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Reclaimed Wood Shelves: A Trendy Addition To A Modern Bathroom

Reclaimed wood is a hugely popular material in home design right now. Often that means bold, rustic features like hand scraped hardwood floors and weather-worn barn beams. But for a slightly more subtle take on this trend, consider hanging simple, reclaimed wood shelves. These elegant, minimalist shelves have become especially popular in the bathroom, and offer a way to add storage in a small space while also making an eye-catching statement.

Reclaimed wood shelves are the perfect way to subtly work gorgeous, textured wood into your bathroom design - without needing to worry about water damage (by anat shmariahu, photo by Arnona Oren)
Reclaimed wood shelves are the perfect way to subtly work gorgeous, textured wood into your bathroom design – without needing to worry about water damage (by anat shmariahu, photo by Arnona Oren)

Normally when building shelves in a bathroom, you’d opt for something that would blend in, either shelves made out of the same material or in the same color as the surrounding walls, or a translucent material like glass. But reclaimed wood shelves are meant to be a design feature, drawing attention to themselves so they have a stylistic impact on the room, rather than just a functional purpose. So you want to use boards that are hefty enough to stand out; they don’t need to be so thick that you can see wood grain or wear and tear from a distance, but they should be bigger than your average bathroom shelf.

Thick, distinctive reclaimed wood shelves make a simple yet bold statement piece, especially set against an all white backdrop (by Wanda Ely Architect Inc.)
Thick, distinctive reclaimed wood shelves make a simple yet bold statement piece, especially set against an all white backdrop (by Wanda Ely Architect Inc.)

As a design element, reclaimed wood is equal parts history and nature, but in a bathroom it should skew more to the latter. Heavy weathering, aging, and antiquing can easily make a bathroom seem dingy, so unless you’re going for a very rustic look, you probably want to opt for cleaner, more finished wood than you might for a statement wall or even a bookshelf. That said, wood with a simple, natural finish is still something of a rarity in bathroom design, so these simple plank style shelves will add a nice little pop of nature to your design that can make the space feel more open and inviting.

Blonde finished wood shelves are a perfect pair for a nordic inspired spa style bathroom (by Marla Schrank Interiors)
Blonde finished wood shelves are a perfect pair for a nordic inspired spa style bathroom (by Marla Schrank Interiors)

Reclaimed wood shelves are a fantastic option for a spa style bathroom, especially if you’re able to coordinate the wood with other elements in the bathroom, particularly the vanity. A very light, honey-toned wood produces a warm, relaxing glow, and pairs beautifully with the sandy off-white stone iconic of a spa style. Hanging multiple long reclaimed wood shelves evokes the earthy warmth of the birch wood used in nordic saunas without making the space feel overly rustic.

Simple reclaimed wood shelves can add a nice natural element to a bathroom, particularly when paired with live plants (by Arch-Interiors Design Group, Inc.)
Simple reclaimed wood shelves can add a nice natural element to a bathroom, particularly when paired with live plants (by Arch-Interiors Design Group, Inc.)

Using just a few reclaimed wood shelves can also work well in an Asian-inspired bathroom, particularly to evoke the “zen” minimalism of a modern take on Japanese design. Long, slim shelves do this in two ways, first by introducing a natural wood element to the bathroom (this style typically has some combination of wood, stone, living greens, and water), and also creating simple, bold, streamlined lines that give the space a nice sense of balance. Lighter wood tones have a warmer, earthier feel, while shelves with a slightly darker finish create more intense, dramatic lines.

Long reclaimed wood shelves can help draw the eye from one part of the bathroom to the next, and can help balance out a bare wall (by Wanda Ely Architect Inc.)
Long reclaimed wood shelves can help draw the eye from one part of the bathroom to the next, and can help balance out a bare wall (by Wanda Ely Architect Inc.)

This is actually one of the ways that reclaimed wood shelves can really shine in the bathroom. While most free floating shelves are designed to blend in, reclaimed wood shelves can be used like brush strokes, creating simple, elegant lines that direct the eye throughout the bathroom. One long shelf that starts beneath a mirror and runs the length of the wall can create a lovely sense of flow, while multiple shelves arranged asymmetrically can alter the balance of the space and give the bathroom a more modern sense of geometry. Especially in a simple, modern bathroom, reclaimed wood shelves add a pop of color and a visual guide to see the space in a slightly different light.

Reclaimed wood shelves can look elegant even when placed in cramped spaces, and can add a feature that's both functional and attractive to a small bathroom (by Clockwork Architects and Designers)
Reclaimed wood shelves can look elegant even when placed in cramped spaces, and can add a feature that’s both functional and attractive to a small bathroom (by Clockwork Architects and Designers)

That said, reclaimed wood shelves are also perfect for making small gaps or awkward spaces more functional. Stacked horizontal shelves are a very practical storage option, and while with another material they might feel mundane, using hefty, attractive wood planks can make even the most ordinary storage spot into a unique and attractive display. A series of reclaimed wood shelves are a much more attractive alternative to the traditional over-john storage cabinet, and many designers are opting to recess a space into the wall beside the toilet, alongside the tub, or in other solid-yet-unused areas that can easily be bumped in to create additional storage.

With the right type of wood, even the most ordinary, out of the way spaces can become a visual focal point or design feature for the bathroom, and with a little planning, just a few reclaimed wood shelves can lend a lovely natural element to your space. What do you think of these reclaimed wood shelves? Do you prefer the look of long, elegant shelves, or  shorter ones stacked in a more contained space? Let me know in the comments!