10 best modular shelving units to maximise your living space

10 best modular shelving units to maximise your living space
Showcase your vinyl collection or favourite artwork with these modular shelving units from Ikea, Wayfair, Made, Tika Moon, Tylko, Utility Design and more

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.

Read more:

How we tested

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.

The best modular shelving units for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Ikea Ivar 2 sections/shelves, pine: £167, Ikea.com
  • Best made-to-measure shelving – On & On shelving system: £62, Madebyonandon.com
  • Best affordable storage – Symple Stuff bookcase: £36.99, Wayfair.co.uk
  • Best for a light, open look – Gassien 25 Esther shelf, brass base oak: £302, Smallable.com
  • Best for concealed storage – Tikamoon easy solid oak wall-mounted bookshelf: £299, Tikamoon.co.uk
  • Best for versatility – String configurable storage system: £158, Utilitydesign.co.uk
  • Best standalone unit – Made polygon shelving unit: £429, Made.com
  • Best inconspicuous shelving – Kriptonite Krossing shelving unit 133x100cm: £505, Conranshop.co.uk
  • Best for larger installations – Tylko type01 veneer bookcase: £281, Tylko.com
  • Best design-led shelving – Mogg Metrica bookcase: £350, Gomodern.co.uk

Ikea Ivar 2 sections/shelves, pine

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Ikea’s Ivar system is, rightfully, a bit of a cult classic. And that’s largely thanks to its versatility: the internet is filled with impressive Ikea hacks that take this simple and unassuming shelving unit and transform it into something that looks and feels truly bespoke. In a pale untreated pine, it’s attractive in its natural state but will happily take a lick of paint, too. This particular unit features 10 generous and open-backed shelves, which are, of course, adjustable. Keep them evenly spaced for a symmetrical look or play around with differing heights to accommodate your storage needs. While this one is a sturdy free-standing unit, it does need to be attached to the wall for safety.

Gassien 25 Esther shelf, brass base oak

Best: For a light, open look

Rating: 10/10

While most contemporary modular shelving celebrates its boxiness, this unit, from French brand Gassien, is all about the elegant lines. The customisable piece is made from a wall-hung steel base in “brass” with FSC-certified solid oak shelving that’s hung and can be moved around, via strong support brackets. (These also work as handy bookends for the otherwise open shelves). We loved this shelving system for its stylish mix of materials and its hint of glamour. While it won’t hold a bibliophile’s vast collection of paperbacks it offers a good bit of storage but maintains an airy and open feel. Get creative with trailing houseplants and clip-on lighting.

Made polygon shelving unit

Best: Standalone unit

Rating: 8/10

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 complimented 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.

Symple Stuff bookcase

Best: Affordable storage

Rating: 8/10

Offering a stylish industrial look is this modular shelving unit with its black cage-like cubes that happily hold a wealth of objects from books to toys to a comprehensive vinyl collection. Made from steel, the unit feels reliably heavyweight and sturdy. It arrives flat-packed and needs to be put together from scratch – but with that, you get to choose a configuration to suit your room and storage needs. In its step-like design, it’s ideal for that awkward under the stairs space, while six stacked cubes, whether vertically or horizontally, offer a pleasing symmetry. This is an impressive storage product for its affordable price – and it really looks the part, too.

ON&ON shelving system

Best: Made-to-measure shelving

Rating: 9/10

This is a fresh and relatively new company that specialises in manufacturing and selling its modular shelving direct to the customer – suffice to say, you get a truly bespoke service here. Sleek, chic and contemporary, the system combines modular components with made-to-measure parts. Crafted from powder-coated aluminium that can be finished in a range of eye-popping shades, the shelves are heavyweight and reliably strong. You won’t find them bowing under the weight of your books – no matter how many hardbacks you load them with. We loved the attention to detail from this brand, from design to installation. This shelving system isn’t cheap but it is made to last forever.

Tikamoon easy solid oak wall-mounted bookshelf

Best: For concealed storage

Rating: 8/10

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.

String configurable storage system

Best: For versatility

Rating: 9/10

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, as it’s easy to get carried away with tempting add-ons.

Kriptonite Krossing shelving unit 133x100cm

Best: Inconspicuous shelving

Rating: 8/10

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.

Tylko type01 veneer bookcase

Best: For larger installations

Rating: 8/10

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.

Mogg Metrica bookcase

Best: Design-led shelving

Rating: 9/10

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.

The verdict: Modular shelving

Ikea’s Ivar storage system is affordable, stylish, and hugely versatile. We loved its natural look in a pale blond pine but we were equally excited to add a splash of colour. It’s simple to put together and feels suitably strong once fully assembled. The best is that it can be easily changed around to adapt to our changing storage needs.

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

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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