The Spot Above Your Window Could Be the Best Place to Put a Shelf

Stop what you’re doing and find a window in your home. Notice the space above it? That right there is an opportunity. Similar to that curtain hack you’ve probably heard before (where you mount your hardware almost to the roofline to fake height), placing shelves above your window frame can draw the eyes upward to create the illusion of taller ceilings. More, if you’re shorts on storage, taking advantage of this vacant wall space is a great way to show off books, prints, vases, and other knickknacks.

When I moved into my current apartment, I was blown away by the height of my ceilings at almost 10 feet. What my floor plan lacked in square footage was offset by this soaring height. My windows didn’t disappoint either: I had a set of two vertical sliders that brought in plenty of sunshine from my south-facing street. Months after I unpacked, I still had a pair of floating wooden shelves that I hadn’t found a home for yet. Before I moved, I used them in my old bedroom to prop up my projector. Now that I had finally pulled the trigger on a TV (the pandemic made me cave), I wasn’t sure where these pieces should go. I had always wanted to display my favorite classics and smaller coffee table books in the living room — the covers themselves like artwork — so when the bookcase in my bedroom began to overflow, I decided to incorporate a little library-chic moment above my living room windows!

Working with a small gap between the top of the window and the ceiling, I measured about two inches above the casing (the wooden trim that frames the window) to avoid this installation from looking too cramped. The purpose of the shelves was to create the illusion of abundant space, so they needed to have some breathing room.

While I can still access them with a stepladder (or my taboo technique of stepping on the back of the couch), I only chose books I didn’t plan on reaching for anytime soon. Then I added some knickknacks for extra personality, like my old trusted Polaroid that had been gathering dust in the back of my closet. It felt fitting to place the camera next to my illustrated edition of Patti Smith’s memoir “Just Kids, “a coming-of-age story featuring Patti and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Now my favorite books serve a purpose, even if I’m not currently reading them.

I stepped back after I centered the wooden shelves over the windows. These pieces added an extra framing element to this spot, creating the impression that the street outside was also a pretty picture that complements my home.

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