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Types of Shelves For Closet Organization

Different Types of Shelves for Closets, Pantries or Other Organization Systems

Ordering a custom closet or other custom organization system can trigger a whole slew of design decisions that need to be addressed in conjunction with the project — What type of material do you want it made from? What color finish do you want? What type of handles or knobs? What accessories will add the greatest functionality for your needs? What about the style of door and drawer fronts? Do you want to trim it out with crown moulding or match any existing trim work in the home? Should I go for full bore or selective bore? The number of decisions can seem overwhelmig on any custom job. A skilled closet designer will always guide you through the process.

One decision that almost everytone will have to make involves shelving. What type(s) do you want or need? How many tpes of closet shelving are there? How do I know which one is best for me?

There are five main types of shelves used in custom shelving systems including fixed, adjustable, corner, floating, and pull-out shelves. Each of these main types includes several style choices to be made: Standard shelf pin, pin-in-place, corner shelves with either straight, curved or angled cuts, pull-out shelves with or without shallow sides to hold contents, and more.


Fixed shelves are the standard shelving you are probably most familiar with when you think of a closet. Most homes come with reach-in closets containing one or two shelves above a hanging rack. These shelves cannot easily be repositioned without a screw driver or other tools, and are therefore described as "fixed" shelves. In newer homes, they may be made of wire, but in older homes they are almost always wood. Custom closet systems also use fixed shelves. Generally, the top shelf is always a fixed shelf, meaning it is part of the structure of the organization system and cannot be moved. Sometimes a middle or bottom shelf will also be part of the structure and therefore a fixed shelf, but it varies depending on the type of closet shelving system. Fixed shelves are usually made of the same material as the other structural components of the closet — probably wood or laminate.

fixed closet shelf in white laminate
The top of this simple suspended closet system from Closet Works is a fixed shelf. It is esential to the structure of the closet system and can't be moved around.


Adjustable shelves are the most common type of shelf used in custom closet systems. They attach to the closet panels or supports via some sort of movable bracket or pin. It is easy to reconfigure the shelving as your needs change with this type of set up. The ease in moving an adjustable shelf also has some drawbacks, namely that it is possible for a child to tip or move them unintentionally. This can create a safety issue. To solve that problem, quality closet systems have optional pin-in-place style brackets/pins. These brackets anchor the shelf in position while still allowing it to be lifted and moved when necessary.

standard adjustable closet shelf in white laminate
Standard adjustable shelf from Closet Works in white laminate. Shelves of this type can be moved around, added or subtracted from the closet at will.

angled adjustable shoe shelf with shelf fence
Adjustable shelves can be installed flat or angled for easier visibility of contents as in the shoe shelves shown above. If installed with the angle, it is advisable to include some sort of barrier/shoe fence at the front edge to keep things from sliding off.
pin in place shelf pin for adjustable shelves in custom closets
Pin-in-place shelf bracket allows shelves to be moved, but prevents accidental tipping of the shelf.
standard shelf pin for adjustable shelves used in custom closets
Standard shelf pins are the least expensive way to anchor a shelf and are easily moved when needs change in a full bore organization system.
glass shelf support
Special shelf pins are required for support when the adjustable shelf is made of glass.


Corner shelves can be either fixed or adjustable. There are several different ways to construct a corner shelf.

