10 Ways to Make The Best Use of a Ladder Shelf

There are so many creative ideas these days for decorating your house and/or utilizing space. One of our all-time favorite pieces to re-purpose is a ladder for shelving. They’re so versatile and you can use them in a variety of ways and in any room of the house. Anyway, in our opinion, you can never have too many shelves and you can never have too many books. Using ladder shelves can bring you both in unique and different ways in which you may would have never thought. Use your ladder shelf the regular way, come up with your own ideas, or take a gander and check out our ideas. You never go wrong with a ladder shelf in our eyes! Here’s 10 ways to make the best use of a ladder shelf in your home (or business!)

1. Natural Ladder Shelf, One-Sided

You don’t have to use both sides of an A-frame ladder to make a ladder shelf. If you have an old ladder and one side has been broken, don’t despair; you can still use the half that isn’t broken to make an awesome hanging shelf. You can also use one half of an extension ladder or the whole thing if intact and room permits.

This easy-to-make and simple shelf can be made with one half of a tall wood ladder. Add d-rings at the top in order to attach it easily to the wall. Now you can add baskets or barnwood pieces with screws to the rungs to give you more shelf room.

You can either leave it natural and aged looking for a vintage bathroom or you can spice it up for a den or bedroom by painted or staining it to match the color scheme. You’ll be surprised at how many compliments you’ll get on your simple, one-sided shelf.

*In most of these ideas, it’s assumed that an A-frame ladder is being used, but an extension ladder can also be adapted in most cases.

2. Easy Shelf Style

Using both sides of an old ladder, you can add wood pieces over the rungs for added shelf space. With the ladder open, wood pieces can be attached to both sides by rungs, securing the shelves and making them more stable in order to shelve heavier pieces or books.

Add a clever, colorful touch to this ladder shelf by using contrasting colors. Leave the ladder itself natural while painting the shelves a nice, soft color. If you’re using this particular ladder shelf in a child’s room, you can paint it bright primary colors with a shiny coat to give it a kid feel.

However, to keep the old natural look, keep the ladder natural and just paint the added shelves, giving it a dynamic contrast while keeping its old charm.

3. Metal Ladder + Wood Planks

If you have an old metal ladder you’re not using anymore, it can repurposed into a shelf as well; keep in mind you don’t only have to use wood ladders. While most DIY ladder shelves are made of wood, combining the metal ladder with wooden planks can give you a unique look for your home.

Of course, metal ladders are as easily altered or changed, so keeping as-is is what brings a different look to this shelf. All you have to do is add wood planks to the rungs and you’ve got a multi-material ladder shelf.

The variations for this type of ladder shelf are numerous, as well. You can leave it all natural, you can paint the metal ladder and leave the wood natural, you can leave the metal ladder natural and stain or paint the wood planks or you can use a combination. Either way, this ladder unique ladder shelf can be made to match any room. Don’t forget, you can always use ladder shelves as decoration or for added space. This metal combo would make a great addition to your laundry room or kitchen while added a unique look as well.

4. Inverted Ladder Shelf

Who said ladder shelves had to stand up the way ladders normally do during use? For this ladder shelf idea, you can use one or two ladders and give your wall some crazy angles in the process.

As an example, using two inverted ladders, just add planks to the rungs like you would if the ladders were turned upright. This alternative gives you much more shelf space at the top instead of at the bottom, making it a great way to show off your prized books, collection of nicknacks, or, using them in a child’s room, show off their favorite toys.

Again, this ladder shelf can be left natural, painted, stained, or a combination. Whichever you choose, you’ll be surprised at how this unique ladder shelf really makes your books (or other items) pop with the largest shelf on top.

5. Little Ladders

Just because you’ve found an old little wooden ladder doesn’t mean that you can’t use it the same way as a large one. In fact, smaller ladders can fit in smaller areas such as bathrooms, entry ways, or children rooms.

A small step ladder can be turned into the perfect ladder book shelf for a small reading nook or favorite reading area. In addition, the smaller ladder is easier and quicker to paint, stain, or adjust to fit your space.

A small ladder can also double as a side table/shelf with the right materials. Just add a glass or wooden top, being sure to secure it safely, and you’ve got a small side table ladder shelf. (Don’t forget to add wood planks to the rungs for the shelf-part.)

6. Double Ladder Ends

You can put two ladders together to make a huge shelf, adding wooden planks across the rungs. This is a great idea if you need extra space to store books, toys, or whatever – maybe your elephant collection. Another way to use this idea, however, is to only run planks through the center two ladder ends – one side of each ladder. This keeps everything centralized and makes the ladder more a part of the decor. This also gives it a cool framing effect, pulling the eyes towards the center of the shelving.

As with the other ideas, be sure to mount ladders safely to avoid accidental falling. This style also gives you a variety of ways to decorate it as well. You can paint or stain the entire shelf, or just parts of it. We’re just giving you the idea, what you do with it after that is up to you! Show off your favorite stuff with this eye-catching design.

7. Different Sized Planks

Who said the planks had to be precisely sized? Well, they don’t have to be! Use planks that narrow or widen as the ascend. Really, we haven’t discussed the length of the actual wood planks/shelves, but this is really a personal choice. You can have a short planks, sized to fit the ladder, or you can go with oversized shelves, much wider than the ladder is, or you can make shelves all the same size. Imagine how that would look – make shelves all the same width as the widest plank. This would draw more attention to the shape of the ladder itself while making a unique statement.

Either way, there are a variety of ways to size your planks/shelves. Experiment with them and see which you like best or have different ladder shelves in each room.

8. Picture Ladder Shelf

Who said you had to actually put books or whatnots on ladder shelves? This idea uses the rungs to hang pictures and other mementos on. Hang half a ladder high on the wall and place pictures in between rungs with decorative fake vines, flowers, or other decorations around the rungs and pictures.

Keep the ladder natural looking or paint/stain it to match your room. Mix and match colors. Mix and match shelves and pictures. Leave out shelves entirely or place one every other rung. The possibilities are endless. This would make a great wedding/anniversary/mother’s day gift or such – pics, mementos, and whatnots all pertaining to what’s being celebrated.

Another unique way to fix these is to wrap fabric around the rungs to give it extra color or an added touch. This is another great idea for making it into a sort of “scrap book”, but on a ladder!

9. Leaning Tower of Shelf

You can lean half a A-frame ladder or an old extension ladder against the wall instead of hanging it. Attach wire baskets to the rungs for stowing accessories in the bathroom, craft supplies in the kids’ rooms, and fresh produce, herbs, and spices in the kitchen. Use it for your plants, making a unique plant stand. Grow and wrap vines around the rungs and legs.

10. Last, but not Least

Make a salvage-style side table. We mention using a step ladder for this in a previous number, and we’re going to mention it again because the possibilities for this idea are endless. Style with a glass top table, make a marble-looking top, use wood, or metal. Place pieces on both top and bottom for added stability.

Leave natural or paint/stain or combination. You can use either a wooden or a metal ladder for this project. Again, we give you the idea, what you do with it from there is up to you!

While this is no where near all the ways ladder shelves can be made, used, constructed, and painted or stained, these are some great ideas to get you started. Take these ideas and turn them into your own by changing up what we’ve done, adding your own special touches. Get creative! It’s fun!


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