Decorating Shelves and Bookcases in Your Living Room (Easy Steps!)


How to Decorate Living Room Shelves


Styling & Decorating Shelves and Bookcases in Your Living Room (Easy Steps!)

Shelves and bookcases can be an attractive addition to any living room. But, depending on your taste and the style of your home, decorating them can be daunting.  I know I have spent FAR too long trying to figure out the best way to decorate shelves. 

Over the years, I’ve learned some tried and true tips for styling shelves like and pro.  Fortunately, there are some easy DIY steps that anyone can take to make their shelves and bookcases look great.

In this article, we’ll talk through step-by-step shelf decorating. Then, we’ll look at some commonly asked questions people have when using decorative objects in a bookcase or on shelves.

Ready? Let’s go ahead and jump in.

Step 1: Empty Your Shelves and Bookcases

When it comes to styling and decorating shelves and bookcases in your living room, the first step is to empty them out.

Starting with a blank slate can help you figure out how to decorate them better. It will also give you a chance to assess the existing shelving space. You’ll be able to decide how much decor you want to add. You’ll also be able to assess what shelf decor you want.

Once you’ve emptied the shelves and bookcases, take some time to brainstorm ideas for your decor.

Consider what colors and styles would look best in your living room. You could even consider rearranging the shelves if necessary. Before adding any items, measure each shelf. This way, you can know what pieces will fit where and how much space you have for different decorations.

Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to start shelf styling! Add books, plants, photographs, figurines – whatever pieces make sense for your home décor style. Arrange them in a way that looks aesthetically pleasing.

With some creativity and effort, your shelves will soon look beautiful!

Step 2: Identify a Color Scheme (and Stick to It!)

Once you’ve determined the items and materials that you want to use to decorate your shelves, it’s time for step 2. Identify a color scheme and stick to it!

Doing that will help create a cohesive look in your living room. Before decorating your shelves, consider the colors of the other elements in the room.

Choose a color scheme that matches or complements them. You can create an even more unified look by using one or two colors throughout.

For example, you could paint the shelves and bookcases in the same hue. Incorporating different shades of the same color is also effective for creating a harmonious design. You can stick with the chosen color scheme to ensure your shelving looks great. This applies to selecting books, decorative items, and any other items you plan to display on your shelves.

How to Decorate Living Room Shelves


Step 3: Pick One Decor Theme to Use Consistently

Step 3 in styling and decorating your living room shelves and bookcases is to pick one decor theme to use consistently.

When selecting a style, you can opt for a modern contemporary look or a more traditional one.

Consider the other furniture pieces in the space to narrow down your options. For a modern look, consider using geometric shapes, industrial materials, and neutral colors. For a traditional look, opt for softer colors like pastels, classic lines and patterns, and vintage-style pieces.

Whatever theme you choose, be sure to be consistent with your choices. Using one theme helps create a cohesive design that will bring your living room together in style!

Step 4: Visually Divide Your Shelves into Different Areas or Sections

Step 3 is to divide your shelves into different areas or sections visually. Do this by creating blank spaces between the items. Then mentally blocking each area into its own section.

Once you know how you would like the shelves to look, figure out how to decorate them. Add books, plants, vases, sculptures, figurines, and more to each section. You may also want to use different types of shelve décor to give each area its own unique style. It’s easier to tackle one area at a time!

Step 5: Balance Your Decor Visually When Styling Your Shelves

When styling your shelves, the fourth step is to make sure your shelves offer a visual balance to your living room decor.

You can use books and other knick-knack groupings in opposite areas. This will help create a symmetrical look, which most people find pretty. Make sure you mix and match large items with small ones! Also, place heavier objects on the bottom of the shelve. Big baskets work well here.

Hang pictures or artwork on the walls when you style shelves to pull your eye up. Doing so helps create vertical symmetry.

Try placing plants between books or objects to add greenery to the shelves. Also, if you have several short objects lying horizontally (like books or boxes), consider how you can add height with tall plants or vases.

