Bust the Bracket: Shelving Alternatives

floating shelf displaying candles, flowers, and a frame

When hanging free-floating shelves on a wall, the first impulse is usually to use brackets. These 90-degree angles can be found in a variety of materials like wood, plastic, and metal, and they can be simply or elaborately designed. Although they do their job well, brackets have become commonplace. Luckily, those looking for a new, fresh look for shelves have a couple of alternatives.

Shelves Held up by Chains

If you have good access to your ceiling and can anchor eye bolts to solid joists, you can hang shelves strung together with chains. Always use chain that is rated for the total weight you will be placing on it.

Step 1 - Decide on Dimensions

First, decide on a good dimension for the shelves. Imagine the whole project as a rectangular column that goes from floor to ceiling. Because the chains move, it probably isn’t the best shelf for heavy objects, but it can be a cool, industrial way to display lighter collections.

Step 2 - Measure the Chains

Once you have four good anchors in the ceiling that match the rectangular shape of the descending shelves, you can start measuring the chain to accommodate for the drop of the shelves. It’s a good idea to put turnbuckles at the top of each chain so that you can level the whole shelf once it’s put together. Turnbuckles are metal ovals with threaded hooks running through each end. Turning the oval will adjust the overall length of the turnbuckle assembly by moving the hooks in or out.

After you’ve measured your chain, cut your chain, taking the turnbuckles, quick-link connectors, and eye bolts on the shelves into consideration.

Step 3 - Insert Eye bolts

Each shelf corner will need an eye bolt pointing up to accommodate the chain from above. Eye bolts pointing down will allow you to drop the next length of chain to a lower shelf. Because the same hole can’t be used for both bolts, they will need to be staggered on the shelf. Make sure that all these holes are consistent so that the shelves are properly aligned. Then, attach the top shelf with the quick-link connectors that will go through the bottom link of the chain and the eye bolt on the shelf. Repeat this process for the next shelf down.

Step 4 -Adjust Turnbuckles

After you’ve created as many shelves as you want, it’s time to use those turnbuckles you installed at the beginning. Putting a bubble level on the top shelf, adjust the turnbuckles until the shelves are even.

Floating Shelves

Another popular way to hang shelves without brackets is by using invisible mounts to create a floating look. You can buy these “invisible” store-bought mounts from most home-improvement stores, and most of the time the floating shelves, mounts, screws, and other materials will come as one package. Simply follow the directions that come with your specific package to install your new floating shelf. Or, build your own shelves and install invisible mounts yourself.

Freestanding Units

While floating and chain-hung shelves are two of the most popular options besides using regular brackets, you can’t forget the traditional shelving options like using bookcases and other free-standing units. While bookcases offer a classical touch to any living or bedroom, other units like metal and wire free-standing shelving add modern ambience. Although freestanding units are the most traditional, you can accessorize them by displaying quirky trinkets and collectibles to give them a face-lift, or you can get creative with your freestanding shelves like by using a ladder as a shelving unit.