Bathroom shelving ideas to give your space both storage and style points

Keep your bathroom clutter-free and win back more space with these clever design hacks

bathroom with walk-in-shower with a black screen, wooden wall with shelving and white toilet
(Image credit: Future PLC)

The bathroom may be one of the smallest rooms in the house, but it needs to be versatile and work hard as one of the most frequently used rooms. Effective bathroom shelving ideas will stop your space from being overrun with stay towels or rogue beauty products, making sure your bathroom is somewhere for you and your family to relax and unwind. 

Shelves are not only practical but can add personality and become a beautiful design feature in your bathroom ideas. ‘With bathroom shelving, you can choose from free-standing or fixed and a style and size that suits you and your space,’ says Simon Glanville, managing director at A Place for Everything.

‘From a practical point of view, breathable mesh shelves are ideal for towels, while you can use space-saving caddy storage on any type of shelf to store your toiletries neatly. Look too for versatile shelving like Over toilet storage or mirror/open shelving combinations that can store medicines, toiletries and toothbrushes out of sight but that are easily accessible.’ 

Bathroom shelving ideas

When considering your bathroom layouts, shelving should be taken into account to give you a seamless and integrated storage solution. The beauty of bathroom shelving ideas is that there is a wide range of options to suit your bathroom style. From traditional, rustic wooden shelving, to sleek, modern steel shelving. 

‘Shelves are a great way of storing luxury products that you want to show off,’ says  Rikki Fothergill, bathroom style expert at Big Bathroom Shop. ‘Instead of wasting cupboard space intended for uglier bathroom paraphernalia, create a spa-like display with a mix of candles, body lotions, reed diffusers and plants.’ 

1. Add in a recessed shelf

Cloakroom with dark blue walls, tiled floor, white basin and toilet.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

There is often limited space for bathroom storage ideas, so placing shelves within a recess is a clever way to give you storage without using up precious square footage. Shelves placed in an alcove prevent the need for bulky cabinets which can make a small bathroom look cluttered and prevent any banged heads. Recessed shelves also work particularly well in showers to keep shower accessories in an easy-to-reach place.

‘Adding a recessed shelf is a great way to add more storage to your bathroom and has grown hugely in popularity as a bathroom design feature in recent years,' says Leigh Price, co-director at Real Stone Tile & Bathroom

'This adds more storage space without having to buy any extra bathroom furniture, making it a great choice for smaller bathrooms. This also provides you with an opportunity to make your storage space into an interesting focal point, by using statement tiles (brightly coloured or patterned) in the recess.’ 

2. Introduce shelves above the toilet

bathroom with white toilet, wooden shelving unit, white wall tiles and wooden cabinet drawer

(Image credit: A Place for Everything)

Floating shelves take up less space than classic cabinets giving your bathroom a more airy look and feel. A neglected space that people don’t consider for shelving is above the toilet, which is an ideal cloakroom storage idea

Depending on the shape of your bathroom and the space around your toilet you can go for fixed wall-hung shelves. Or surround the cistern with an individual unit which creates a small shelf on top of it. 

To keep the space looking pretty add decorative items such as a reed diffuser or potted plant. This Bellwood Over the Toilet Storage, £168, A Place for Everything, gives ample storage with three shelves available in a classic wooden style. Plus being a freestanding unit it can be moved around to find the best angle for it and won’t be left behind if you move house.  

3. Squeeze in extra storage with corner shelves

bathroom with black floor tiles, black shelving corner unit and a white toilet

(Image credit: Future PLC)

To make use of every inch of space, attach shelves to unused corners to create a storage nook. Corner shelving not only makes use of wasted space but being out of the center of the room will prevent anyone from bumping into it. Make your shelf part of your bathroom wall décor and turn it into a beautiful focal point with an interesting architectural shape or personal artwork. 

However, if you have a minimalist bathroom scheme, floating shelves will give you barely there storage tucked away in the corner. This black metal shelf is perfect for a monochromatic bathroom scheme and being able to see through the whole unit makes it look less imposing.  