If you are using containers for storage, find ones with an interesting shape or texture that will emphasize the style of your shelves.

How to Decorate Living Room Shelves


Step 6:  Arrange Decor in Odd-Numbered Clusters

Step four for style and decorating shelves and bookcases in your living room is to arrange decor in odd numbers.

This can give the room a sense of balance while still adding visual interest. How? You can start by selecting three main items: artwork, a candle, or another decorative piece that you want to feature prominently on the shelf or bookcase.

Then, surround these three pieces with items like books, plants, figurines, or anything else that you find visually appealing.

Don’t be afraid to experiment; playing around with different shapes and sizes can help create an interesting display.

Finally, when you’ve finished arranging your items in odd numbers, step back and appreciate the beauty you have created!

Step 7:  Layer Your Home Decor You Put On Your Shelves

Step five for style and decorating shelves and bookcases in your living room is to layer your home decor. Start by adding a few larger items, like vases or books. Then add in smaller pieces, such as candles or trinkets.

Arrange the objects to create visual interest and balance on the shelves. For example, rest vases on books. Place candles on boxes. You can use foreground and background space to decorate a bookshelf or built-in shelves. Feel free to let object overlap.

Finally, use your imagination when styling the shelves – this will help make them look more interesting and attractive.

How to Decorate Living Room Shelves


Step 8: Don’t Let Your Bookshelf Decor Ideas Compete with Other Decor

The fifth step for styling and decorating shelves and bookcases? Avoid having your bookshelf decor compete with the rest of the room.

Remember, shelves are meant to be a feature that enhances the overall look of the room, not one that takes away from it.

Only incorporate items that complement the existing furniture and color palette. This could include artwork, accessories, or books that bring out the best in your design. Bottom line: you still want to maintain a cohesive look.

Would you like some help with this? Here’s a tip – stick to neutral tones. Most people think neutrals have sophistication and elegance.

Why Would You Want to Decorate Shelves in Your Living Room Anyway?

Decorating your shelves has several benefits:

  • First, it’s easy to personalize your living room decor and add personality to your home
  • Second, it allows you to incorporate style with decor, like photos and artwork.
  • And third? It gives you a pause to reorganize items to maximize space.  

Many people need help with ideas for what to put on shelves! And I get it takes work!

You can follow these simple steps below to create a cohesive look in your living room. I’ll include all the best tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years, so your bookshelf styling is smooth and easy. Keep on reading for ideas for decorating living room shelves!

Frequently Asked Questions When You’re Decorating Shelves

Okay, now that we’ve talked through step-by-step tips for decorating empty shelves, let’s work through some FAQ.

Styling shelves and bookcases is no small task! It’s common for people struggling with how to decorate shelves to have questions.

What are some bookshelf storage ideas?

Bookshelf storage ideas can be as simple or elaborate as you want, depending on your space and the look you’re going for.

Start with a basic bookshelf and add baskets or boxes to organize items. Floating shelves are great for displaying books while creating more storage below them.

If you have wall space, consider adding wall-mounted shelves to store items such as movies and magazines.

To maximize vertical space, look into ladder-style bookcases that allow you to store books up high.

You can also use this shelving unit to show off collectibles and other items.

For something unique and eye-catching, consider installing a corner shelf unit that provides extra storage while taking advantage of unused space in the room.

Please make sure that the storage solution complements the room’s decor.

How to Decorate Living Room Shelves


How do you decorate open shelves in a living room?

Decorating open shelves in a living room can be a great way to add character to the space.

When choosing items to display, consider using pieces that reflect your personal style and interests. Look into family photos, picture frames, books, decorative boxes, vintage finds, or framed artwork.

Grouping items together in clusters of three will create visual appeal and interest.

If you want to break up longer shelves, you can use plants or baskets for a more organic look.

Keep things organized by arranging items according to size and color for a cohesive aesthetic.

Incorporate texture by adding texture-rich objects like woven baskets or pottery vases.

