Floating shelves are a popular design trend that somehow manage to feel on-trend and timeless at the same time. Elevate your entryway with a single floating shelf, class up the kitchen by replacing a few cabinets with open shelving, or even balance out your bathroom with a few small floating shelves; there are so many ways to change up your space.
Getting shelves up on your wall is just the first step though. After you install your shelves, you’ve got to decorate them. If you don’t know how to decorate floating shelves, the task isn’t as overwhelming as it may seem. The great thing about floating shelf decor, and about decorating with floating shelves in general, is that the look can be completely customized and switched up from time to time.
Your custom floating shelves are a great way to add storage to your home, and a great space to let you add a custom touch to your home.
Decorating with Floating Shelves
Decorating with floating shelves is different than decorating your floating shelves. Before you can give your floating shelves the designers touch, you’ve got to hang them in your home. Floating shelves themselves are a great decor item and work well to liven up a wall, add stylish storage to a laundry room or the living room, or even add a whole new dimension to your bathroom wall.
Decorating with custom floating shelves falls flat when you don’t pick the right shelves. The wrong color or wood type can throw off the flow of an entire room. You may end up with clashing colors that add chaos to your room. Similarly, putting up the wrong size of shelves is a no-go. Custom shelves are made exactly for your space, so you know they’ll work perfectly. When you’re forced to choose from a handful of premade sizes you can hit a major decorating pain point. If you’re taking the time and putting in the money, invest in shelves made specifically for your space.
If you’re struggling to figure out what type of wood or what color of paint your shelves need, start with the basics of the room. Does your room have warm (orange, brown, tan) tones or does it have cool tones (blue, grey, green)? Matching your custom shelves to the tones in your room is a really great way to make sure that you’re putting the right shelves up on your walls.
Take a peek at the picture above. The warm tones in the walls and carpet work really well with the warm tone of the stained shelf. The room has a nice balance because of the cooler toned toys on the shelf and the leaves of the olive tree, but on the whole, the room has a soft, warm tone that the shelf fits right into. The room feels cohesive and professionally designed because of tone matching.
If your room is rocking both cool and warm tones, look for a wood stain or paint color that compliments the floor and the walls. You can always change the tone of a room with decor and a few small tweaks, but the walls and the floor are the hardest things to change. When you make sure that your shelves look good with your floors and walls you give yourself a fresh canvas to get creative with.
And when in doubt, go for a flush look by having shelves that match your walls completely. Often people will use this trick to mimic the look of expensive built-ins. If you can’t find a paint or stain that matches your walls, order an unfinished shelf and add your matching wall paint yourself.
If you’re wondering about shelf length, start by adding various lengths of painter’s tape to your walls to see what lengths you like. Especially if you’ll be using more than one shelf in the room, it’s important to see how the shelves look together at various lengths. Take into account how the space is used, the foot traffic around the shelves, and what you need the shelves for when picking a length. Once you’ve decided on the length, we also recommend taping out a rectangle that is the exact length and thickness of shelf that you want. You may be surprised how it fills up your wall.
If you are covering a small, half-wall, we recommend going from edge to edge, with less than an inch of room on either side of the shelf. This will give you a more high-end, expensive look. Like in the image above, the edge-to-edge look brings a cohesive feel into the space. Anything smaller and the room would feel unbalanced and a little awkward.
Floating Shelf Decor
Installing your shelves is pretty painless, thanks to our innovative bracket system. Styling your shelves on the other hand, can be a bit more brutal. If you are wondering how to decorate your floating shelves, there really isn’t a right or wrong way. We do have a few tips and tricks though that may make the floating shelf decorating process easier.
There are so many different ways that you can layer up your shelves to add personality to your home. As we design shelves, we like to put all of the potential elements on a table so we can see everything that could possibly go on the shelves in front of us. Building this pile helps us see what elements don’t work with the other elements and may help us spot design holes in our plan.
Shelves are first and foremost though, a functional storage space so when we get decorating, we like to start there.
Especially in a kitchen or dining room, we always consider what the shelves need to actually store, first. Do the shelves need to hold plates or cups? Is this a place to stash extra cutting boards, mixing bowls or cookbooks? Once we figure out what the shelf actually needs to store, we place those items up on the shelves in a tentative spot. We never say ‘I do’ to shelf decor before we have everything up on the wall and have sat with it for a few days. Even seasoned shelf stylers need a little time to soak up the design.
After the storage items are up, gather everything else that could potentially go on your custom floating shelves and see how the items work together. Discard anything that doesn’t flow. Play with color, texture, height, and weight to create a balanced shelf. Work with the items that you need the shelf to store, and when in doubt, work in clusters of threes.
The rule of thirds is all over the art and design world, and when it comes to styling shelves, clusters of three are an eye-catching way to add balance to your shelves. Another popular design rule tells you to design in triangles if you’re working with more than one shelf. This means that you put one item on the top shelf, and two on either side of it on the bottom shelf (of vice-versa). It can also mean that in a cluster, you situate all of the items into a triangle that leads your eye.
Now, we should remind you that rules are made to be broken, so as long as you love the decor on your shelves, it works!
If you’ve got items like books, try flipping them on their side and using them as a plant stand. Play around with different sizes of picture frames. Try layering them. If small items feel like they’re floating out in space, ground them with a tray or on a larger item. When in doubt, we recommend going a little green and adding plants or flowers.
We also recommend selecting a color palette for your open shelf decor and sticking to it. Using repeating colors instantly ups your shelfie game and makes your styling look cohesive. If you want your room to look like a stylist helped you pick all of your decor, stick to three or four colors. You don’t have to pick the exact same shade of the colors in every decor item, but unless you’re looking for a rainbow shelf look, keeping your color palette minimal is a plus.
