Standard Heights for a Shelf Above a Desk

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A shelf above a double desk.
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A shelf above your desk provides extra space for storing office supplies and work materials, as well as displaying decorative objects. Whether you use a freestanding shelf unit or mount the shelf on the wall, it should be high enough to fit essentials such as a lamp, computer monitor or bulletin board -- while still being within easy reach from the desk chair. The standard height recommendation of 22 to 24 inches above the desk surface satisfies this objective for most people. Variations are possible, however, so you should choose a shelf height that meets your needs.


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Custom Shelf Height

To determine an individualized shelf height, sit in your desk chair facing the wall. Reach forward to touch the wall as high as you comfortably can. Make a small pencil mark on the wall at this position, and measure the distance from the desk top to the marked point.

Shelf Height Variation

If you plan to use the shelf to hold decorative objects or items you won't need to access frequently, you can place the shelf higher than the recommended height. For example, in a high-ceilinged room, place the first shelf 30 inches above the desk. Add additional shelves above the first, spacing them 30 inches apart. This arrangement provides a dramatic display space for artwork and sculptural accessories.


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Jan Burch

Jan Burch

Jan Burch has written about home, garden, wellness and other topics since 1992. Her articles have appeared in ByLine, Living Natural and New Mexico Woman. Based in Albuquerque, Burch is a Feng Shui consultant and Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner. A life-long crafting enthusiast, she holds a master's degree from the University of California.