Shelves often display books, but there are far more options for shelf decor ideas. For some people, the shelves are an absolute necessity for storing large volumes of books. However, for the rest of us, there’s room to add some other elements. In fact, when styling shelves, the most attractive look is a mix of books, objects and greenery arranged in a pleasing way.
Also, homeowners are adding lighted elements to shelving, both to illuminate a dark area and to bring more attention to the shelves. In any case, here are some home decor ideas for using shelves to change the look of your own space.
Styling your shelves is more than just plunking down some random shelf décor. It takes some planning with an eye to what your storage needs are. Moreover, shelf decor should flow with whatever else is in the room. It’s also a fabulous way to display any favorite accent pieces. When you do it right, shelf décor can elevate a space great from fine to fabulous.
- In general, if you’re styling a set of shelves, the items should be no more than one-third books.
- And, the books should be arranged in a roughly 60/40 split of vertical vs. horizontal arrangement.
- After that, you should devote a third to accessories.
- The remaining space should be empty.
- If more storage is a styling goal, use the bottom shelf for matching baskets or bins.
Floating Shelf Decor
Floating shelves are an accent in and of themselves. They let you install shelving in odd spaces where you might not be able to fit traditional shelving. Shelf décor for this type of shelving dan certainly be functional, but often it’s largely decorative.
This is the place to highlight stylish accessories, travel mementos and potted plants in cute pots along with some books. Importantly, they come in a variety of sizes to fit any space, from a small bathroom to a spacious spot in the living room
Decorative Shelf Brackets
An easy way to jazz up shelving is to install decorative shelf brackets. All kinds of styles are available and can be used with many types of shelving. This way, the decorative shelf brackets become part of the shelf décor. Choose from modern and sleek brackets to those that have a farmhouse or traditional vibe. You can even upcycle vintage architectural elements as decorative shelf brackets.
Wall Shelf Decor Ideas
Think beyond the basic when it comes to wall shelf décor ideas. Sure, you can opt for standard shelves but wall shelving is also available in all kinds of styles. Think unique shapes and non-standard arrangements. This elevates the shelving to an artsy addition.
Of course, you can put anything on a wall shelf, but some wall shelf décor items work better than others. If you need to store functional items on a wall shelf, look for stylish little containers. These will hide whatever you need to stash and still look cool. Try boxes, baskets, little bins or lidded containers for the most flair.
Other wall shelf décor ideas include edited pieces of a collection, framed photos and artful sculptures. And, don’t forget plants! When arranging pieces on a shelf, remember that groupings can make a bigger style impact than widely spaced single decor pieces.
Shelf Decorating Ideas for the Living Room
The living room is the space most visitors will see so you really want to focus on a stylish arrangement. Take everything off the shelving and start fresh, beginning with the pieces you absolutely want to display. Next, add elements until the shelves look pleasing to the eye. If you aren’t happy with the way it looks, delete items and rearrange as many times as necessary.
- Remember to vary book displays between vertical rows and horizontal stacks for a designer look.
- Mix items of different heights on one shelf.
- Combine items of different sizes. Scale is important and if all the pieces are the same size, the shelf can look cluttered instead of stylish.
- Make arrangements with an odd number of items.
- If you’re using some coffee table books, use those as a platform for another accessory, such as a vase, candle or potted plant.
- Be sure to add something with texture.
- Use a piece with some shine.
Small Shelf Decor
Small spaces call for small shelves. These types of shelves require small shelf décor that is in scale with the shelf. For example, don’t try to put a large potted plant on a small shelf. Big items will overwhelm the shelf. Instead, opt for small accessories, small framed photos, sculptures or artsy vessels. You probably don’t even need to go out and buy anything – shop from what you already own. Most people have enough cute pieces at home to use as small shelf décor.
Modern Shelf Decor
Like the rest of the space, modern shelf décor is sleek and minimalist, maybe even edgy. Styling this type of space needs restraint. Modern shelf décor essentially uses the same pieces as any other style of shelf décor.
It just uses fewer pieces that make a more dramatic impact. In fact, modern shelf décor also relies on empty space to make an impact. This is like white space on a magazine page: A page full of text is less interesting than one with the right amount of well-placed blank spaces.
Office Shelf Decor
If any type of shelving is primarily functional, it’s office shelving. However, you want it to look great too, so you’ll want to have some office shelf décor. This is when baskets and bins are super helpful.
Without a doubt, you need to store some unsightly stuff like office supplies, cords or small equipment. Keeping these things out of view also makes the space look less cluttered. After the storage is set, choose some items like photos or plants to personalize your office shelf décor.
