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What Is a Countertop Shelf?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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A countertop shelf is a kitchen or bathroom storage unit that may be freestanding and placed on a counter or attached to the ceiling or a wall. Countertop shelves can range from a small two-tiered holder to a large multi-shelved system suspended above a counter. Metal is a popular material for this kind of shelving on or above counters, but wood or other materials are also sometimes used.

For instance, a common type of tiered, stair-like spice rack designed to sit on the counter near the stove is often made from wood. Oftentimes, it is painted white or left natural to let the grain show through. Spice bottles can be lined up on each "step" of the countertop shelf. Since the shelves are in the form of little steps or stairs, the shelf unit saves space on the countertop.

Other space-saving shelves designed to place on countertops have tiers or layers to them so they have vertical rather than a lot of horizontal storage. Wrought-iron, tiered countertop shelf units are popular for their elegant, decorative look. They are often highly detailed with decorative scrolls, dainty feet and oftentimes a wire handle. The shape of each shelf may be round, square or oval. A shelf's capacity will vary, but typically these wrought iron, freestanding shelves for bathroom or kitchen countertops are small for holding soaps, little plants or miscellaneous items.

Hanging countertop shelves are often metal with a slatted or barred design to make the unit lighter as well as attractive in style. Typically, this suspended type of countertop shelf is attached to the ceiling with its support poles resting directly on the counter. Many of these metal shelf units are large and make up for a lack of cabinets over a bathroom or kitchen countertop.

For kitchen versions, hooks and accessories may be sold to add additional function to the shelvings, such as a paper towel holder or cup to hold flatware. Some kitchen countertop metal shelving systems have a hanging pot rack feature at the top. Bathroom variations of suspended metal countertop shelving tend to be used mainly for folded or rolled towels, but they may also hold plants or jars of soaps or other supplies.

Countertop shelves that are partly secured to the wall often have a higher weight capacity that other types. These heavy-duty countertop shelf designs may be used to hold decorative boxes of toiletries in a bathroom or stacks of dishware in a kitchen. Some freestanding countertop shelving units are made to look like miniature bookshelves to fit underneath cabinets to maximize the otherwise wasted storage space there. These storage shelves for kitchens or bathrooms may have fancy mirrored or frosted glass doors for a particularly stylish look.

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