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A recent trend in home shelving these days has been the use of thin floating shelves to help show off your collectibles.

These shelves can help you organize smaller things like pictures that aren’t a good fit for places like coffee tables, and are a particularly good fit for smaller living spaces or rooms that don’t need massive cabinets hogging all the floor space.


You’ll probably hear these referred to by a few different names, most commonly picture ledges and floating wall shelves. If you’re looking to redecorate a living room or dining room with some handy lightweight shelves, you might see these terms and not be too sure which is best for you.

Truth be told, the differences between them aren’t vast, but they are there, and could make a difference in deciding which one you need to best organize your home.


The term “picture ledges” typically refers to any wall shelves that are thinner in design and meant to not offer much storage space. That isn’t a knock on their design—these shelves just offer a low profile to better display a ‘centerpiece’ item. People usually use them for framed photographs, small paintings, or even smaller collectibles such as figurines or vinyl records. (Of course, these shelves can occasionally make it harder to reach whatever record you keep up there, so make sure it’s something you can easily pull up on a phone or iPod if you actually want to ever listen to it.)


On the other hand, floating wall shelves come in a few different sizes and styles. These tend to be on the bigger side, and are made out of a few different materials like glass or wire in some cases. Typically floating wall shelves are made for the same purposes as picture ledges, but the size difference means you have a lot more options for storing things up there. We’ve seen them used as bookshelves, photo displays, and knick knack shelves (like those collectible plates everyone used to have). So long as they’re anchored correctly they tend to have a higher weight capacity and more available surface space, but you still have to be sure to follow all the manufacturer’s suggested weight capacities for safety!


So which one is best for you? That really depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’ve got a smaller living space like an apartment, or just a living room that’s already too full of stuff, a smaller picture ledge may be the way to go for your walls to avoid taking up too much room and getting in the way of anything else. For rooms with more space, most floating wall shelves are the way to go. Floating wall shelves could also be a big help in rooms that need sturdier storage for larger items, like kitchens or bathrooms.

Otherwise? It’s all about personal preference, where it’s going, and what’s going to be on it.

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