Bedroom Shelf Decor
Shelving is a little less common in the bedroom. Nonetheless, whether you need it for storage or not, you’ll want to add some bedroom shelf décor. If the shelving is for storage or if it serves as your nightstand, add the necessities first. Next, include some personal accents. Even though you’re the only one who see it, bedroom shelf décor should look pleasing.
Kitchen Shelf Decor
Primarily functional, kitchen shelf décor is a little different. Depending on the size and location, you might need to use the shelving for storage. If not, it’s a great idea to display serving pieces and attractive kitchen items as kitchen shelf décor. From a hand-painted dish to your grandmother’s glass bowl, put your favorites on display.
If you must store daily necessities on open kitchen shelves, put the items you use most often on the bottom shelf. Shelves that are harder to reach can store leers-used items. Reserve cabinet space for the things you’d rather not look at on a daily basis – or have others see!.
For kitchen shelf décor, keep in mind that whatever you display should be washable. Cooking grease and particles from the air can settle on Items that sit out in the kitchen. This isn’t the place for delicate items or valuable artwork.
Nursery Shelf Decor
When it comes to nursery shelf décor, this is the place to display sweet items that match the theme and colors of the room. Ideas range from framed photos, personalized accessories, stuffed animals, books or a very special toy. Be creative and make the nursery shelf décor interesting, not just for your baby but also for yourself!
Cute Shelf Decor
Sometimes you just want some cute shelf décor to freshen up a space. Fortunately, there are loads of ways to make a cute shelf décor display. Beyond just finding cute accessories, try making the shelf itself look cute. Paint the back of the shelving a bright and happy color or use peel and stick wallpaper on parts of it. Color coordinate the shelf décor to create a unique look.
Shelf Decor System Design Ideas
Leave Open Spaces
Used strategically, open spaces are more than just empty shelves: They provide a visual break from a large expanse of shelving like this one. If you’re fortunate enough to have spaces of various sizes in your shelving, it’s easy to leave some empty. If your shelves are long or you have few, leaving one end empty is a great shelf decor idea for balancing the look. Whatever shelves you’re styling, add in some open space to give the eye a little breather.
Related: The Zig Zag Shelf From Hem and Studio deForm
You can add cohesiveness to your shelving by repeating some accessories that are used elsewhere in the room, especially if you are including a collection of some type. Here, the same kinds of vessels that are on the coffee table are also on the shelves in different arrangements.
Try grouping some similar types together in one place and mixing them in others. This links the groupings but doesn’t feel overly coordinated. This shelf decor idea is an easy one because it’s not difficult to rearrange all the elements until you find one that looks good.
Mix in Greenery
This living space actually shows two different ways to decorate shelves with greenery. On the wall, small round wall units each hold a trailing plant, while on the large shelf, potted plants of different sizes add some life to the piece.
Even adding just one potted plant makes a big difference and if you have a green thumb, it’s a marvelous way of adding more plants to your living space — always a good thing as they make your mood and your environment more relaxed.
Skip the Symmetry
It’s pretty straightforward to hang shelves in an even and symmetrical way, but mixing up the arrangement adds a little edge to a room. Here, the off-center arrangement is taken up a notch with the colored shelves.
The mix of objects, books, plants and art makes the shelving unit a more unique design element than if it just held books alone. Note that the styling includes some empty space, which we already mentioned is great shelf decor strategy.
Use Shelving as a Room Divider
It’s almost an instinctive reaction when decorating to place a shelving unit against the wall, especially if it is open on both sides. Going against your instincts, in this case, can have a big payoff in style power when you use it as a room divider.
This is super useful in a large open plan space where you just want a mental or visual divider and not a hard, physical one. Doing this also lets you arrange the shelf decor from both sides, which can be a lot of fun. It also frees up precious wall space for other things like mirrors or artwork.
Arrange Books With Purpose
This bookcase is very minimalist and the way the books are arranged makes a huge difference in the way the unit looks as a whole. With this type of style, it doesn’t work as well to group the books by size.
The varying heights of the books contrast the long linear plane of the shelves as your eye runs across them horizontally. With this look, you can see how important some empty space is in the styling of the shelf decor. The accessories included also have a minimalist flair that suits the unit well.
Designers are increasingly incorporating lighting in shelving units to add some drama and to make them more of a focal point. This can be done with underlighting in freestanding bookcases and at the back of the shelf on the floating or wall-mounted varieties.
Here, the lighting is built in the back of each shelf so that it shines upward as well as downward. The books look great on these shelves, but anything you want to display would be quite fabulous on these shelves.
