What are Hanging Shelves?

Tara Barnett

Hanging shelves are a type of shelving typically used in closets or other areas where horizontal bars are readily available. Another type of shelving sometimes referred to as hanging shelves involves hooking or hanging shelves directly onto the wall. These shelves are more commonly called floating shelves because they appear to have no supports, whereas the term hanging shelves is often reserved for storage that visibly hangs from a bar or other surface.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Many people use hanging shelves made of cloth and stiff materials in closets to store items such as sweaters or shoes. These shelves often collapse into a compact form for storage. When in use, the shelving unit typically hangs from the same bar as clothing hangers and may latch onto the bar using snaps or hooks. Using this type of shelving for heavy items is ill advised, as closet bars usually cannot support heavy weights and the hanging apparatus itself may rip.

Shelves of this type are often made for a specific type of item or may be made with storage of compatible boxes in mind. Some people use this type of shelving not for storage but for organization, mapping out what clothes will be worn each day of the week. Usually, the shelving unit is sold as storage for a specific item, which is somewhat unusual among types of shelving. Items marketed as closet sweater shelving, for example, are frequently made in a hanging design, although it is best to consult a picture prior to purchase to make sure that this is the case if it is not made explicit.

Not all hanging shelves are designed for clothing or closets. While less common, there are also hanging shelves designed to work with rafters, which are particularly popular for garages and attics. These shelves are often made from coated metal for added strength, but can be made of any material. Sometimes these shelves do not literally hang, but rather adhere to a surface vertically by way of screws or other devices.

While these are the most common uses of hanging shelving, the potential designs of shelves that hang are much more varied. The primary considerations are whether the shelf can support its own weight and whether the place where it is hung can support that weight. One of the biggest differences between hanging and standing shelves is where strength is required most. When designed intelligently, a hanging shelf can be used for almost any shelving need.

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