  1. 90 Degree Angle: It can be made from what is essentially two pieces of shelving that abut at right angles and are joined together. This is the most common and least expensive method to handle the corner of a shelving system.
    Ninety degree corner shelf on inside corner
  2. Curved Corner Cut: It can be constructed from a single piece of material. Instead of a right angle in the corner, a gentle curve is cut into the shelf, creating a smooth transition from one side of the shelving to the other. In addition to being very attractive, this method also increases overall shelf space by creating a few more square inches to work with.
    curved corner shelf on inside corner
  3. Angled Corner Cut: With this type of corner shelf, a square piece of shelving is cut from corner to corner at a 45° angle forming what is essentially an isosceles triangle with the two front corners at 45° and the back corner at 90°. This type of shelf can be used on either an inside or outside corner.
    angled corner shelf on outside corner
  4. Rotating Shelf: A rotating shelf can be used in the corner to maximize all possible storage space and provide the maximum number of items that can be stored in the front section of the shelf. Rotating shelves are generally not sold as individual shelves, but as part of a complete rotating shelving rack that contains many shelves. It operates in a similar manner to a lazy susan in that the shelves spin on a fixed base. Each shelf is divided into four sections or "sides" that can be turned manually to face the front of the closet. Shelves are adjustable, with the exception of the top, bottom and middle shelves which are fixed and essential to the structure of the rotating shelving system.
    rotating shelves on a 360 Organizer rotating closet system
    Rotating shelving from Closet Works spins on a Lazy Lee® rather than a Lazy Susan. Named for inventor Lee Goldsticker, the Lazy Lee® divides the space on the round shelf into four areas in an "H" configuration. The shelving system spins manually on the proprietary Rotas® base, which is rated to support up to 9000 pounds.


A pull-out shelf for a closet or other shelving system is essentially a shelf installed using side mount drawer slides. This allows the shelf to move forward and backward like a regular drawer. There are several types of pull-out shelves available for closets and other organization systems.

  1. Standard Pull-Out Shelf: A standard pull-out shelf can be used anywhere. It is an especially helpful feature when a hidden shelf is needed. The shelf can remain unseen under a countertop or drawer most of the time, but pulled out when needed for use as a shelf or small table. It is also the least expensive type of pull-out shelf.
    Standard pull out shelf from Closet Works
    pull out shelf as small hidden table from Closet Works
  2. Pull-Out Sweater Shelf: The pull out sweater shelf is similar to the standard pull-out shelf, but has partial sides to keep folded clothing neat and orderly on the shelf.
    curved corner shelf on inside corner
  3. Pantry Pull-Out Shelf: Pantry pull-out shelves are helpful in ensuring cans and small foodstuffs don't sit unused in the back of the pantry until they expire because no one saw the items. With a pull out shelf, nothing gets lost in the back. Sides are used on pantry pull-out shelves to keep cans and small boxes or bottles from slipping off the shelf. They are available with straight cut front or a scalloped edge for ease of opening.
    pantry pull out shelf with straight cut sides
  4. Accessory Shelf: At its core,an accessory shelf is similar to a standard pull-out shelf in its basic functionality. However, it is designed to coordinated in appearance with a suite of other closet accessories, offering a comprehensive visual appearance to a high end closet system. Additional add-ons are available for this shelf, such as jewelry dividers, that can give it added functionality similar to a shallow drawer. The accessory shelf comes 14 inches deep, the perfect depth to fit a standard closet system. It is available in 18 inch, 24 inch and 30 inch widths and will easily accommodate most closets. Installation is relatively simple with four screws. Pre drilled holes on the built-in shelf slides are designed to line up with the standard drilling pattern/holes for adjustable shelves already included on most closet systems. It comes in three metallic finishes: matte gold, brushed chrome and oil rubbed bronze.
    elite closet accessory shelf


Floating shelves present a very modern look and embue the space they occupy with a contemporary vibe. Visually, they don't take up very much space and give the perception of minimalism. Floating shelves have the most restrictions on how much weight they can carry. The exact amount will vary by the size of the shelf, support bracket used, and material it is made of. It is essential that you know what you want to put on the floating shhelf in advance to ensure that it can carry the weight. Glass floating shelves can carry the least weight and should be regulated to hold small personal mementos for display only. Foating bookshelves are not reccommended.

floating shelf
Floating shelf made of laminate.
glass floating shelf
Glass floating shelf.

Overall, shelves are one of the best organizing tools around. Almost every type of organization system will include a shelf somewhere in the design. Shelves are one of the best ways to maximize storage, organize and get things up off the floor. The type of shelf that is best suited to your needs will vary for each installation. However, there are enough different types of shelves and different price points to get eveyone organized, no matter what your needs, situation or budget.