15 Genius Shelf Styling Ideas for the Living Room

When you look at your living room shelves, what usually comes to your mind? Are you happy about it or wish that you could do a little bit more with it? Does it liven up or complement the living room or does it look like an eye sore? 

Sometimes, people overlook shelves and cabinets in the living room. They may think of it as something that just helps store things in place or just another added furniture in the living room. But, living room shelves actually can upgrade the look of your living area if you know how to style it properly. If you’re having some trouble and need a bit of help, listed below are some tips that can be useful.

Start with a Clean Slate

If you want to change the style of your living room shelves, the first thing you need to do is to edit out all the unnecessary and start with a clean slate. Get rid of things that are of no use anymore, store away things that you still love but are outdated, or donate some stuff that other people may want. 

A frequent styling mistake is putting too many decorations and making shelves look too cluttered. Having too many things just makes the space look busy. Plus, more decorations means more things to clean. 

Choose a Color Palette 

Similar to most things, you need to choose a color palette to make the decoration more cohesive. For instance, a white bookshelf and white and neutral decor pieces will create an airy look. You can mix in some metallic color or textures to create a more classy and elegant style. 

You can choose something neutral, bright, or moody. It’s all your choice. But to successfully pull this off, choose a base color first and then decide the accent colors to match. Also, don’t be afraid to go out of the box once in a while. It’s okay to experiment until you achieve the concept that you have in mind. 

Group Your Books 

If you love reading or are a big book collector, you have to know the proper way of stacking them in the shelf to make them look neat and organized. You can group your books in small stacks and place them vertically, horizontally, or a mix of both. This will give your shelf a more put together look. 

Another way to organize your books is to arrange them by colors. However, you can only do this if you have a big collection. You should have enough books to create a sizable stack. Otherwise, it will just look awkward.  

Start With Bigger Items 

To be able to balance the items on the shelf better, you need to start putting up the bigger items first. With this method, you can get a clear view where to add the smaller decorative items. Scale and dimensions of decorative items are important to consider to avoid an unbalanced looking shelf. 

Avoid Piling Too Much Picture Frames

Some people like to see framed photos of their families around the house and if they don’t have a photo wall for that, they usually cram a book shelf with it. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with displaying family photos, you might want to consider scaling down a bit. 

If you want to put framed photos on your shelf, pick a few that you really like or ones that hold the most meaning. You can mix and match the sizes of the frame but stick with a color pattern so you don’t end up with a wash of different colors everywhere. 

Add Funky Wallpaper

If you like DIY projects then you’ll have fun with this idea. If you have an industrial bookshelf where you can see the living room wall from behind, adding an interesting wallpaper design will give it some uniqueness. 

For instance, if you have a book collection, you might want to look at some whimsical wallpaper design to make it more playful. You can choose something more subtle, something oriental for that exotic look, or something quirky. Either way, doing so will create a perfect backdrop for your bookshelf. 

Floating Shelves

If you live in a tiny studio and you don’t have enough space for a full size bookshelf, you can try floating shelves to put up on your wall. You can also create a little nook to showcase some of your collections or your favorite things. Add a plant that drapes down at the very top shelf to create a vertical illusion. 

Paint Your Shelves 

Shelves usually come in colors like white, black, and wood so it can be a bit bland for those who want something more lively. If you have an existing shelf or even if you have hanging shelves fixed on the wall, you can paint them with a color that you like. Painted shelves would be a fun accent to your living room and can serve as a pop of color if your space is more on the neutral palette. 

Mix in Some Greenery 

Adding plants brings color and life to your shelf. Not only that, it also improves the air quality which then promotes other health benefits. But before buying several pots of plants, make sure that you’re getting ones that can adjust well indoors. Some plants grow well when they’re under direct sunlight and some wither when they’re placed inside homes. 

To upscale your greenery, you can choose pots that are either made from ceramic or brass. Doing so will give your plants a more refined look. However, if you think you don’t have a green thumb, you can always opt for artificial plants. Look for something that looks realistic to create a similar visual impact. 

Leave it Empty But Bold 

If you want to make something interesting off your living room shelf, you can try this modern method. This is better for built-in shelves since you need a backdrop for this. You can choose a bold paint color that compliments the living room to give the living room area a different mood. It serves like an art piece on its own and the great thing about it’s easy to clean. If you’re into minimalist living then this would be a fun and unique idea to restyle your old shelves. 