Don’t forget about the lighting! Consider ideas from task lighting under shelves to string lights wrapped around them. Adding light will give the area an inviting glow.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment with different arrangements until you find one that works best for the space!

How do I make my shelves look expensive?

Making your shelves look expensive doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

You can start by painting the shelves in a neutral color, such as white or black. Then, use decorative accents. Look into interesting knobs and hardware to give it an extra luxurious feel.

Finally, add some decorative items such as books, vases, and art pieces. When you’re decorating your shelves, you can also consider adding some lights on top of the shelves for a more dramatic effect.

With these simple steps, you can easily transform your shelves into something that looks luxurious and sophisticated without breaking your budget.

How to Decorate Living Room Shelves


Do you have any suggestions on styling wide undivided shelves?

Styling wide undivided shelves can be challenging, but there are ways to make them look great.

One of the most important things is to consider how you want the shelves to function.

If you want it to be purely decorative, display items in different shapes and sizes on the shelves. This will create an interesting visual effect and draw the eye.

If you’re looking for more practical uses, try adding baskets or other organizational pieces. These items can hold books, trinkets, plants, or whatever else you need to store.

A great way to give your shelves a cohesive look is by painting all the items in a single color or using a monochromatic color palette.

You can add texture with wallpaper or fabric accents for a unique touch.

How do you decorate a shelf without it looking cluttered?

When decorating a shelf, it is important to consider the final design. That way, you’re working with a vision in mind rather than bit by bit.

Start by choosing a few items that will be the main focus of the display and then add smaller pieces around them. Consider using strategic lighting to draw attention to particular pieces or add greenery for a fresh touch.

When it comes to color, use similar shades and tones throughout the shelf’s decorations. Lastly, ensure enough breathing room between each item, so the shelf doesn’t look cluttered.

Too many items can create a chaotic feel and make everything seem out of place Be mindful of what you are adding and leave some negative space on the shelf.

How to Decorate Living Room Shelves


How to decorate corner shelves in the living room?

Decorating corner shelves in the living room is an excellent way to add a touch of style and charm to the space.

Begin by selecting interesting pieces, such as items with an interesting shape or texture, plants, sculptures, and books.

Attractively arrange these pieces so they draw the eye. You can also use the shelves to show off collections you have accumulated.

Consider adding lighting to highlight your decor pieces and create a dramatic effect.

Lastly, consider adding small storage baskets to store away items that may take up room on other shelves and furniture.

How would you suggest decorating the mantle in the middle?

Okay, so mantles are slightly different from shelves, but the question is related. When decorating the mantle in the middle, it is important to consider its size and shape. Depending on the size of the mantle, you may want to create a symmetrical or asymmetrical arrangement.

If you have a large mantle, use it as an opportunity to display larger items such as artwork or candles.

For smaller mantles, opt for smaller items like small vases or potted plants.

You can add texture and interest with fabrics such as tapestries, throw pillows, and blankets.

Finally, you can tie the look together with accent pieces like decorative sculptures or wall hangings.

How do you style built-in bookshelves or alcove shelves?

When styling built-in bookshelves or alcove shelves, the key is to find the perfect balance between form and function.

Start by selecting a color scheme for your shelves – this will set the tone for your decorating decisions. T

hen, begin arranging books on the shelf. Group similar items together, such as books by genre or author.

Add decorative objects like boxes and baskets to help break up the visual space.

When adding mementos and photos, arrange them in an organized way that’s pleasing to the eye.

Lastly, use decorative touches like plants, vases, and knick-knacks that tie into your color scheme to make the shelves come alive.

Let’s Wrap Up

Decorating shelves and bookcases in your living room can be a fun and creative project that requires minimal effort. Following these easy steps, you can quickly transform your living space with a stylish shelf or bookcase.

With the right supplies, you can easily customize the space to fit your style and enhance the look of your living area. Styling shelves is a fun, easy way to bring warmth and comfort to your home.  Hopefully, with these tips, you feel ready to tackle the challenge and get those shelves decorated!

Pop a comment below with any tips and ideas (or questions!) I might have missed.