What Size Shelf Should I Order?

kitchen with floating shelves

Put Our Handcrafted Wood Shelves to Work for You

If you’re planning to renovate your home, or perhaps just update a room by adding some farmhouse shelves, our handcrafted wooden shelving from J Thomas Home will look great in your space and fit just right.

But what if you don’t have an eye for design? How do you know what size wood shelf you’ll need?

At J Thomas Home, we’ve been helping customers choose sizes for floating wall shelves since 2016. People send us photos of their spaces, and we work together to determine the functions of the room and the shelves.

Using two simple guidelines, we’ve developed pointers that have helped our customers make confident decisions about what wood shelf size will work best in their space.

Custom Floating Shelf Measurement Basics

You can determine the size of shelf you’ll need to order by asking yourself a couple of simple questions. Go grab your tape measure, and let’s begin.

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with measuring terms. Our standard measurement is in inches, designated by a single open quotation mark, or “. You’ll need to know three dimensions to purchase one of our wood shelves: depth, length, and height.

  • Depth: (“D) How far out from the wall you want your shelving to come.
  • Length: (“L) How long across the wall you want your shelf to run.
  • Height: (“H) How thick (or tall) you want your shelf to be.

Now that you understand shelf dimensions, it’s time to choose your shelf size. Start by asking yourself three questions.

What Will I Store on My Wood Shelves?

If you already know what you’ll put on your new shelf, take a look at them together. Set them out on a table or countertop, and arrange them how you envision them on your shelf. This will give you an idea of how deep and long your shelf will need to be.

After you’ve measured the items altogether, consider adding at least an inch or two extra to both your depth and length. This gives your pieces a little more breathing room and prevents the shelves from looking too small or too cluttered. Keep in mind that you may eventually want to add to your collection of items on your wood shelf, so having gaps or some empty space creates visual movement and more options for change in the future.

  • Handmade Wood Kitchen Shelves: If you’re planning to store dishes on your shelves, measure your widest plate or dish. Add at least half an inch to a full inch of depth so your dishware doesn’t rub against the wall or get scratched.
  • Bathroom Shelves If you’re planning to store folded towels, measure how big it is when it’s folded how you normally would. Many full bath towels will need at least our 9.25” deep shelf size, if not the 11.25” deep shelf.

Where Will I Install the Custom Floating Shelves in My Space?

Now that you know what size shelf you need to fit your items, you have to double-check that it fits correctly in the space you plan to install the shelves.

For example, if you’re planning to install open shelving above your toilet, we recommend choosing some no deeper than 7.25”. At this size, the shelving won’t be in the way when your facilities are in use. 

Another example is if you’re planning a gallery photo wall and are using our wood shelves as ledges. If the shelves will hang above the couch, opting for a more narrow profile - like 4” instead of 6” - will ensure no one bumps into it when they get up and down from the sofa.

How Thick Should My Shelves Be?

Consider how much open space you have to work with for how thick you want your shelves. This is a personal preference, but you’ll want to ensure there’s plenty of vertical space between shelves for your decor or items you’re storing.

If you have a large, empty wall, choose our chunky farmhouse shelves to add character and texture. Thinner wood floating shelves are a better choice for displaying smaller, more delicate home decor.

Still Need Help? Visualize Wood Shelf Size with Painter’s Tape

Although accurate measurements are helpful, if you’re a visual person, it’s easier to “see” the shelves in the space before you drill holes in the wall. Fortunately, we have a simple way to do this, and all you’ll need is a roll of your favorite painter’s tape.

Measure out a piece of tape the length of the shelf you’re thinking about purchasing, and press it firmly against your wall in the location you’d plan to install it. Take a few steps back and see if it fits into your vision for your space. You can remove some length, or add a little more to compare which size you like more.

Leave it up for a couple of days, and live with it in your space. Does it feel too big? Too small? Just right?

You also can play around with your layout using tape. Wood shelves can be parallel, directly above one another. You can try them slightly off-centered, or staggered in depth or length. For example, you could hang a 5.25” deep shelf above a 7.25” deep shelf to create a visual balance with heavier items on the bottom, and lighter pieces on the top.

Consider two shorter custom floating shelves by placing your tape lines side by side above one longer shelf below. Remember that it’s just tape, so you can try out lots of layouts until you find one you love.

Now You’re Ready to Order Your Custom Floating Shelves!

At J Thomas Home, we’re proud of the quality of handcrafted, made-to-order shelves we build in our workshop right here in the USA. We’re also deeply committed to customer satisfaction.

If you have any questions about our wood shelves or the different types of wood for floating shelves, we’re always happy to help. Contact us online, and we’ll get back to you quickly if you want help picking what stain color works best for your floating shelves.

Interested in purchasing a collection of handcrafted shelves and need design advice? Schedule a design consultation with us to get started! We can’t wait to hear from you, and to see our floating wall shelves serving their purpose and looking gorgeous in your home.


  • Pam

    I am looking for a custom size of 39.75″ × 18″ or 20". Can you provide that? Thank you.

  • James Havlicek

    Is it possible to do 3 in thick shelves but I need them deep like 24 inches . Thanks

  • Wanda Frederick

    interior designer need 4 shelves for project

  • Emily, Owner

    Hi George! Yes, thanks so much for coming to message us directly here on J Thomas Home. Certainly! I’ve just emailed you a quote for review to see if you’d like Rustic Alder (more character like knots, knot holes, etc.) or Superior Alder (same exact wood, just cut around those character portions in the wood for a cleaner look). Either would take us about 5-10 business days to create the shelves and brackets for install. From there, it’s about 4-5 days in transit (sans Sundays) from here in Kansas City to your door. Please let me know if you have any questions at all! Thanks so much!

  • Emily, Owner

    Hello, Carol!
    Thanks so much for your note. Oh, wow!! That is a large shelf :) :) I’ve just emailed you a few more questions to confirm so that I may provide a quote, including if this shelf is to display a specialty collection, if you need any lighting included within the shelf, the thickness you are most interested in (1.625"H), and then your shipping zip code so I can double-check the postage pricing as well. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you!!

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