A minimal color palette is more difficult to pull off than a one-color scheme. Because of this, when you master the minimal color palette, your shelves will instantly look like they’ve been professionally styled.
And speaking of stylist tips, cutting clutter is a must. Once you’ve filled your shelves with decor, you’ll be able to tell if you’ve got too much, or not enough, going on. When your shelves are overfilled they look busy, not beautifully curated. Sometimes you need a second set of honest eyes to tell you if you’ve overfilled the shelves. Especially in a common room like the living room, shelves are just as much a decor statement as they are an organizational tool. Making sure you hit the right balance means that your shelves remain a functional, organized, and beautiful statement in your home.
If you get stuck, look at lots of inspiration pictures and try to identify what it is about the floating shelf decor that you like. A few weeks ago we saw a shelf decorated with beautiful antique plates. The shelf looked expertly styled and we liked the overall look, but our favorite part was the plates. Did we go home and toss all of our shelf decor and cover it in antique plates? No, because that doesn’t match our style. What we did do though, was add a simple plate to our shelves to incorporate the element that we loved.
Where to Shop for Floating Shelf Decor
When it comes to floating shelves, decorating should be fun and it doesn’t have to break the bank. There are so many ways to give your shelves a unique and fun look — whether you tackle a DIY project, upcycle items you already own, or shop around for the perfect items.
We like shopping in our own house first. Sometimes we find the perfect picture frame on the dresser in our guest bedroom or a great old candlestick packed up in the garage. When you shop in your own house, it's like starting in a store where the shop owner has the exact same taste as you do...and everything is free. After we’ve collected from around the house, we make a list of other things we’d like to add to our shelves and get busy.
Thrift shopping is always next on our list. Local thrift stores are full of inexpensive treasures, but sometimes it is a hunt. Grab a thrifting buddy and some hand sanitizer and try a few different thrift stores. Know what you’re looking for before you go into the store so you don’t end up buying little items that you’ll never actually use. Along with small local thrift stores we love Goodwill, Value Village, The Restore, Deseret Industries, and Savers. In the same vein of thrift shopping, we have also been known to frequent yard, garage, and estate sales in the warmer summer months. You’d be surprised by how many great things we’ve scored for just a few dollars.
As a small business ourselves, another place we regularly look for great shelf decor items is Etsy. We love shops that offer digital download art prints that we can print locally and frame for our open shelves. We also love custom pieces created specifically for the spaces in our homes. Every shelf needs a wow-moment, statement piece and a lot of times, we find exactly what we are looking for on Etsy.
We’re also not strangers to shopping for shelf decor items (of DIY supplies), so here are a few of our favorite places to find decor.
Inexpensive Decor Shops:
Target, JoAnn (make sure you have a coupon), Marshall’s, Overstock, H&M Home, Ikea, TjMaxx, World Market, and Home Goods. Walmart also occasionally has a great decor find.
High End Decor Shops:
Pottery Barn, Juniper Books, Serena & Lily, Burke Decor, Anthropologie, Williams Sonoma, Heirloom Art Co, Aero Studios, Article, Chairish, West Elm, Joybird, and Lulu & Georgia.
A few of our Favorite Etsy Shops:
ArtisticHomePortrait, Portracy, SunnysShopLA, HomewareByBetty, Covogoods, PrintedMarketplace, and TheRustyRoof.
Shelf Art Shops:
Bff Print Shop, Juniper Print Shop, Society6, Minted, Paper Collective, and Artsy.
Shelfies we Love
Shelves are a versatile and essential component in any room, blending functionality with style. A well-chosen shelf can warm up a space, seamlessly integrating with the room's existing color palette and design elements. Whether it's matching a wooden mantle or complementing wall art, shelves play a crucial role in creating a harmonious environment.
One of the strengths of shelves lies in their ability to balance different design elements. For instance, combining cool and warm tones can enhance the overall ambiance of a room. Shelves can act as a bridge between these contrasting tones, especially when they echo the warmth of other room features, like a backsplash. Additionally, decorating with items in sets of three can bring symmetry and visual appeal, particularly when these items vary in height and width.
Shelves are not just about storage; they are a canvas for creativity. The interplay of sizes, shapes, and textures on a shelf can transform a space. To achieve a unified look, it's often helpful to stick to a cohesive color scheme, especially when incorporating a variety of elements. This approach prevents the arrangement from feeling disjointed and instead ensures a cohesive and elevated look.
When designing with multiple shelves, it's important to consider how each row interacts with the others. Shelves should complement, not clash with, other design elements in the room, such as wall features. Opting for decor items in darker tones or arranging them in clusters can help maintain a cohesive feel throughout the space.
One of the delights of open shelving is the flexibility it offers for seasonal decoration. Swapping in holiday-themed decor while keeping in line with the room's year-round aesthetic allows for a festive yet seamless transition. For those who enjoy regular updates to their space, open shelves offer an easy and effective way to refresh the room's look.
Experimenting with shelf decor can also be a fun DIY project. A dash of paint or a unique decorative piece can dramatically enhance the overall look of a room. For example, a bold color pop can add visual interest, while the shelves themselves ground the space with their natural tones.
Feeling inspired to revamp your space? Consider custom shelves. They are not just storage solutions but design statements that can transform any room into a more stylish and organized space. Whether you're channeling your inner designer or simply looking to update your room, shelves offer a world of possibilities for enhancing your home decor.