9 best modular shelving units to maximise your living space

Ali Howard
·7-min read
We tested oak, wood, aluminium and bamboo designs  (The Independent)
We tested oak, wood, aluminium and bamboo designs (The Independent)

Clutter-free living starts with decent storage, allowing us to free up important floor space while keeping our best-loved belongings safely tucked away yet easily accessible.

If you’re working with an uneven wall or you’re looking to kit out an attic room, modular shelving allows you to create an (almost) bespoke solution that works around those unconventional dimensions: think triangular loft spaces that require wall-hung storage between the eaves, or period homes that could do without furniture drawing attention to slanting ceilings.

Rarely will a free-standing bookshelf reach the full width of your living space, but with modular shelving you can create a wall-to-wall library.

If you’ve got an enviable vinyl collection to house, go modular to both maximise on space and show off those spines.

And if you simply want somewhere to display your favourite knick-knacks, choose a sculptural boxy piece that will bring an art gallery feel to your living space.

From free-standing units up to large-scale cubic installations, we put our top modular shelving to the test, looking for high style and functionality.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

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Ikea svalnas wall mounted storage combination, bamboo and white

For smart, contemporary and affordable wall-mounted storage, Ikea’s offering is a great buy. It’s made from a pale bamboo, winning points on both sustainability and the use of a lightweight material that doesn’t weigh the walls down. The shelving and cupboards are supported by discreet white brackets, which we found stood out less once the unit was filled with our favourite books and knick-knacks. We loved the way the shelving can be hung at any height, and that it can be elevated to give you that extra few inches of floor space underneath.

Buy now £290.00, Ikea

Made polygon shelving unit

Made’s honeycomb-like shelving unit makes a smart, functional bookshelf when placed flush against the living room wall – but it works just as well as a funky room divider with its backless voids allowing the light to flood through: load it up with books and trailing houseplants for a look that’s contemporary with a Seventies twist. The unit is available in a choice of four finishes and we loved ours in warming walnut, which beautifully complemented our vintage mid-century pieces. It’s crafted from MDF with wood veneers, the natural grain of which follows the unit’s pleasing undulating curves.

Buy now £329.00, Made

Woood Zach wall shelving unit

The Dutch brand has combined functional storage with sculptural interest in this asymmetrical wall unit. It’s made from sturdy steel with an antique grey finish, awarding living rooms and bedrooms alike a glamorous edge. We loved this unit for its chic, architectural shaping. Featuring six shelves of varying widths, we were able to play around with our placement of hardbacks and paperbacks. And it’s comparatively affordable enough to buy in multiples, so get creative with a duo or even trio of pieces and you’ll have a unique wall installation.

Buy now £123.25, Cuckooland

Tikamoon easy 35x140 oak shelving unit

If you’re after a completely clean-lined look, Tikamoon’s offering is all about concealed storage. Crafted from a warm, solid oak, the simple shaping of the wall-mounted unit allows the visual texture of the wood grain to shine. Comprising five compartments (or six shelves if you include the top), we found this one will hold a surprising number of books – at 35cm in width you can show off the spines of your favourite paperbacks on both sides. We loved the way it seemingly floats with no visible wall fittings and allows for floor space underneath. It also offers a pleasing play on perspective, either concealing or displaying its contents depending on the viewing angle.

Buy now £315.00, Tikamoon

String configurable storage system

This veritable design classic receives top marks for versatility: it may look contemporary but Nils Strinning’s shelving system has been reliably holding up our stuff since 1949. It’s an elegant, lightweight and highly functional way to store practically anything, with its veneered particleboard and powder-coated steel frame suited to bathroom, kitchen, and living room walls alike. The brand offers you the chance to build up your bespoke storage masterpiece with a wealth of components including display cabinets, work desks, and even magazine holders. This is top quality storage but we’d advise keeping a close eye on your budget. It’s easy to get carried away with tempting add-ons.

Buy now £156.00, Utility

Kriptonite Krossing shelving unit 133x100cm

This is another clean-lined modular storage system that offers discreet and streamlined shelving while bringing a chic, contemporary feel to the living room wall. The smallest (and least expensive) of the Krossing series, this one comprises 16 rectangular shelving compartments, giving you ample storage space – go larger if you need it. Lightweight but sturdy, the unit is crafted from an anodised aluminium, which gives it a perfect, modern finish. Despite its high price, the point of this piece is to disappear into the wall and allow our favourite objects to shine.

Buy now £505.00, The Conran Shop

Tylko type01 veneer bookcase

In the last five years this Polish brand has been a game-changer in modular shelving – and its product range is still evolving. These simple boxy units transform into bespoke storage, from a single piece up to a large-scale floor-to-ceiling installation, via a user-friendly site (or app) that allows us to visualise and design our own shelving solutions.

The "type01" bookcase comes in a choice of ash or oak veneers to bring a sophisticated touch to these contemporary shape-shifting boxes. But it’s not cheap: prices go up steeply once you start adding to your creation. However, these are top quality, easy and fun to put together – you’d pay much more for a carpenter to do the job.

Buy now £200.00, Tylko

Mogg Metrica bookcase

For gallery-worthy walls, Mogg’s Metrica series fuses a veritable modern art installation with surprisingly practical storage. The cage-like industrial style unit is made from a series of iron rods and is finished in either burnished bronze or titanium, with glass shelving in bronze or green.

What we loved most about this statement piece was its sculptural appeal: at first glance it may look strict and uniform but it features nifty compartments, too, allowing us to play with our display. There’s the option of adding feet to make this a free-standing piece but we think it works best when wall-hung.

Buy now £730.00, Go Modern

Habitat Orwell oak shelving unit with storage cupboards

Crafted from oak with oak veneers, this boxy unit makes a handsome statement piece in the living room, dining room or hallway and offers storage and display space in equal measure. Clean and contemporary, the blond wood pieces fit together seamlessly to create a striking and sculptural furniture piece that takes up little floor space with its slim silhouette. We found this one to be a versatile unit which we enjoyed changing up periodically: alongside the two closed compartments there are eight surfaces to get creative with.

Buy now £450.00, Habitat

The verdict: Modular shelving

Ikea’s svalnas wall mounted storage combination is an affordable, stylish, versatile and eco-friendly way to store and display our favourite things. It’s lightweight and user-friendly, combining closed cabinets with handy shelving space. We were also impressed with Woood’s Zach wall shelving unit, which brought sculptural interest and glamour to our living room.

For more interiors reviews, read our round-up of the best desks, the best wall hangings and the best dressing tables