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7 shelf décor ideas

Have you ever taken a ‘shelfie’? Yes, you read that correctly. This is a word that has trended on social media in recent times, as proud homeowners and interior stylists reveal how they have styled a set of shelves in a particular room – arranging books, candles, vases, plants and so on in a way that becomes truly decorative, and part of an overall theme or an eye-catching feature in its own right. The type of shelves and where you position them will be part of it, but which items should you display, and how can you make them truly shelfie-worthy? Read on for our 7 top shelf décor ideas, and create a look that works for you.
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white shelving unit

1. Choosing shelves for your bedroom

If you need to choose a set of shelves for your bedroom, living room, dining room or hallway, you’ll find a wide range of sizes and designs to choose from. There are modern and traditional styles, bookcases, shelving units, and more. So which will form the basis of your shelf décor ideas?

You could go for a display unit that combines storage and shelving, with some items hidden behind a cupboard door and others on display. A modular unit, or cube shelves, with lots of cubby holes, gives you more options to play with, or you could choose a funky modern design from the likes of Elmari.

Open shelving can look modern, as do wall-mounted floating shelves, which can be arranged in any configuration you like. Look for white or black shelves, or wooden shelves to match the other furniture in the room.


Bedroom shelf decorating ideas – ladder shelving

2. Styling shelves in a small room

In a small room, there can be an issue when it comes to shelf décor ideas – clever storage solutions are the main concern to stop the room feeling too cluttered, so does it still make sense to style the shelves?

First of all, there are shelving solutions perfect for a small room. Look for tall, thin bookshelves or display units, rather than anything too wide, to make more use of the space up to the ceiling. A ladder bookcase can be a nice idea here. Also make use of every available space to give yourself more storage options – corner shelves work well, as do multiple floating shelves for wall mounting, stacked vertically, in any configuration.


3. Assess the space you’re working with

Styling a set of shelves is an art form – no wonder people take to social media, sharing photos of their handiwork, when they feel they have it right. If you want your shelf décor ideas to look just as good, start by looking at the spaces you’re working with.

How much room do you have above the shelves? Ideally you want whatever you place there to occupy the gap. Then how much distance should you allow between the items, and which pattern and colour scheme should you follow?

Start by collecting the pieces you’re planning to display together – books, book ends, candles, trays, vases, plants, flowers, a clock, pieces or art, framed photos, ceramics, statues, bowls, and so on. Think of a colour scheme, then place the items on the shelves in an order that’s pleasing to the eye.

Stand back and assess regularly, using smaller items at the end to fill any negative space. Be wary of over styling and using too many objects, as this can make the display seem cluttered.


Cavendish Open Display Unit
shelf ideas – open display unit

4. Get creative with books

Who says that books need to be stacked vertically, and arranged by author or subject? If you want to style your bookcase, or simply need some shelf décor ideas for the wall, the humble book can go a long way to helping you.

Arranging your books in an unconventional way can in itself make a stylistic impact. Rather than vertically, stack your books horizontally, piled on top of each other – and include magazines if you like. Even have some with nice covers stood face-forward as a makeshift art piece.

A bookcase can become part of a room’s colour palette if you group books with matching colours on the spines together. You could even build up a colour spectrum, moving through a variety of shades. Go for a white bookcase here, so the books speak for themselves.

Lie your books flat, creating a small stack, and arrange some smaller items or keepsakes on the top. Break up rows of books with vases, framed artworks and other items.


5. Create a shelf display with depth

Items can be placed next to each other on a set of shelves, or you can build them up from the back to the front to create depth. Use this technique with your shelf décor ideas and you’ll create interest as your eye moves along the display.

Start at the back with a picture frame, plate or another shallow item, then place smaller objects in front. Look to a small vase, tray or other ornament. The human eye naturally tries to group similar items, so put complementary shapes together.

Layering artworks and photos along a shelf can work well, leaning them against the back of the display unit or the wall. Overlap the frames to avoid the look being too formal, and move the images around as you please, playing with varying the heights.


Bedroom shelf decorating ideas – open shelving
Bedroom shelf decorating ideas

6. Add life with plants, colour and lighting

As well as books and picture frames, other items can breathe new life into your shelf décor ideas. Plants are a great way to enrich any room in your home, adding both scent and colour. Look for plants with an interesting visual appeal, such as fresh-cut flowers or an edgy succulent.

Colourful objects on shelves can be used as accent pieces for the overall aesthetic of the room. If you have a lot of colour already, however, include neutral items to create balance – anything white, black, beige or metallic.

Adding lighting to your shelf display is another way to create drama and draw the eye. Position a table lamp or reading lamp here, or try running LED lights under one shelf to illuminate anything below.


7. Make your shelf display personal

While some items might make it into your shelf display for purely aesthetic reasons, objects with personal meaning can add warmth and interest. All shelf décor ideas should allow for a personal touch – souvenirs from your travels, treasured photos, and so on.

The items you show could add an unexpected or amusing touch. These create not only talking points for visitors, but by filling your shelves with reminders of what you love, it makes for a happier space – shelf décor ideas for the wall can suddenly switch from mediocre to meaningful.

Bring items together that create a personal theme. To show off a particular hobby or an achievement, you can tie together photos, trophies, framed certificates and ornaments. Or create a reminder of a recent trip, displaying images and souvenirs alongside each other.


Whether you plan to include shelves in your bedroom, living room, dining room or hallways, we hope you feel inspired by our shelf décor ideas.

Bedroom shelf decorating ideas – table lamp

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