These days, bathroom shelving can range from ultra-functional to purely aesthetic. Either way, it has the decorative prowess to lend an added element of interest in a space that can otherwise err on the utilitarian side. Think about it: Unless you have the ability to remodel the entire room with bold architectural moments, it's the smaller components — such as the hardware, lighting, fittings, decor, and storage (yes, storage!) — that give a bath its unique character. And while we can't resist a woven basket in the corner or a rustic footstool propped next to a tub, there's something to be said about a set of shelves that marry form and function with flair.
When looking to integrate shelving into a bathroom, begin by taking inventory of your storage needs and the amount of space you have to work with. If you're going for something purely decorative, such as filling up a blank wall, a few floating shelves will do the trick. If you need to take a heavy-duty approach, a freestanding cabinet might be a better fit. And last but not least, be mindful of the existing aesthetic by selecting pieces that feel like a seamless extension of the decor you already have.
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Interior designer Lisa Shaffer of Lisa & Leroy agrees that function should be the first consideration. "It's important for most clients to have enough storage in any bathroom," she says, "and once we have satisfied that need, we often will incorporate open shelving for aesthetics or for towel storage. Adding shelving is a great way to add life through plants and additional decor. In a powder room, it can also be a great way to add more surface space for items like soaps and candles."
Shaffer also loves to change up materials for shelving. "We love to get creative," she says. "You will see us use glass, wood, stone, and even tile. Using different materials really gives them an extra custom look."
Whether you're looking for a little extra storage or you're in the market for a design-forward accent, the bathroom shelving ideas ahead are sure to inspire.
21 Clever Bathroom Shelving Ideas
1. Take advantage of the corners.
Make ample use of every available square inch in your bathroom by installing a corner shelf. Kourtni of House on Longwood Lane did just that in her shower (using marble tile) as a clever alternative to hanging caddies or lining shampoo bottles around the tub. Bonus: The end result is a refined finish with a built-in look.
2. Keep it light with floating shelves.
Take advantage of the oft-empty space left between a pair of bathroom vanity mirrors by installing a set of floating wooden shelves right in the middle, à la this light-filled bath by Cortney Bishop. We love the idea of using them to up your bathroom decor game with an array of plants, but you can just as easily fill the shelves with toiletries instead — or a combination of the two.
3. Get low.
Make ample use of the space below a wall-mounted sink by incorporating a shelf that can house everything from extra rolls of toilet paper to hand towels to decorative items and more. We can't get enough of this rustic scene spotted in a reno by Sarah Solis Design Studio where a reclaimed wood slab fits snugly beneath an antique stone sink sourced from a vineyard in the South of France, no less.
4. Think big.
If you don't want to commit to a built-in or something similarly permanent but you need a substantial storage option, a freestanding shelving unit could be the perfect solution. The creatives over at Chango & Co. opted for this design-forward bathroom cabinet to stash linens, towels, and all other bath essentials.
5. Steer clear.
Glass shelves can be equal parts elegant and small-space-friendly thanks to their seamless composition. If you're going for a glam twist, follow designer Zoe Feldman's lead and opt for a set of open shelves that come with a lustrous finish. Here, the brass detailing not only complements the wall sconces but also elevates the practical over-the-toilet shelving unit.
6. Utilize the ceiling.
A bathroom shelf should do more than just provide extra storage; it should serve as an eye-catching element all on its own. Built to hang from the ceiling, the streamlined shelving in this modern bath by Jaclyn Peters Design is effortlessly cool. The contemporary storage solution also serves as a welcome respite from the traditional over-the-toilet cabinets or ladders that tend to take up valuable floor space.
7. Put a narrow niche to work.
Finding extra storage space in a small bathroom can be a rarity, but before you throw in the towel, survey the area and note if there are any empty nooks or niches. By simply adding a set of floating wood shelves, as seen in this setup by Studio McGee, you can add a wealth of storage in the most unexpected way.
8. Stay minimal.
For a small bath that comes without a medicine cabinet, a little creativity is in order. We're taking a page out of architects Dale Rush and Darci Hazelbaker's book and embracing minimalist shelving solutions. Something as simple as a set of thin floating shelves can serve as the perfect opportunity to display everyday essentials and beauty products — mini potted plants, fragrant candles, and framed prints go without saying.