Put In Artwork 

You can also try adding some artwork to the shelves and you don’t have to get something expensive. You can find decorative framed artwork pieces online or in department stores. The good thing about them is you can swap posters if you want a different look for your shelf. 

If you’re gonna add framed artwork, place them at the back of the shelf and consider putting some smaller items on the front. This also prevents the frame from sliding off. 

Make it Practical 

If you have a large shelving unit, you don’t need to fill all of the spaces and gaps with decorative items. The lower shelves can be used for storing items. However, you don’t want to just throw in items there, you still need to keep it organized. 

You can pick out several wicker baskets that are not only functional but are also stylish. 

Place smaller and any unsightly items in these baskets where they can be retrieved when they are needed. 

Create a Gallery Wall Gallery

If you like the idea of a gallery wall but you don’t want the hassle of drilling and measuring spacing between picture frames, you can mimic this kind of interior design with the help of floating shelves. 

Choose a mixture of frame sizes and a variety of photos and art pieces that you want to put on display. Layer them by placing bigger frames behind smaller ones and just slightly overlapping. Narrow floating ledges are more ideal for this kind of style. 

Provide Variations 

Guests are usually won over when they see a shelf with a variety of colors and textures. Yes, there is a chance that it might appear too crowded but it’s fun to bend the rules sometimes. When there is contrast in things, it makes the space more interesting and that goes for shelves as well. 

Place a rattan basket beside a glass bowl or put a concrete candle beside a wooden figurine. It’s just a matter of mixing hard and soft, old and new items.

Tell a Story 

A living room shelf is more than another furniture, instead it’s also a visual storyteller. When people come over, they will likely stand in front of your shelf and look at all the pieces you have on display. 

Create a nice story for them. Perhaps frame a photo of the recent trip that you took or a page in a poetry book that caught your attention. Display pictures of pets you’ve had in your life or a keepsake that has been passed to you by your family. A shelf with a story to tell is usually a great conversation starter. 

Things to Consider When Decorating Your Living Room Shelf

A nicely decorated and stylish bookshelf can beautify any living room. Although redecorating may sound uncomplicated, it’s definitely easier said than done. There are also a couple of variables that you need to consider before starting with your project. Here are some tips, to help you further with your mission. 

Be Aware of Your Space

Whether you are working with a large area or a small one, you have to know your space. There will be positives and negatives when it comes to working with a big and small space. The important thing is that you know what to do with them. 

For instance, a room with giant shelves will require a lot of decorations, books, ornaments and art work. If you don’t have many of them, you have to think about an alternative. If you have a smaller shelf, you need to know how to maximize it. 

Don’t Be Too Strict on Symmetry

There is no need to obsess over every detail. Something may appear off at first and your shelves may look heavier on one side than the other. If this happens, just take a step back and look. Then you can adjust a little bit here and there. 

Don’t Use Paperback Books

If you’re displaying books, use ones with hardbound covers. Paperback covered books will look lousy and might not even stand on their own. If you don’t have enough hardbound books, there’s a plethora of them in books stores at sale sections or at weekend flea markets. It’s always good to have a couple of them handy as decorative items. 

Don’t Overspend

It might be tempting to hoard vases, ornaments, and other decorations especially when they’re on clearance sale, but hold your horses. You don’t need to spend a lot of money if you’re planning to update the style of your living room shelf. You can repurpose things that are already in the house or make some do-it-yourself projects. 

The thing with shopping for home decors is that most of the time, you don’t really end up using everything that you purchased. It will just be a waste of money in the end and another pile of unnecessary things kept in your storage area. 

Don’t Display Items You Don’t Want to Accidentally Break 

If you like throwing parties at home, keep valuable items that could easily break tucked in a safe place. Also, if you have curious little kids that love running around and playing with whatever they get their hands on, you certainly want to keep that crystal vase away or that antique plate display given to you by your mother. 

As much as possible, only display items that are not prone to breakage to save yourself some money and to prevent any future accidents. But if you really want to display some things that hold a great deal of value to you, you may want to place them in an enclosed shelf, just to make sure.