What is a floating shelf?
Let's start by getting the concept completely under control - what is a floating shelf.
A floating shelf should be defined as a floating surface on which you can place things and where the shelf is fixed in a way that makes it look like it is floating. This means that there are no visible devices that hold the shelf.
There are many places where the word floating shelf is used to refer to a shelf with a minimalist design, which is however held up by shelf jacks, straps or another method of hanging the shelf up.
But it's just not a real floating shelf, because it doesn't look like it's floating on the wall, does it?
The wooden floating shelves you find here on puretime.dk, for example, are all with hidden suspension, so you can enjoy the shelf as it was intended and designed.
Floating shelves in various designs
You can find many exciting variations of floating shelves in the different stores and from different designers.
- The rectangular model
- The round model
- Other geometric models
The rectangular model
The completely classic model is square and shaped like a rectangle. This model is ideal if you are looking for a large and regular surface where you can utilize the space.
It comes in different variants and dimensions, which I will get into later.
The thickness can vary from 10-15 mm all the way up to 40-50 mm.
It is important to think about the thickness in relation to your interior design:
If you would like the shelf to fill up something in the room, choose a thick floating shelf, which often also appears rustic.
Conversely, a thinner floating shelf will take up less space in the room and appear a little more light and 'floating', which is a good solution if you want the clean look but without it being too heavy. These considerations apply regardless of the shape of the floating shelf.
The picture: Strangways - oak floating shelf
The round model
You don't often see shelves designed in round shapes, but I actually think it's a really nice and elegant solution that helps to break the straight lines of the Scandinavian design style, which is often quite strict.
At the same time, the round design gives a very special and very organic look, because it is not the traditional choice.
The completely round shelves can be a little fragile, as they are usually only mounted with one screw, which does not have a very large contact surface on the shelf.
The round shelves with a straight back edge, which you find here in the shop, have the advantage that they have a larger contact surface with the wall and thus stick better. In addition, it looks a bit like they float 'into the wall'.
The disadvantage of a straight back edge is that you get a little less space on the shelf itself.
Other geometric models
Finally, you will find all the more exotic elements, where the design is, for example, square - perhaps even rotated so that the tip faces the wall, 5- or 6-sided variants or perhaps a corner shelf that can have both straight and round shapes.
If you choose one of these types, I would recommend that you choose a shape that fits in with the rest of your decor.
If you have, for example, several exciting, geometric shapes in your interior, then a shelf in a different design will certainly be an option for you.
What materials are floating shelves made of?
There are many different options, and it can be difficult to find your way around, but I will try to give an overview.
- Oak tree
- Other materials
At the cheaper end of materials you will find melamine. It is an artificially produced plastic-like material which is cheap to produce and which is often seen as the top layer on a floating shelf made of e.g. chipboard or MDF.
Melamine is widely used in the furniture industry because it is cheap to produce and reasonably durable.
However, it is still one of the least durable products to make floating shelves out of, just as it is not very resistant to, for example, heat and moisture.
Laminate is somewhat similar to melamine, and it can often be difficult to tell the difference, so remember to read the product description if you are looking for a floating shelf in laminate.
Laminate is a material that consists of very many thin layers of cardboard or paper that, together with resin, are pressed together very hard at a very high temperature.
As a material, laminate is much more resistant to moisture and heat than melamine, and at the same time it is more flexible, and so it can withstand being cleaned with cleaning agents to a much greater extent.
Like melamine, laminate is often used as a product that is placed on top of a generic wooden board (chipboard, for example) to make the result look more exclusive, and it is popular for its durable properties.
Many describe solid oak as the only 'real' choice for a floating shelf.
The reason why it is so popular is, among other things, because light oak is simply really beautiful to look at.
Within oak, there are typically two ways to cut the wood:
- Planar cut - which is the cheapest solution, which gives an expression with very different and large, clearer grain rings
- Quarter-cut - which is the more expensive solution, where you cut 'slices' from a quarter of the trunk and get a more uniform cut - often with completely unique pith rays
You can read much more about the two types in this blog post .
The vast majority of oak floating shelves - including those you find here at PureTime - are made from oak planks that are joined together to form a larger, uniform surface.
The advantage of this is, among other things, a lower cost price - but also that several composite planks are far more durable than one large piece of wood, which is much more exposed.
There are also floating shelves made from one large oak plank. The price of the large, wide blanks is about 4 times more expensive than the narrower planks, and one large plank is more susceptible to moisture.
At the same time, there is a significantly greater risk of one large plank giving way or perhaps even cracking.
You should deal with these risks yourself. The large plank is super delicious - it just also has some disadvantages.
The picture: Chiffre - round floating shelf in several sizes
Although oak floating shelves are clearly the most popular, you can also get shelves in, for example, beech wood.
Beech wood is not so fashionable at the moment, but it is a variety that is almost as durable as oak, and beech is also one of the light woods.
Typically, however, you should expect beech wood to become more reddish over time, where treated oak retains its color and glow.
You can also get shelves in walnut. Walnut wood is naturally dark and with a number of veins and distinct knots.
Walnut is a very dimensionally stable material that keeps its shape for many years, and walnut has traditionally been used for rifle butts, for example.
At the same time, you can polish the walnut so that it has an almost completely glossy and shiny glow.
If you look for floating shelves on the web, you will come across many products that have a basic core of pressed wood scraps and then a layer of e.g. oak veneer on top.
It is an inexpensive way to get a nice shelf that is also durable.
Glass shelves are a bit of a chapter by themselves. Often, the choice of a glass shelf will be due to the fact that you have already furnished your home with other things made of glass, e.g. display cabinets or glass tables.
Glass naturally gives a bright and light expression, where the light helps to give a very special look.
