Skip to main content

Make It Work: 9 Ways to Style a Chrome Shelving Unit

Shelley sent me this email,
"Hi Jessica, I am absolutely crazy over your blog... you are so inspirational! I have a shelf dilemma I need help with! I have a a metal shelving unit that looks a little bit like this (photo above), but taller: I am moving into a new apartment with some of my girlfriends and we are all tight on cash, so we want to use what we already have! My only problem is that this shelving unit is just so... industrial! I have more of a cozy, traditional style and looooooove color! I just don't know how to make this unit more homey and cute! Thanks from a fan!"

Funny you should mention that shelving unit, Shelley!  I actually used to have the same one.  It's a shiny chrome shelf from Target that is as easy to assemble as it is easy on the budget.  Too bad it's just not so easy on the eyes!

Shelley faces something that myself and many of you face.  On a college budget, we face the challenge of decorating our dorms and apartments with what we have.  Hand-me-downs and inexpensive purchases all mix together in a shared space.  But don't just look at what an object is.  (In this case, industrial.)  Look at what it can be!  This shiny shelving unit in any size is a storage lifesaver.  So let's make it work!
Make it work... as a nightstand!
At first glance, this utilitarian unit appears made for the kitchen, laundry room, or closet.  But just because it's industrial doesn't mean you can't work it into a colorful, cozy decor scheme.  (In fact, I believe that every room needs a little touch of industrial!)  First of all, top it off with a large tray so that accessories won't tip or fall through the top shelf.  To tone down the industrial, incorporate a mix of different textures, colors, and patterns.  Baskets are ideal because the woven texture counteracts the metal, plus they keep clutter tucked away.  Add a feminine feel with flowers.  Accessorize with vintage books, interesting objects (like an antique camera, sea shell, or retro telephone), pretty alarm clocks.  
Make it work... as a beverage bar!
I love the idea of turning this shelving unit into a beverage bar.  In the first example, it becomes the centerpiece of any party.  Keep a tray on top to hold bottles, mixers, and glasses.  Use boxes and bins on the shelves underneath to store straws and swizzle sticks.  Keep a stack of fun magazines on hand.  A bright hue like red makes the party spot pop, as does bold artwork and accessories like an ampersand.  In the second example, I created a classy wine bar for your more sophisticated evenings.  A vintage tray on top holds a wine bucket and glasses.  Keep a bin underneath for tools like a corkscrew and wine glass markers. A simple wine rack on the bottom shelf keeps bottles close at hand but out of the way.  French artwork and a vintage typewriter complete the elegant setup.  And lastly, the shelving unit brightens up your morning rather than livening up your night!  Turn it into a breakfast bar complete with your coffee maker, mugs, and canisters.  
Make it work... as storage!
Why mess with perfection when this shelving unit was just made for getting organized?  Use it in the bathroom by really playing up the shiny chrome with more metallic accessories.  A mirror hung over top comes in handy when you're sharing the sink with roommates.  Keep perfumes on a shiny silver tray with a candle nearby.  Hide essentials like cotton balls, q-tips, and tampons away in canisters.  Keep plush white towels close at hand and neatly folded.  And in a basket on the lower rack, stow away the toilet paper or cleaning supplies.  If you're short on desk space, turn the rack into your workspace station.  Harbor folders, files, and textbooks on the lower shelves.  Set your laptop on top.  Clip a task lamp on the side.  And hang a bulletin board overhead for important notes and reminders.  Lastly, create a coming-and-going station for you and the roomies.  This is best placed near the front door.  A file sorter up top makes sorting mail easy.  A bowl makes for a great place to toss keys.  Store larger letter trays underneath for magazines and such.  Put a large basket on the lower shelf for essentials like umbrellas so that it's easy to find when you need it.  And don't forget a message board hung overhead to leave reminders about utility bills, party invites, and messages to each other.  

Make it work... by getting crafty!
Some DIY ideas I have in mind for this shelving unit:

1. Get piece of MDF (medium density fiberboard---Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) cut down to size for each shelf.  Paint it a bright color.  Cover it with wallpaper or fabric using ModPodge.  

2. Spray paint the whole thing a bright color!  

3. Hang fabric down the front to hide what's actually on the shelves!

Thanks for the inspiration, Shelley!  I hope this helps all of you gals out there with making less-than-lovely pieces work by seeing the hidden potential!

Psssst! If you want the shelf, get it here at  



Anonymous said…
Bar sinks can either be wall-mounted, floor-mounted or built at a height that would reach an average person’s waist level. This kind of setup can decrease discomfort and back strain especially for those who use the sink with great regularity.
great fixes!! I've actually been looking like something like that for a bar cart for my new apt! :)
Anonymous said…
As usual great tips!
This is an incredible post and usually I don't read too much when it comes to collages but the way you set this up really encourages someone to read further. Fab post with tons of great ideas. I honestly can't pick which one I like the most.
Savannah said…
I love the nightstands, they're so pretty especially the red one.
Metal Shelving said…
As shown in images, saved lots of consumed space in just one area.


DIY Cat Barrier for Under $100 (See-Through, Climb-Proof, and Too-Tall-To-Jump)

ICYMI: I gave up Cotton after deciding that after trying so many things, my two adopted cats Dahlia and Cotton were just never going to get along. Long story short: I missed her. And Cotton's back. And Dahlia's not going anywhere. My heart is big enough to keep trying. And my apartment is big enough that if I need to keep them separated long term (or permanently), it can be done.
I'm going to write-up a separate post about some of the solutions I've tried, how they worked, who they worked on, and what I'll be trying next. But in this post, I wanted to share the main 'piece de resistance' of having both cats in my apartment: an un-climbable, un-jumpable, see-through barrier to separate Cotton and Dahlia.

Aria's Room | Pretty Little Liars Decor

Welcome back for LU's 2nd room in the PLL series!  Today you're getting a glimpse into my favorite room on the show... Aria's room.  Aria Montgomery is the artistic, imaginative, bookworm of the bunch.  So it's no surprise that her room has an artsy, historic, romantic eclecticism atmosphere.  Plus, it's full of books.  My two words for Aria's attic space: Vintage Eclectic.  (Those happen to be my two favorite decorating words... so brace yourself for my soon-to-come swooning.)

Pencil It In | Working the Pencil Skirt into Your Work Attire, Including 25 Examples with Do's and Don'ts

Starting this week, every Wednesday on The Lovely Side will be devoted to wardrobe, hair, and beauty content.  With summer internships right around the corner and interviews for real world jobs looming as well, I thought now would be a good time to delve into the world of office fashion.  
Sarah, a reader, recently emailed me asking about how to style a pencil skirt for her "somewhat casual, somewhat professional workplace full of fashionable co-workers."  She's been lusting after pencil skirts at several stores, but been hesitant to purchase one for fear of looking bad in it and not knowing what to wear with it.