On the Hunt for Crate Shelves

February 5, 2014

crate shelves

By Gabrielle. Image from Serena & Lily.

I’m on the hunt for book shelves for the Reading Loft. It feels momentous to finally be furnishing it and making it comfortable and inviting! In my head, the loft was going to be a weekend project that we managed to fit in a few weeks after we moved here. And now it’s months later and I’m remembering all the people who told me renovations would take much longer than I expected. Hah!

There are two key pieces of furniture that we need for the loft: a comfy reading chair, and book shelves. I’m all sorted on the chair (more on that later), but the shelves have been perplexing me. I feel like every evening for weeks, I’ve had a date with my laptop while I surf for bookshelves. But then I saw the image above, and a lightbulb went off in my head! Turns out I’ve had a thing for crate shelves for years — in fact, I’ve posted about them twice, here and here. And this sort of shelving would be perfect for the loft — just picture them with less baskets and more books! : )

I’ve thought about it, and there seem to be three reasons why I like crate shelving so much…

design labryinth crate shelves crates shelving

1) I really love that they’re flexible, and that I can add and subtract as needed.

2) I love that they have a bit of messy look. With shelves like these, everything wouldn’t need an exact spot — books or trinkets could move around as needed, and that ‘perfectly disheveled’ look would stay intact. I think it’s great that shelving like this accommodates a little chaos.

3) Lastly, I love that in theory, you could put one together these types of shelves on a shoestring. You could use wooden wine crates from your local liquor store, or inexpensive crates from the craft store, or a combination or whatever wooden boxes you’ve picked up from the flea market.

crate shelves for gardening supplies ikea_prant_storage_inspiration_001

So now I’m on the hunt. But I am looking for something specific — the shelf example at top is unusual in that the ‘crates’ don’t have bottoms, they just have the four sides, and you can see right through to the wall color — which I love!

I’ve been trying to track down something similar — bottomless crates, or square wood shelves in various sizes — and haven’t had any luck. I’m wondering if the smartest thing would be to have plywood cut to size and build my own.

Do you happen to have a good source for something similar? If yes, please share! Before I get to DIY-ing, I’d love to see if there is an affordable ready-made option out there. And I’d also love to hear if you’ve ever tried shelving like this.

P.S. — I’m working with Serena & Lily on decorating the loft and I’m so excited about it! I can’t wait to share more details.


Additional crate shelving images from Ikea, Blueprint Magazine, The Design Labyrinth, Dishfunctional Designs, and Chelsea Lyn. I’ve collected lots more examples here.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tracy February 5, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Such a cute idea! This isn’t exactly crates, but you can be preformed shelves for boxes of toys at Target. If you skip the step of attaching the backing, then they are see through. I think the official name is cube organizer. It’s not as free-form as a cute collection of crates, but it does easily allow the wall color to show through.
All the best!


2 Darcy February 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm

We’re huge fans of Cubit shelves!

I’ve rebuilt two kits of these into almost every possible configuration over the past eight years to accommodate different rooms and storage needs, and they’re still in great shape. Flexible, lightweight (both visually and physically), simple. Love them.


3 Jodi Schwartz February 5, 2014 at 2:43 pm

While they don’t exactly look rough-hewn and/or irregular in size or shape, ikea might do the job. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/30265126/


4 Lauran February 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Hi there. I love crate shelves too. We got some from an etsy seller for a very affordable price. You can see them in this post: http://www.visualjill.com/blog/how-to-make-a-big-room-work-for-you/
Let me know if you want more info. Good luck!


5 Lauran February 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Thank you Nancy!


6 Mary reynolds February 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm

You should contact the couple from Young House Love. It could be a blogger collaboration!


7 Julie February 5, 2014 at 10:04 pm

We used Via boxes to hack a mudroom area/mantel by our back door. They are consistent sizes so you don’t get the eclectic look but they do come with shelves and doors as options. (http://viaboxes.com) You can stack as you please to create a sense of visual difference

They are affordable and we found that caulking them, painting them, putting some reclaimed wood on top and some pretty handles on the doors with some cheap vintage-y looking bins from target worked wonderfully. We even added a bit of matching trim to our floorboards and it almost looks like a custom built in.

You can see our coat/shoe/book/stuff area here: http://wemadethisourselves.com/something-i-love-2/


8 megan February 6, 2014 at 12:40 am

The last photo reminds me a lot of the Stacked Shelving from Design Within Reach. And those you can use with or without backings.



9 JB February 6, 2014 at 9:38 am

We did something similar in our home with antique wooden crates:


I know you’re looking for something a bit different with an open back, but I wanted to pass along a bit of advice: Make sure you anchor your shelves to the wall! The higher the stacks get, the less stable they are, even if you’ve got heavy books inside. A few simple and inexpensive anchors are all you need to make everything secure. Can’t wait to see what you end up doing!


10 Tasneem February 6, 2014 at 9:44 am

I did something similar to this in my kitchen (by the back door to store shoes and laundry supplies). I used milk crates. they were easy to find and I spray painted them silver to match the open shelving I have. Good luck with making yours!


11 becki February 6, 2014 at 10:23 am

I also love these types of shelves. I love that they are moveable and changeable. When I was a teen, my best friend’s parents opened a wonderful bookstore/gallery in an outbuilding on their property. We lived in a small mountain town, and it was the only bookstore within 30 minutes. I have many good memories there! They built their own shelves, exactly like the ones you describe, with the help of a man down the street who had a full wood shop in his barn. Each modular piece was the same size, big enough to hold large picture books. This made the shelves have endless arrangement possibilities. Good luck with your project!


12 Julie February 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Love using crates for shelves! When I was designing my daughter’s room, I wanted the same type if thing. I couldn’t find anything remade with enough cubes that wasn’t crazy expensive. So we built ours: http://letterstomylittlelove.blogspot.com/2012/08/big-girl-garden-room-reveal-your-book.html?m=0


13 Stephanie Sheehan February 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm

My favorite part is the homemade look; I’m a big fan of the crates hanging form the walls. Maybe a bunch of those at scattered levels?


14 Fiona February 6, 2014 at 4:40 pm

What about doing something with the Rast nightstands from IKEA


15 Marianne February 6, 2014 at 8:22 pm

How about the BrickBox (www.brickbox.es)? We bought them 2.5 years ago and still love them! Ikea’s Pränt is unfortunately no longer available!


16 sarah February 7, 2014 at 3:21 am

Super cute idea for your loft–can’t wait to see it when it’s done. I’m wondering if you might be able to find rustic-style crates that you could cut the bottoms out of… The brighter new-cut wood would be hidden at the back, and you could reinforce the structure of the box with some small straight or angle brackets. Good luck with the hunt!


17 Hunter February 14, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Lovely idea! Just be aware that, if you don’t have any backs, the crates won’t be as sturdy. They may wobble on the diagonal if there is any pressure put on them. Might not be a big deal for light weight things or short stacks, but could be a concern with heavy things (books?) or tall stacks. You may want to look into some sort of cross bracing just to be sure.


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