However, you should be aware that glass shelves require a lot of maintenance, as both dust and grease can be seen very clearly on a glass surface.
A floating shelf is not just a floating shelf.
We have already talked about shape and material, but as with many things, the very special differences and unique elements are to be found in the small subtleties and distinctive features that each individual shelf can have.
The image: Chiffre floating shelf - round finesse
"There is no difference in that", you might think. But it is there - and it is actually often there, where you can make a big difference with a small stroke of genius.
For example, if you take a regular shelf in MDF with laminate or melamine on top, they are often found with completely straight edges - which can be cut out quickly and cheaply on a machine.
If you look at the shelves that are characterized to a greater extent by craftsmanship, you are talking about either a straight edge, as mentioned above, or a round edge - also called a natural edge.
If you look at the Strangway floating shelf here at PureTime, you can see what a shelf with a round edge looks like.
It has an organic look, often in soft curves, and gives the shelf an authentic look. At the same time, it helps to break the side edges, which are usually kept straight.
There are also floating shelves with a built-in edge or chute, on which you can place photos, pictures or other decorations, so that it can stand upright and adorn the shelf.
Finally, there are also shelves that have side edges and/or a front edge. Here it is both part of the design but also a practical function that ensures that things don't fall off the shelf.
Of course, there are countless other edges and cutouts that give the shelf a unique look - it's just a matter of finding exactly the design that's right for you.
As previously mentioned, one of the most essential things about a floating shelf is that it can be fixed solidly but so that it 'floats' at the same time.
Normally, you typically fix the shelf using a so-called shelf jack, which is a right-angled wooden edge, where one long side is screwed to the wall and the other long side is screwed to the underside of the shelf.
Another solution for hanging the shelf is to put a strap - perhaps made of leather - around the shelf and then screw the strap into the wall. It can also be a definite metal holder for the shelf in, for example, brass, which you also screw up.
The most common thing for a shelf to look like it is actually floating is a hidden bracket or two at the back of the shelf.
Either a hole can be milled out in the back of the shelf, where the screw head fits in - as is the case, for example, with the Chiffre shelves - or you use - typically for larger shelves - an actual bracket that you screw into the wall, and where a rod sticks out, which matches a corresponding hole at the back of the shelf, so that you can 'slide' the shelf into place.
You often see two brackets to support a larger shelf, as solid oak shelves in particular can be quite heavy.
You should make sure that both screws and especially rawlplugs are suitable for the wall you are going to mount the shelf on.
There are rawlplugs for general. concrete and stone walls, just as there are universal rawlplugs that are made to work in most walls (but where they typically cannot carry as many kilos as if you used a rawlplug specifically for that type of wall).
Finally, there are special rawlplugs for plaster walls and other porous walls, where a different rawlplug is needed that can provide a little more hold so that the wall does not crumble.
The image: The floating shelves from PureTime are easy to install
Manufacture of wooden shelves
There is a big difference in how the wooden shelves are manufactured and especially whether the production takes place in a small joinery company or in a huge factory.
Floating shelves that are manufactured in a factory are typically cheaper to manufacture, as the entire process is automated - from the cutting to the grinding and possibly painting and packing.
On the other hand, it is far more expensive for a small joiner to produce shelves when they are typically sanded and varnished by hand after cutting. If the result is not good enough, then it must have an additional grinding or perhaps be completely discarded.
Shelves in solid wood are typically milled out with a CNC milling machine. It is a machine that uses small drill bits to mill out the shelf.
The limitation of CNC is, among other things, that it is difficult to make sharp edges and very fine patterns, because there is a limit to how small and thin a drill can be used - and because the drill rotates and makes round cuts, which is not ideal , if you need a sharp corner.
Conversely, a CNC machine makes some really nice, rounded and clean shapes without blurring or dark shadows, and therefore CNC is suitable for making floating shelves with.
The other, typical solution is laser cutting, which is cheaper to operate and which can make very precise patterns and cutouts.
Here, the wood is actually burned via the laser, and in some cases there will be slightly dark shadows from the cut, because the laser is so hot.
The cuts can also not be as clean as in a CNC machine, and typically you use laser cutting in slightly thinner material.
However, the laser is unsurpassed when it comes to fine patterns and thin and complicated engravings.
Varnishing of floating shelves
Very much depending on the type of wood, it often makes sense to paint the shelf. In beech wood, varnishing will typically emphasize the slightly reddish color, and in oak wood, varnish is primarily applied to ensure that the wood does not turn yellow - as well as to enhance durability and resistance to moisture and temperature fluctuations.
You can paint with e.g. soap or oil - but you can also use a wax oil, and there are oils that make it both darker and lighter - and oils that are relatively neutral, which only have a protective effect.
You may have seen "smoked oak" shelves. It may well be that it is actually oak that has been "smoked" which is primarily a chemical process, but it is quite expensive and extensive to make.
Therefore, many shelves have been given a dark coloring so that they are reminiscent of smoked oak in color - but without having had the extensive (and somewhat environmentally damaging) smoked process.
Price and quality
After all, you can count on getting what you pay for.
If you buy a cheap floating shelf in the local supermarket, they are probably mass-produced in Asia, quite similar and may have small defects, as quality control is typically difficult to perform 100% on such large productions.
Conversely, the shelf from a small joiner is typically made with quality in mind.
Significantly longer time and often significantly better materials have also been used here, and this is reflected in the price.
You can buy a melamine or laminate shelf that is cheap. You can also find shelves with a veneer top, which do not cost very much, but if you move over to the section for solid wood shelves, the price increases - both because of the quality and workmanship but also because of the price of the wood, which has increased strongly in recent years.
I hope you have been inspired and better prepared to buy your next floating shelf.