How to Decorate Shelves

As discussed on the Pete and Brenda radio show to be aired at various times during the week of May 17th – 21st, 2010
Yes it’s spring… My favorite season!   Spring is a great time to open up your windows and let the fresh air in, and of course do a little spring cleaning, merging and purging of stuff!   Consequently it’s also a great time to refresh the look of the shelving on display in your home.  I’ve met with many clients who have shelving decorating issues, and most people either put this off, or don’t realize how bad their shelves look until they see a photo of the room.  This blog contains some room photo examples and tips for freshening up the look of your shelves and giving them a great look! 

Paperback and college books:        

Paperback and college books really don’t have any pizzazz appeal and I don’t recommend displaying them on shelving in major rooms.  In fact if you don’t plan on reading them again why not donate them and move em on out?   Or if your spouse/kids insist on keeping them, try moving them to another less noticeable place such as the basement or in a labeled box put on a top shelf or better yet the attic!       

Click on the photos for a larger view.   

This could be so much better!


Shelving lacking pizzazz


What not to do!

 Books to keep on the shelves:       

Some of my favorites books to display are old books without the paper covers… It is such a great look and if you have an entire wall of books, they can make it look like a library room.  This is great for traditional/transitional design style…       

House Beautiful

For a look that can mix well with a contemporary or modern design, consider color coordinating your books or covering them in colored paper that coordinates with your color scheme…       

HGTV Dream Home Offices Study 2007



Color coordination to the extreme! Courtesy of Chotda.


Decorative items on shelves:       

Books:  It doesn’t have to be all books, and the books don’t all have to be vertical.  You can mix up vertical books with books laying horizontally, or lay them all horizontal as well…      

HGTV RMS Grubb study


Pottery Barn

Mix up the content on your shelves.  Ideas for items to display on shelving:    

  • Vases
  • Picture frames
  • Candles and candle holders
  • Artwork
  • Clocks
  • Small lamps… lighting adds great ambiance!
  • Collectables
  • Baskets

Sarah Richardsons house


Before photo

After photo, interior design by Ragan Corliss


Better Homes and Gardens


Framed photographs:

This is a great area to display your favorite photographs or small artwork pieces.  Consider the frames… Your frames should coordinate in one way or the other.  For example, all metal or wood frames, all in the color scheme of the room, or all black.  It’s typically nice to intermix them with the books and decorative items, or you can group them together on one prominent shelf…       


Domino white living room


Large Ikea Office mlive


Pottery Barn


Pottery Barn


House Beautiful


Kids stuff:       

If you have items for small children that you need to store in the shelving, consider tall baskets that hide the contents in the shelves.  There are great ways to label them as well to help sort what goes where, i.e. all children’s books in one, Legos in another, etc.      


Pottery Barn


Artistic Designs for Living



HGTV Dream Home Offices Study 2004

3 Responses to “How to Decorate Shelves”
  1. Anonymous says:

    we both have those traditional picture frames and digital picture frames at home. both are great for displaying family pictures ;~`

  2. Adding figurines, especially meaningful ones, here and there can also help you decorate your interior. For example, putting figurines of children playing may go well in a child’s room!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] words, add shelving and built-ins up the wall to hold your office materials.  (See my post on decorating shelves.)  As you can see above, a wide shelf has been added to the back wall, and not only did I add […]

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