Good storage is the backbone of any well-functioning room. It allows us to free up important floor space while keeping our belongings both tucked away and easily accessible.

Modular shelving can offer shrewd solutions that work around our often limited square footage. If you’re looking to furnish an attic room with a sloped ceiling, for example, it can also work wonders between the eaves.

Whether you’re investing in a floor-to-ceiling library, a storage unit for your vinyl collection, or a wall-mounted cabinet to display your favourite knick-knacks, the beauty of modular shelving is that it’s bespoke, and you can often measure it out in individual units, making it reassuringly budget-friendly.

Economics aside, modular shelving can offer a sculptural focus to a room, bringing form and function together beautifully.

Some of the wall-mounted units we tested were akin to contemporary art, where storage was a secondary concern.

Most, however, came in cubic form, allowing us to build our storage system from the floor up with a host of configurations to choose from. We were prepared to roll our sleeves up and get stuck in with some tricky self-assembly, but instead found all the shelving systems we tested to be gladly user-friendly. All that was needed was a little imagination.

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Skandium string furniture string pocket, blush: £122, Skandium

It may look contemporary but the this shelving system has been reliably holding up our stuff for a whopping 70 years. To celebrate its platinum jubilee, the brand has launched its string pocket in limited edition blush. It’s an elegant, lightweight and versatile way to store practically anything, with its veneered particleboard and powder-coated steel frame suited to bathroom and kitchen walls as much as living room spaces. Invest in multiples and get creative with shaping.

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Vox stige modular furniture: From £95, Cuckooland

With its combination of modular shelving, cabinets and drawers, Polish brand Vox’s offering handily sorts our belongings into those we want on display, and those we definitely don’t. In cool, complementary shades of pine, pistachio and blue, the melamine-finished pieces are both smooth and chic. We loved the way we could mix and match the units, making even more storage room in the spaces we created. Clean lined and contemporary.

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Store Tetris stacking shelves, oak: From £59, Store

For Eighties kids who’ve grown up and become homemakers, this clever shelving system is inspired by our favourite tile matching video game. Sold as single units, or in a set of three, the L-shaped pieces are stackable to allow for multiple variations in shaping. Whether you place them vertically or horizontally, each unit is split into two handy compartments of differing heights – ideal for mixing your hardbacks and paperbacks. Perfect also as a light-loving room divider with its see-through voids.

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Cubit modular shelving: From £23.36, Cubit

This clever box system allows us to create our own sculptural masterwork with a user-friendly online configuration tool that’s as addicting as any puzzle game. We spent hours designing our perfect bookcase with a seemingly endless choice of colour and shape combinations. The versatile MDF modules can be stacked or wall-mounted, with floor-standing options, too. Ideal if you’re working with an unconventional wall space, as in a sloped ceiling loft.

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Muuto stacked 2.0 shelving: From £104, Nordic Nest

The beauty of Muuto’s stacked storage system, aside from its obvious minimalist appeal, and its high quality finish, is its versatility. Designed by Belgian architect Julien De Smedt, the sleek modular range allows for endless possibilities, whether we want to create a bookcase, a sideboard, a side table or a wall-mounted floating shelving unit. Exposed sturdy clips, sold separately, hold the pieces together, while backed and backless MDF boxes and are intermixed to create an interplay of shadows and light.

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Mogg musa shelf: From £200, Go Modern

Where wall art meets storage, the musa shelf, from fearlessly creative Italian brand Mogg, offers an art deco take that’s unapologetically bigger on form than function. You won’t fit many of your well-thumbed novels on here, but neither would you want to interrupt its beautiful arrangement of parallel lines and semi-circles in delicate, matt-lacquered gold. Sold individually, or in a set of six, each unit is identical but it can be rotated and grouped with others to create a unique graphic pattern on the wall.

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Ikea eket wall-mounted cabinet combination: £270, Ikea

No modular shelving roundup would be complete without a nod to Ikea. Its ubiquitous kallax unit is an undisputed design classic. But we’re focusing instead on the more artsy eket, a wall-mounted asymmetrical storage piece that combines boxy fibreboard units in various shades and depths to create a sculptural centrepiece for our living room wall. Fill it with an array of eye-catching books and personal objects for immediate homeliness.

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Tylko type 01 wall storage: From £140, Tylko

The brilliantly shape-shifting Tylko has revolutionised modular shelving with its wholly versatile and accessible product. Much of its success is thanks to its user-friendly site that allows us to visualise and design our own shelving solutions from a single unit up to a large-scale floor-to-ceiling installation, all the while keeping us informed on the price as we add to our creation – because we all need to budget. Assembly is a doddle too with easy to follow instructions that bring our designs to life in no time.

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Anne Linde showcase #4 bookcase: £407, Lime Lace

Danish designer Anne Linde’s Showcase shelving unit is utterly elegant in its continuous folded form. Crafted from a single piece of powder-coated aluminium, it seemingly floats without any visible fittings holding it to the wall. Like a sculptural piece of modern art, it obscures and displays objects depending on the viewer’s perspective, and we loved this human interaction. It’s a practical piece, too, holding a load of up to 4.8kg – a triumph in form and function.

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The verdict: Modular shelving

Boxy shelving isn’t for everyone and the Skandium string pocket unit is a lovely lightweight alternative that came top for versatility. Despite its mid-century origins it awarded our space an edgy, contemporary look that was further elevated when we filled the unit with our favourite things. Modular shelving can be pricey – particularly so if we get carried away adding extra units, so for affordability, Ikea’s eket wall-mounted cabinet was a clear winner. It’s a one size fits all piece, but it’s relatively easy on our pockets.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.