Farmhouse Style Dining Room Shelves

Most dining rooms are pretty plain and lack storage space. Gone are the days of a gorgeous milled built-in buffet table or cabinetry. Since we’re in the era of builder-grade boxes we have to be a little creative. Introducing the farmhouse style dining room shelves!

Dining Room open shelving to the ceilings to create maximum efficiency in the space. These rustic farmhouse shelves are solid wood 2x6x12s. I built them all by hand and installed them myself.

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Struggling with the Open Design: Inspired by Formal Dining Rooms

The first thing I used my dining area as was a home office. I lived with this vintage 1960s industrial style desk. Which honestly was a larger piece than I needed on even my best crafty days.

You see, originally the dining room in my house was a completely open concept. It was a wide-open space, painted bright big bird yellow. And believe it or not, I didn’t give it a fresh coat of paint for literal years.

Before shot of my dining room when it was still bright yellow walls and faux rock firebacker behind the pot belly stove. The room is messy with a wet/dry vac in the center and various other project pieces scattered about.

But when I finally did paint it, White Dove, by Benjamin Moore those white walls did something for my soul!

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Builder-Grade Dining Room Problems to Solve: Before the Dining Room Shelves

Builder-grade is the most simplistic and plain you can get. The cheapest way to build a house is to do it quickly with little to no custom dining room storage. Many times they’re also relatively small spaces, with barely enough room for a dining table.

Much less all of that vintage furniture we are dreaming of!

This space had several problems that needed a lot of time and consideration to solve.

  • There was no definition of the space. It was just a yellow box next to another room next to my kitchen.
  • Zero storage space built-in. Low windows on one of the main walls eliminated the ability for furniture on that wall at all.
  • One of the walls was a really tall wall that demanded efficient use of the space.
  • Brightening up the room by changing the wall color to a lovely creamy white. Which also allowed the shelves to stand out even more with their beautiful wood tone.
  • Styling shelves to reflect my style while being budget conscientious.

Step to Solve Problem #1: Define the Space by Closing it in

The process of closing in the dining room. We built out the walls to frame the french doors. This is my dad installing the french doors into the dining room.
Progress shot while we were building the two side walls out to frame the French doors in the center of the doorway.

I know that open concept homes are all the rage right now, but I prefer the vintage style of having rooms and spaces more defined by purpose. Also, closing this room allowed for lower heating bills since there is no heating or air duct in it.

In my vision for this room, I had this great idea to create a charming vintage-style dining space, closed off from the living room. The first big step to achieving that was to actually close the room off from the rest of the house with glass doors.

I was able to have my dad help me build two small walls to frame in a pair of french doors I bought off FB Marketplace for $150.

Step to Solve Problem #2: Dining Room Storage Ideas, Especially Small Dining Rooms

The dining room shelves are solid wood handmade installed all the way up the ten foot dining room walls. The shelves are filled with vintage dishes and decor thrifted over years.
These Farmhouse style dining room shelves are 100% solid wood hand-built by me. The shelf brackets were built using 1x3s from the hardware store. If you want to read all about that process, check out my post How to Build the Best Wooden Shelf Brackets. Then make sure to read about the entire process of how I use common framing lumber and make it pretty to keep costs low, How to Make Cheap Wood Pretty.

Move Away from Traditional Storage Solutions, Like Furniture

For a time I had dreams of using a china cabinet on the tallest wall. But when I had one there it still felt dwarfed by the massive wall, which is about 10 feet tall. But that presented several issues on its own.

  • It was a terrible use of the space and wasted a ton of the small walking path or chair room.
  • Discovering minimalism and trying to eliminate large furniture pieces that we would only have to move when we sell this house.
  • It is a small dining room which means narrow spaces and I couldn’t actually make a china cabinet function well. It was difficult to get into it.
  • Wanting function and efficiency were my top 2 priorities and the furniture in this room would end up only being display cases. Because I couldn’t easily use them.
Paint A Dining Room In A day to see a complete transformation. This dining room was painted top half cyberspace by sherwin williams, which is a dark blue/grey color. The bottom half, below the chair rail trim, is painted white dove by behr. Gorgeous antique mirror and white curtains flow to the ground.
Low walls eliminate furniture on any wall with a window, which is unfortunate. I have to think outside of the box to incorporate storage solutions in my home.

