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Shelving Depths – What to consider

Here’s a good article that discusses the pros and cons of deep shelves vs shallow shelves.  While the discussion revolves around residential closet applications, the same principles apply to commercial shelving and cabinetry:

Closet Design:

We’re not talking about your personality here – we’re talking about the shelves in your closets and storage spaces. When people show me closet spaces, they often feel compelled to “use every inch”. So whether the closet is 24” deep (standard depth for a reach-in closet) or 38” deep (space left over that a builder turns in to a closet), they want shelves that are as deep as the closet itself.

Bad idea!



Extremely deep shelving is not only expensive, but it creates what I call “the big, black hole”. If you want to remember it with a rhyme – deep shelving “increases cost and things get lost”.  Here are a couple rules of thumb:

  • The deeper the shelf – the farther apart the shelves should be spaced.
  • Small items work best on shallow shelves. An ultimate luxury is being able to see every item that’s on your shelves. So if we’re talking about your pantry, let’s avoid having 37 cans of tomato soup! Especially if there are expiration dates from 2007 hidden behind today’s juice box purchases. Think: open door – look at shelf – find needed item – grab and go. Closets aren’t gardens, we don’t want digging.
  • Larger items can work on deeper shelves — things like pillows and blankets or furniture cushions. But be aware – the deeper the shelf – the greater the propensity for you to overload the shelf. The added weight could be a service call waiting to happen – so reinforce those deep shelves whenever possible!


  • Our contributing author:

    Denise Butchko is a design and marketing expert who teaches these concepts with the intention of helping people grow their businesses (particularly those in the design/build industries). She’s been a contributor to CLOSETS magazine since 2003 and is a judge for the closet industries “Top Shelf” Design Competition. Her design work has been featured in national publications like “Better Homes & Gardens” and The Chicago Tribune, and she works with some of the top interior design firms in the country.