Chrome’s download shelf is serviceable, but not amazing. If you’d like a more streamlined interface — especially one that doesn’t eat up a chunk of screen space — then you should check out a recent extension called Downloadr.
Downloadr completely replaces the regular download bar the docks to the bottom of the browser with a toolbar icon. When clicked, rather than taking you to the in-built downloads page, a compact list appears with colour codes to identify ongoing, failed and completed files.
While it’s nice to have a page dedicated to searching through your downloads, for day-to-day browsing, Downloadr is an excellent compromise between form and functionality.
There is a caveat: As gHack’s Martin Brinkmann points out, the extension doesn’t handle download warnings as well as it should, but hopefully this will be improved in later versions.