like these shelves that are built into the stairs seamlessly and painted to match, so that they take up less visual space as well.

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Photography by Beth Kirby for Jersey Ice Cream Co.

It might seem silly to add a shelf that only fits a vase or glass of water, but when you’re undoubtedly sacrificing certain luxuries by living small, it’s nice to have a perch for your beverage.  

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Courtesy of Stadshem Real Estate

An odd corner or awkward angle can be the perfect spot for a shelf in a small space, where any square footage is precious. Here, a compact living version of a mudroom is created by adding shelves.

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Courtesy of INT 2 ARCHITECTURE

A teeny sun porch is turned into an adorable reading nook with floor-to-ceiling pipe shelving. We can only imagine how cozy this must be with a cup of tea and a good book.

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Photography by ERIN BOYLE

Like most things in a small space, this petite linen closet pulls double duty, storing vases on the top shelf, linens below, and a bathrobe on the hook inside the door. Baskets are a great way to keep smaller items (like washcloths and single pillowcases) organized and neat.

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Courtesy of WOONIO

If your small space happens to be on the top floor, or if you have angled walls under eaves, a great method to maximize space in these areas is to add shorter shelves below where the walls begin to curve. 

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Courtesy of Solebich

By adding narrow shelves to a half-wall, you create space to display items you’d rather not keep hidden away in a cupboard all the time. 

This post was originally published on January 5, 2017. It has been updated with new information.

See more small space stories:

What I Wish I Knew Before Living in a Small Space
The One Store You’re Not Shopping for Small Spaces
10 Sleeper Sofas That Will Fit In Your Tiny Apartment

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