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There are some things in every home that are yearning to be displayed. Others are best left tucked away until they are needed. Often, the tucked away items are bulky or numerous enough that they would get in the way if not properly stored. Displayable items, on the other hand, are usually much less cumbersome. This is why, when optimal space is desired, there needs to be a difference in design between a storage shelf and a display shelf.
A Strictly Storage Shelf
A good storage shelf is just the right size for whatever it needs to hold. A great storage shelf is just the right size for the space you've allotted it. This is why many homeowners choose to either have shelves custom made or opt to build them themselves.
Lucky for DIYs and those who hire help alike, building a storage shelf is one of the more straightforward home improvement projects around. If the shelves are being built strictly for function, the job shouldn't take long. Even if the shelves themselves aren't that pretty, the reduction of clutter in the rest of the house will make enough of an impact to make up for it.
The easiest type of storage shelf to make consists of two brackets mounted on wall studs with a board laid on top of them. It's quick, inexpensive, and can handle a lot of items, though it won't win any beauty pageants. This one is reserved for a space like a garage, basement, or storage closet; you don't want it hanging around the living room. There are many variations on this design that, though not as quick or cost effective, will be a bit closer to being belle of the ball. The one you choose will most likely depend on what you're storing; custom oak shelves might be overkill for a few sleeping bags and a tackle-box.
Here's where the hardwood can really shine. The things we most want others to see (or ourselves to see) deserve a fine place to sit. When it comes to display shelves, quality is more of an issue than quantity.
The floating shelf is becoming a very popular way to display a prized object. A floating shelf, like the name implies, uses no visible hardware giving the appearance of floating on a wall. Unfortunately, not every floating shelf on the market is built equally. The internal mounting on many models leaves much to be desired. If the treasure you want to display is very light, you can buy whatever looks best to you. If it carries some weight, make sure to purchase a shelf with steel mounting that is rated at or above the weight it will support (above is usually better especially if there are kids around; you never know they'll try and hang from).
For especially dainty or fragile items, an enclosed case is often preferable to an open shelf. A case will cost more, but will provide more protection and lessen the risk of something falling off. Additionally, some display cases can be locked quite securely. Depending on the material the case is made from, you might also have the option of bolting it to a wall or to the floor.
Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.