Beyond Babyproofing: Shelf Safety & Stylish Options for Busy Family Homes


Shelves of every variety are a decorating and organizing staple that fulfill numerous roles throughout the home. Aside from how they look and how they’re used, most people don’t really give them a second thought… until a small child is introduced to the scene! Suddenly shelves are redefined as either a safety hazard — or a parent’s last resort for hands-off display.

Here are several ways parents can address shelf safety issues posed by certain types of shelving, plus a few tips for adding stylish storage and display space to any room without adding safety hazards.

Safety First! Avoid Tipping, Climbing and Falls

Any tall or heavy wall unit should be secured the wall with easy-to-install furniture anchors. Anchors or furniture straps secure the full unit and are effective in preventing dangerous tipping accidents — but safety concerns still remain. Often, the individual shelves are not secured and can be flipped or pulled out by a curious toddler, and shelves beginning at floor level just beg to be climbed! You can solve these problems — and add a decorative twist — in a number of ways…

Reconfigure Built-In and Full Wall Shelf Units

If the shelves are permanent in the unit, be sure to move fragile or hands-off items to higher levels, or out of the unit entirely if your child is prone to climb. Storing a selection of toys or kid-friendly decor on the lower two or three shelves may divert attention from the upper shelves and reduce the urge to climb. If shelves are removable, remove the lower two or three shelves, leaving an opening about three feet high at the bottom of the shelf unit. Create stylish storage with a mix of decorative storage boxes or baskets — these can even be used as stylish toy boxes — or add durable decor items.

Keep Decor and Fragile Items in Place with a Museum-Tested Solution

Keep fragile items displayed in upper shelves in place by securing them with Museum Gel or Quake-Hold Putty. This can help prevent tipping, falls and breakage if the unit is shaken, pushed or pulled.

Add Smart Space with Wall-Mounted Shelves

If you don’t have enough space to display fragile decor out of your child’s reach, consider adding wall-mounted shelves or ledge-style shelves. Multi-shelf units that mount directly to the wall are ideal for out of reach storage. Ready-made units are available in a variety of sizes and styles, or you can fashion a shelf unit using inexpensive bracket shelving materials found at any hardware store.

Style Tip: A secret to making less expensive adjustable bracket-style shelving more attractive is painting the bracket strips the same color as the wall on which they’re mounted. Then cover the shelves (unfinished wood or melamine) tightly in fabric, or attach a pre-made decorative edge using finishing nails and/or glue, then paint. Easy and decorative!

Ledge-Style Shelves Display Accents Out-of-Reach

Ledge shelves easily install directly to the wall, out of reach to eliminate climbing concerns. Ledge shelves are available in many sizes and styles to complement any decor, and add interest just about anywhere. Try one over a window; stagger, stack or align three on a spacious wall; create a tiered mantle by stacking two or three above your fireplace; or embellish the walls of a wide hallway with a collection of different styles and sizes.

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