Try Off-Center Placement
For a fresher interior, break the habit of centering things. For instance, the first idea would probably be to center either the open shelving or the closed cabinet against the wall.
Doing that would mean there might not be room for both. Here, putting them side by side and having the open shelves shifted to the left gives the room a whole different look. In this case, the placement is the main shelf decor idea, so it doesn’t really matter what you choose to display on the shelves.
Use Shorter, Staggered Shelves
Just because you have a large expanse of wall space doesn’t necessarily mean you should install long shelves all the way across.
This shelf decor idea mixes individual cabinets with a series of shorter floating shelves, installed at different heights in a staggered arrangement. Doing this visually breaks up the large wall while offering both closed storage and open display shelves, suitable for objects, books and more.
Surround a Door
If the wall space you have to work with includes a door, you can still incorporate a full wall of shelves. Here, an open shelving system features an architectural frame and concrete shelves of varying lengths that are arranged in a mixed way.
This shelf decor idea makes the most limited wall, space, which can be a very useful tactic in a small room. By using both sides up to the ceiling, you get far more design impact than if you flanked the door with two modestly-sized shelving units.
Fill the Wall with Shelving
For those who prefer a more uniform look for shelving, filling the whole wall with a large custom-sized unit it a great, carefree option. This one has an interesting design that incorporates a little industrial flair in the frame and upper wall connections.
Having a full wall of shelves to work with opens up different options for styling the shelf decor because there’s plenty of room for whatever you want to display. This particular unit includes a row of closed cabinets with drop-front doors that creates even more possibilities, including creating a small bar area.
Use Spot Lighting
Another shelf decor idea that includes lighting is to incorporate spotlighting to emphasize a particular feature of the shelving, such as the block supports in this unit.
It’s also a novel way to brighten up an area of the room that is naturally darker and needs some design love.
Shelf lighting does double duty because it adds an extra atmosphere to a dark space.
The most important thing to remember when styling shelves in a room is to abandon any preconceived rules. Try different arrangements and configurations both for the shelving as well as for the decor you are arranging on them. You never know what you might come up with to bring a fresh look to the room!
How To Decorate a Ladder Shelf
Ladder shelves are still as popular as ever. If you’re looking for storage, they’re probably not your most functional option. However, they are great for showcasing accessories and décor in any size home. Knowing how to decorate a ladder shelf is key.
- Start with the largest pieces and put them in place.
- Fill in with smaller items, including plants.
- Don’t forget to include some sections of open space.
- Go for a varied look on the different shelves. For example, don’t use the same types of item(s) on all the shelves.
How To Decorate a Wall Shelf
In general, if you’re styling a set of shelves, the items should be no more than one-third books. More importantly, the books should be arranged in a roughly 60/40 split of vertical vs. horizontal placement. After that, you should devote a third to accessories and the remaining space should be empty.
When styling the shelves, remember to group items in off numbers.
- Start with bigger items because they anchor the look.
- Add some books and use some larger books horizontally as a platform for an accessory.
- Place artwork or sculptures.
- Add plants or vases of grasses and natural material.
- Insert some smaller pieces to complete the arrangement.
- Stand back and assess what you’ve done. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to rearrange at will.
How To Decorate a Single Shelf
Much the same rules apply to decorating a single shelf. That said, it’s important to leave plenty of open space. And, be sure to include a tall item in your arrangement. You probably know that the eye tends to travel from left to right. In fact, it tends to start at the tallest or most dominant piece first. Also:
- When grouping items, use different heights.
- Don’t be afraid to stack items.
- Limit your color palette.
How To Decorate the Bottom Shelf of a Coffee Table
Knowing how to decorate the bottom shelf of a coffee table is not complicated. In general, use the bigger pieces you want to display on the bottom shelf. A stack of coffee table books or larger vessels and vases belong on the lower shelf. A large art object or vessel can go on the bottom shelf as well. However, be sure to add some smaller pieces too for variety. And, don’t forget that this is a great place for stacking items.
How To Decorate a Hanging Shelf
Hanging shelves look really cool but knowing how to decorate a hanging shelf is key. Primarily, pay attention to the weight of things that you want to display. Hanging shelves are not the place for heavy items. You’ll want to choose shelf décor that’s impactful and lightweight. This is why you often see smaller potted plants on hanging shelves. In fact. A hanging shelf is a fabulous spot for plants and greenery.
The type of hanging shelf also matters. Those suspended by ropes from the ceiling can typically hold less weight. Hanging shelves that are suspended by straps and rest against the wall can hold more weight.