8 Smart Ways to Put a Shelf in Front of a Window

published Feb 14, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Fellow sunlight lovers, listen up! If you’ve ever thought of maximizing your storage space by putting a shelf or shelves in front of your window but backed out for fear of blocking natural light, I feel you. I can’t even remember the last time I closed my curtains — give me sun over privacy and sleeping in any day! And yes, I am aware that sounds intense.

But here’s the thing: Storage and sunlight aren’t mutually exclusive. These eight homes prove you can indeed put a shelf in front of your window and make it look amazing — just take a look and feel free to steal one of these ideas in your space. Note: If you like greenery or plants, this idea definitely is for you — because really there’s no better spot in your home for those full sun beauties.

1. Add a Tiered Shelving Unit

If you’re blessed with wide, tall windows like the ones in this Australian kitchen, bring in a freestanding tiered shelving unit to place in front of them. The key is to look for something backless, which makes good use of horizontal and vertical space without blocking much light, and you don’t even have to put nails in the wall. If you can find something colored or want to paint the inside of each little shelf “cubby,” this can add even more brightness to your space. Fill the shelves with little plants, cookbooks, or whatever else you need to be stored.

2. Mount a Small Shelf Low Across a Window

If your windows are on the smaller side, try hanging a thin floating shelf parallel to your window sill. This New Jersey apartment owner installed one within the window casings, hanging the perch in the lower third of the window to ensure ample space for sunlight above the shelf — and the ability to still place things on the sill below. That means double the space for plant babies, people! And what’s great about this space is you can see that this idea can still work with blinds, if you want the privacy and temperature control they bring to a room.

Credit: Katie Currid

3. Go High if You Have Tall Windows

Believe it or not, floor-to-ceiling windows can actually offer a lot of storage opportunity. This Italian chef hung a wide shelf across the upper third of his balcony window and used it to hang kitchen utensils and store appliances. It’s high enough that he can walk out to the balcony without hitting his head. But it’s not so high that his items are out of reach. And with such large windows, there’s no risk of a dim kitchen here.

Credit: Natasha Lee

4. Surround a Window with Built-in Shelves

Small window? No problem. The window in this four-family California rental home is on the really small side, so the renters filled the space around it with built-in shelves that hold the family’s books and decorative knick-knacks. Light still spills through into the room, and white walls and accents help increase the brightness. In this case, the shelves aren’t exactly in front of the window. But the lesson here is that you can build your window right into a mix of shelves, if that’s the best solution for your space.

Credit: Mado Photo

5. Create a Corner Garden

Take advantage of a bright, open corner with a shelving unit that can hold lots of plants or whatever items you need to store. This Denver homeowner invested in a tiered bamboo rack that has three levels of storage. The shelves are wide and thin, allowing plenty of light to seep into the room around and between the shelves, but the rack isn’t so tall that it blocks light from entering through the rest of the window.

6. Try a Wall-to-Wall Shelf

Because this Brooklyn living room gets plenty of sunlight from its sliding doors, the owner didn’t shy away from a large shelf with tall plants. Her floating shelf sits at the base of the highest window and puts the wall space between all that glass to use. Hanging the shelf up so high keeps the rest of the room from feeling cluttered, even if the shelf is teeming with plants.

7. Hang them Right in the Middle

If you’ve got lots of small windows, try lots of small shelves. This studio renter in Brooklyn installed little ledges in the middle of her window casings to add storage spots without adding clutter. This set up ensures plenty of light, but the extra space lets her add more decor that fits her color scheme.

8. Make it Minimal

Clearly, this idea works well if you’re into the whole boho Jungalow more is more vibe, but this kitchen (and the apartment above as well) proves that you can make this idea work in a more minimal, sleek setting, too. For a really big window, you could do this with a large slab of live edge wood or butcher block, and make a breakfast bar. Technically, it would be more of an eating surface than a shelf in that case, but you get the idea.

The moral of this story? Yes, you can put a shelf in front of your window and still get tons of light—plus, the added storage space. Keep your styling streamlined and the shelf itself simple and airy, and you’ll be golden, literally.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Here’s Why Putting a Shelf in Front of a Window is Actually a Great Idea