9. Add a picture ledge.
As a room dedicated to self-care and relaxation, it makes sense to design your bathroom to feel not just utilitarian but also beautiful. One way to do that is to borrow design ideas from other rooms in the house, like the bedroom or living room. This bathroom by Kate Marker Interiors does just that with its incorporation of a slim wall shelf behind the tub that's styled a lot like a fireplace mantel. Although it's too narrow for real storage, the ledge is just right for a vignette of artwork and flowers, creating a lovely focal point.
10. Go for the big built-in.
If you have the bathroom space and the budget, you may want to consider custom storage ideas. The one shown here, by JK Interior Living, features built-in shelves above a cabinet, which is a classic combination and for good reason. This half-and-half approach offers closed storage for bathroom essentials you'd rather hide. (This one actually features a hinged laundry hamper in the middle.) And the open shelves are ideal for towels, pretty toiletries, and decor.
11. Try a tiny shelf near the tub.
Here's a more minimalist take on the ledge-behind-the-tub concept. This bathroom by Bright Designlab embraces clean lines and negative space, so it makes sense that the ornamentation is kept to a minimum. All you really need for the perfect accent is a small shelf — even on a large, empty wall — that's large enough for a taper candle and small plant.
12. Build out a ledge behind the toilet.
Finding storage solutions in a compact bathroom can require a little extra creativity. We appreciate the way A New Day Interior Design has blended function and style in this small space. By building out a ledge behind the toilet, they managed to hide the plumbing while simultaneously creating a sweet little ledge for plants and other decorative items.
13. Introduce a bit of industrial edge.
Kate Marker Interiors shows us how pretty industrial piping can be in this eclectic bathroom. The compact space is a seamless blending of design influences, metal finishes, and materials. The design team even managed to sneak in some storage under the sink with the help of an edgy pipe shelf.
14. Invest in shelving that can double as decor.
In a smaller bathroom like this one by blogger Brittany Chinaglia, every piece must be particularly thought out because you have less space to work with. We appreciate the thoughtful details in this setup, such as the stylish shelving unit. Practically, it's a great landing spot for a candle and some coordinating decor. But it also acts as a decorative piece itself thanks to the triangular shape. (And note how the matte black finish also ties in with the mirror frame and faucet.)
15. Carve out a shower niche.
This design idea is for those homeowners planning a bathroom (or even just a shower) remodel. Enter the shower niche. It's prettier and more streamlined than a store-bought caddy or a cluster of bottles on your shower floor, and it's a great idea if you're in the market for shower storage. If you still need convincing, just take one look at this bathroom by Mindy Gayer Design.
16. Add some towel cubbies.
Open shelves are a great solution for things like towel storage, especially when you get out of the shower. You really want to be able to reach for a towel easily without rummaging through a cabinet. In this bathroom by Lisa & Leroy, towel cubbies are an especially nice option. Bonus: When the towels are folded or rolled nicely, they can double as decor, adding color, softness, and a sculptural element to boot.
17. Try a sleek sink ledge.
Even minimalist bathrooms still have to contend with being functional. This one by Britt Design Group finds an elegant option for shelving with a slim, monochrome sink ledge. The fact that it doubles as a window ledge, creating a landing for the vase that's then perfectly framed by the window, is not lost on us.
Under-the-sink storage can — and has — been done in countless ways, but this take by Amy Carman Design is worth noting for its equal focus on aesthetics. The black and white bathroom design makes a big statement thanks to eye-catching white sconces flanking the oversize vanity mirror. The striking woven storage baskets also bring in a dose of warmth that complements the brass mirror frame.
19. Go high gloss.
Another high-contrast beauty, this bathroom by Amy Kartheiser Design really shows the power of paint. With a simple high-gloss finish, the designer elevated a simple niche from standard to outstanding. What's more, high-gloss paint is perfect in the bathroom since it's made to withstand moisture.
20. Build a secret TP shelf.
A secret toilet paper shelf? Yes, you read that right! The board and batten wall paneling in this bathroom by Lauren Collander Interiors holds a secret: The toilet paper shelving actually slides into the wall like a pocket door, so it's out of sight but right at hand when someone needs it. If you ask us, that's pretty smart storage.
21. Mix it up.
A bit of asymmetry can add some welcome visual tension to your interior. For instance, in this bathroom by Amy Carman Design, a painted niche is on one wall while a polished chrome towel rack sits on the other. The rustic wooden bench alongside the tub offers yet another place to rest a towel.