4. Use a trolley for portable shelving

White bathroom, black tiles, toilet, mobile storage trolley, gabled roof

(Image credit: Future PLC)

There are times when you want your bathroom storage to be right within arm's reach at all times and portable shelving on a trolley allows you to do that. Being on wheels, trolleys are easy to move around to suit what you are doing in the bathroom and where. They can also come in slimline options so can be slotted into awkward nooks and crannies to create a ready-made shelf. 

Make sure to think about how many shelves you would like before choosing your trolley and make sure it is the right size in relation to the space. To keep the shelving in order, zone the shelves so each one has a specific purpose. For example, the bottom shelf is for toilet rolls, the middle for spare towels and the top for frequently used toiletries.  

5. Invest in shelf lighting

Bathroom shelves with recessed lights

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Parmiter)

Shelving is a great option for storing items but can also be the star of the bathroom, made more so by the right bathroom lighting ideas. If you have a windowless bathroom, layering up lighting is even more important and lighting your bathroom shelving ideas provides added depth to the design. 

LED strip lights provide uniform ambient lighting and are easy to install. If you want softer backlighting, place the lights towards the rear and for a more focused light place them at the front.

Kate Baker, lighting advisor at 4lite says, ‘Under shelving and cabinet lighting is an effective way not only to subtly brighten up your room and create focused light but can enhance its appearance too. Using colour-changing smart LED strip lighting, you can set the brightness and colour of the light depending on what you’re doing. 

‘Whether you want cool blue interior hues to perfectly illuminate your bathroom while you’re getting ready or cosy warmer tones when you’re relaxing in the bath. Smart lighting also gives you a quick way to introduce colour into neutral spaces to create some beautiful looks, adding warmth and texture to even the blankest canvases.’

6. Combine shelving with your heating

bathroom with exposed brick wall, black heated towel rail with wooden shelving, white basin with wooden cabinet underneath and large black rimmed mirror above

(Image credit: The Radiator Centre)

Shelves can be combined with heating for a clever storage solution that will also heat the bathroom. Modern towel radiators such as the Fender Towel Rail, from £322.80, The Radiator Centre now come with added shelving, making it the perfect shelf to place your towels, clothes and bathrobes. This shelf will keep towels and clothes nice and cosy ready for when you come out of the shower, something which guests will appreciate too. 

For a cheaper option, you can also add an easy-fit radiator shelf for a budget bathroom idea. These simply fit over a radiator with brackets to keep it attached which saves you from needing to drill any holes. This is a clever minimalist alternative to a radiator cover which will deflect heat back into the room and reduce heat staining above the radiator. 

7. Let light shine with glass shelving

Ceramic tiled wall with storage and window with blinds in a bathroom.

(Image credit: Future PLC/JAMES FRENCH)

Shelving can be made from a variety of materials from wood, to bamboo, to metal, but glass gives you a polished choice which allows light to shine through. To keep the shelving in line with modern bathroom ideas, give the illusion of a floating shelf by using hidden wall mountings. 

A glass shelf will give your bathroom a spa look and feel and won’t clash with any of your bathroom design schemes so will work well no matter the size or style of your bathroom. For added glamour, pair glass shelves with mirrors to reflect more light and creation the illusion of space. 

If you decide you want to have an industrial feel to your bathroom pair the glass shelves with tough metals such as iron, steel or bronze. The simplicity of the glass combined with the strong metal creates a striking contrast. 

8. Create your own wooden shelving

Bathroom with wooden crates

(Image credit: Future PLC)

‘For those who favour a more natural interior style, choose wood effect shelves, or those made from rustic timbers then fill them with indoor plants to create a close-to-nature feature,’ says Shamila Iqbal, director at Bathroom Mountain

Recycling wood to create your own DIY bathroom shelving ideas, not only looks good and gives your bathroom a rustic twist, it gives you something unique and bespoke for your bathroom. Use old wooden crates or pallets to use as shelving on bathroom walls, which can be picked up from hardware stores, construction sites and garden centres. 

9. Make a feature of your storage

a-frame ladder as towel storage in front of exposed brick wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jon Day)

Any storage, including bathroom shelving ideas, can add style as well as practicality . Make your bathroom toiletries a feature in there own right by displaying pretty soaps, fluffy towels and fresh foliage on an aesthetically-pleasing ladder shelving unit. As well as being attractive, this is great for family bathroom ideas as everyone will be able to reach what they need.

