Standard Heights for a Shelf Above a Desk

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.

Home office interior.
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A shelf above a double desk.

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.