Having a shelf in your living room is a great way to add extra style to one of the busiest rooms in your house. You can use it to hold books, of course, but you can also show off some of your favorite family photos, interesting objects, and even seasonal decorations. The trick to making the design look deliberate is to include some of the same colors from the rest of your living room décor, then to arrange the objects in a way that shows them off!
EditDeciding What to Display
Group small stacks of books together. If you’re decorating a whole bookshelf, of course, you can include as many books as you can fit. However, if you’re only decorating a single shelf, you might want to be more selective about the books you choose. You could pick books that you love to read over and over, or if you prefer, you could opt to display books with bindings that match your décor.
For an elegant display, include a collection of leather-bound volumes.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your arrangement! You can display some books with the front facing outward, especially if they have interesting cover art. You can also stack some books horizontally and some vertically.
Take dust covers off of hardcover books to make them look less busy.
Buy old books from a thrift store that you don’t want to read to use just as decoration.
Make the shelf feel more personal with framed art or pictures. A framed picture is a great way to add your personality and design style to a shelf. You can either lean the art against the wall and anchor it by placing small, heavy objects in front of it, or you can hang it just above the shelf for more security.
Photos of your family and loved ones will add a lot of warmth to your living room.
You could also opt for art that reflects your design style, like pop art if you love bright, bold colors, or a simple line drawing if you prefer a more understated look.
You could even create a gallery wall by hanging a variety of pictures above the shelf. Then, decorate the shelf with small objects that mimic the colors or shapes in the pictures.
Lean a large frame against the wall and later smaller ones in front to create a relaxed style.
Use sculptures, vases, and found objects to mix up the shapes on the shelf. A shelf that only contains square and rectangular objects isn’t as visually appealing as one that has a variety of shapes. Instead, it’s best to mix up the size and shape of the items you display together. Use your shelf to show off cool objects like vases, globes, bookends, or sculptures.
Try to use your imagination when you’re thinking of items that you can put on the shelf. Some of the coolest designs feature unexpected touches, like a glass bowl full of acorns in a rustic living room, or a brightly-colored vase that adds a pop of color to an otherwise subtle color palette.
Look around your house for objects you don’t use anymore and use them as decorations.
Include colors that reflect the design of the rest of the living room. To make the shelf feel cohesive with the rest of your living space, look around and pick out a couple of colors that you can repeat on the shelf. This might be a color from your curtains, carpet, or rug, or it might be a color in a piece of artwork that you’d like to bring out more.
For a modern look, opt for monochrome colors, like all-white. However, don’t be afraid to add in a graphic pop of color!
For a more traditional look, opt for warm, dark woods, and rich colors like burgundy and gold.
If your style is more rustic, look for lighter woods and natural colors like forest green.
Fill up your shelf with color or use one bright object to make your room pop.
Use boxes and trays to hide clutter. You may need to use your shelf to store items like loose papers, phone chargers, or other small, objects that are functional but unattractive. If that’s the case, keep the items close at hand but out of sight by hiding them in pretty boxes or magazine holders. This will help keep your clutter contained, but you’ll still be able to easily reach your objects when you need them.
You can also group small objects like paperclips or coins together in small bowls or on trays.
Look for boxes that are decorative and nice to make your display look more purposeful.
Add green plants to bring a touch of nature into your living room. Houseplants are a great way to add natural beauty to your home, and a living room shelf is a perfect place to display them. Choose a plant that’s well-suited to the amount of natural sunlight in the room, and consider the size of the plant and how it will fit with the scale of the shelf.
For instance, if you have a narrow shelf, you could display a cactus in a small container.
If you don’t want to take care of a plant, use faux greenery instead.
Display seasonal decorations if you enjoy celebrating various holidays. A living room shelf is one of the best places to display your holiday decorations. Whether you love keeping freshly-cut flowers in the spring, you need a place to display your menorah at Hanukkah, or you can’t celebrate Christmas without your dancing Santa, use your shelf to show off your holiday spirit!
By changing the decorations throughout the year, your shelf will always look fresh!
EditArranging Your Items
Make use of the depth by arranging some objects further back on the shelf. If you pull everything to the end of a shelf, the final result will be very flat. If you have a deep enough shelf, try placing some items closer to the wall, and others toward the front of the shelf. That way, your eye will immediately be able to see the depth, and the shelf will look more visually interesting.
For instance, you can lean artwork, large books, or even painted, empty picture frames at the back of the shelf. Then, you can place smaller statues, framed pictures, or other decorative items near the edge of the shelf.
Make sure you’re not putting items too close to the front of the shelf since it will look unbalanced and could be a falling hazard.
Balance the scale of the objects you’re using. The size of your shelf should dictate the height and width of the decorations you include. For instance, a large mantle might be the perfect place for a huge framed portrait, but that same picture would look out of place above a short floating shelf.
Similarly, the pieces should balance with each other. If you’re using a few larger pieces, a very tiny, delicate figurine would be lost in the design, for example.
Leave some empty space so the shelf doesn’t look cluttered. Unless you’re going for a very modern look, your shelf shouldn’t be sparse, but there should be some empty space between some of the objects. As you’re arranging your decor, step back every so often and take a look at how everything is grouped together. If anything looks too crowded, try moving the items further apart, or remove something from the shelf.
There’s no definite rule for how much empty space there should be. Just trust your own taste on this. If you’re still not sure, ask a friend or a family member for their opinion.
Start with an assortment of objects and remove them as you go while you’re styling. Try different arrangements until you get the look you want.
Group objects in odd numbers. For some reason, odd-numbered groups of objects are typically more pleasing to the eye than even-numbered collections. While groups of 3 are probably the most common, you can gather 5 or 7 smaller objects together on your shelf as well.
These don’t have to be groups of the same object. For instance, you could lean a large art book against the wall, then place a heavy marble paperweight and a bowl full of pretty river rocks in front of the book to make a nice tableau.
Arrange items so they’re slightly asymmetrical for a natural look. Perfect symmetry tends to look a little formal, so you should avoid it if you want your living room to feel more relaxed and comfortable. Place objects so they’re a little off-center, and vary the size and shape of the objects you choose for opposite ends of the shelf.
For instance, you could place a lamp on one side of the shelf and a sculpture on the other, with a houseplant slightly to the left of the middle of the shelf and a stack of books just to the right.
If you feel stuck, ask someone for their opinion. They may notice something different that you wouldn’t have seen by yourself.
EditSources and Citations
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