10. Hang it up

bathroom with metal shelf and hanging storage

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jamie Mason)

Often the smallest room in the house, it makes sense to utilise walls as much as possible in the bathroom. Just a few hooks on the back of the door can be a big help, but for something with a little more impact, why not try hanging up a peg rail that doubles up as a shelf for storing towels on top? 

Use to hang bathroom storage baskets as well as add charming touches, like hanging planters, to breathe life into the space.

'Clever storage solutions, such as rails, baskets, and hooks that utilise wall space are a simple and easy way to streamline a bathroom to keep it organisation, while also adding a decorative touch at the same time,' says Paul Bailey, leader, product management at LIXIL EMENA and GROHE UK.

11. Step up with ladder shelving

bathroom with grey metro tiles and white ladder shelf

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jamie Mason)

In a small home it can be tricky to store bulky pieces like ladders. Consider making yours multi-purpose. Take an old wooden a-frame ladder and give it a lick of space so it works within your modern bathroom ideas. It will takes up little space when leaned against a wall yet creates bathroom shelving ideas for towels, lotions and potions. 

It's great for renters, too, as it requires no fixing to walls. Then on occasions when the ladder is required for changing a light bulb, it’s easy to clear off again.

12. Create an attractive display

blue bathroom with mirror wall display

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tom Leighton)

In small bathroom ideas it makes sense to utilise walls as much as possible. Just a few hooks on the back of the door can be a big help, but for something with a little more impact, why not try running an open-shelf around the room. For a dramatic look in your bathroom, try painting shelving in the same colour as your walls, then using them to display a collection.

13. Work a nook

bathroom with corner shelf with books and bottles

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Giles)

Small bathrooms can still pack in plenty of storage! These small recessed bathroom shelving ideas are tucked away but still manage to tidy away a lot of clutter. Great if you aren't blessed with space, or ideal for a cloakroom

To keep the space looking tidy and well put together don't overfill the space and keep it curated. If you don't want your bathroom items on show, use attractive baskets to keep things in order and grouped together. Making it super easy when you're looking for your favourite shampoo. 

How do I make my bathroom shelves look nice? 

You don’t have to follow bathroom trends to make your shelves look nice, the focus should be on making your shelves suit your bathroom design. If you have open shelves keep them from looking overcrowded by carefully curating what you put on them. Use it to store a mix of items you use on regular basis with decorative items that show off your personal style. 

Barrie Cutchie, design director at BC Designs says, ‘Bathroom shelves are often a practical solution to storage in a bathroom but that doesn't mean you can't get them to look nice. Adding plants or your best towels can be a starting point. This can add colour and also texture and depth. Think about what toiletries you have on show as well, choosing your nicest-looking bottles and smells to have out on show.’

‘Try to make sure your shelves don’t look cluttered,’ says Ruth Foster, interior designer at Victoria Plum. ‘Achieve this by using organisation boxes or baskets to keep your bathroom products and toiletries neatly stored. 

'Also use matching, labelled dispensers for your shampoo, conditioner and shower gels to make your shelf look organised and aesthetically pleasing. Add a plant or fresh flowers to add interest to a shelf in your bathroom. Or, you could even paint contemporary shelves in the same colour as your wall paint for a cohesive look.’

Where do you put shelves in a small bathroom? 

In a small bathroom, space comes at a premium so you have to be clever about the best way to place your shelving. 

‘If you have a smaller bathroom, avoid putting shelves anywhere they could be bumped into. Corner shelving makes good use of what could otherwise be wasted space, equally consider installing several small shelves in the space above a loo,’ says Shamila Iqbal from Bathroom Mountain.

Ruth Foster from Victoria Plum says, ‘In a smaller bathroom, there tends to be blank space above the toilet which is perfect for placing your shelves. Adding a shelf above the basin is also a functional spot for storing products you’d usually use in this space, such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, which alleviates a small basin area and helps it to feel less cluttered.’ 

Deputy Editor

Jennifer is the Deputy Editor (Digital) for Homes & Gardens online. Prior to her current position, she completed various short courses a KLC Design School, and wrote across sister brands Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Country Homes & Interiors, and Style at Home. 

With contributions from