Low Windows Eliminated Furniture on Any Other Wall

Even if I wanted to add furniture on any opposite walls it is impossible in my home due to the low windows, my back door and potbelly stove, and the french door entrance on the other.

It’s actually the reason I have opted out of furniture in many situations. Despite the fact that furniture is one of my favorite things to store and display pieces.

They simply don’t work on most walls in my home.

The upper most part of my dining room shelves filled with beautiful creamy pfaltzgraff heritage dishes and copper pots.
The wood plays off the white walls and they absolutely sing to me.

Utilize the Wall Space Efficiently with Wall Shelves

But what was I supposed to do for extra storage? I didn’t want to just cover the walls with wall decor or wall art.

This is ironic because that’s what’s on my shelves.

But when considering a prospective buyer I have solved a problem and given them the option of using these shelves for whatever they want. And if I want to sell all my dishes and fill these shelves with books I could create a beautiful little library.

A great way to solve the efficiency question was with a storage unit of some sort. Ikea had some great options I even had one option picked out on my wish list. It would have been a good functional piece in the Ivar family.

I was really wanting something simple and solid wood. The issue was the shelving unit was well over $200 and I knew I could build something better, bigger, and more beautiful for way less.

At the time I did this project in 2016 lumber costs were much lower, but even today it would cost under $200. I used 2x6x12 common pine lumber, untreated.

Vintage dishes styled on the farmhouse open shelving in my dining room. Vintage pfaltzgraff, copper pots, and candlesticks.
The cut marks really come out now that I refinished them with an extra coat of Polycrylic by Minwax. I stained them with Early American Stain by Varathane. It gave them just the right warmth and rustic charm.

Step to Solve Problem #3: Dining Room Color Scheme, White Walls Utilize Natural Light Best

The perfect way to utilize the really tall dining room walls, free up floor space, and create a defined dining area was to build open shelves all the way to the ceiling.

But before I did that I had to take care of the yellow walls.

I’m not against yellow walls, but in my consideration of the space, it made the entire room feel closed in and smaller than it actually was.

I have two large windows and a back door with windows in it also, so there is plenty of natural light. But the wall color sucked it in.

Bonus, white walls really allowed the wood tones of the Early American Stain I chose for the shelves.

Dining room shelves with vintage decor and plants, functional decor at it's finest with vintage dishes for fancy family meals and unique planters.
Functional Decor fills my shelves, vintage dishes for fancy large family meals as well as unique planter pots each filled with a small plant. Check out that post here DIY Repurposed Vintage Dishes into Planters.

Step to Solve Problem #4: Learning to Style a Wall Shelf for a Cohesive Design and Function

Just recently I went back through and Kon Mari’d the entire shelving unit I built to really focus on the few main elements I wanted to focus on.

For my taste, I prefer functional decor, so I didn’t want to keep a lot of items that I couldn’t at least find a purpose for.

I’m collecting Pfaltzgraff Heritage Dishes (I think the collection is pretty well-rounded at this point!) for those big family events I dreamed of having in this beautiful dining room all those years.

It’s hard being in a constant state of construction, never having a finished space to feel comfortable inviting anyone into.

The shelves do have decorative pieces, but I try to keep them minimal. This was easier when I took a bunch of pieces I already had and turned them into the functional decor as unique planters!

Now that the wall shelves are complete there is plenty of room around both sides of my dining room table. I didn’t need a dining room cabinet after all!

Well, friends, I hope I have helped you with your dining room space problem solving by offering a few ways I have solved my own! Small space or not, you can achieve those farmhouse style dining room shelves of your dreams.

Thanks for stopping by!


Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→


    1. Thank you! I actually DID something similar in my kitchen in place of our upper cabinets. I really love open shelving, I haven’t perfected them in there yet. They’re so much better than cabinets though!

  1. Beautiful! I’m currently doing these shelves in my kitchen/dining room. Your display on the shelves have inspired me! Where did you find the plate holders and what are they called? I need these!!

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