How To Decorate Floating Shelves and Bookcases

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This post is all about learning how to decorate floating shelves and bookcases.

Interior designers and experienced decorators make styling shelves look effortless with their stunning, whimsical creations.

But, don’t be fooled, a lot of expertise goes into those impeccably designed vignettes.  To help demystify the topic, I’ve broken this task down into six key points for how to decorate floating shelves and bookcases like a pro.

decorate floating shelves and bookcases


How Many Items Should I Use to Decorate Floating Shelves?

Decide what number of elements you want to feature on each shelf.  If you are decorating a group of shelves try to keep the number to five or less on each tier.

Ideally, any given level will contain a maximum of seven elements.

But, be careful, when you start adding more than five things it can get a bit crowded.  Also, you don’t want to overload floating shelves and have to worry about them sagging or falling.

Avoiding visual clutter is just as important.  The selection of your items should be purposeful and clear.

You don’t want it to look like a junk shelf that you just toss stuff on and walk away.

Important Note: Small groups of like items stacked together should be counted as a single element.

For example, a stack of four books would be considered a single element.  You don’t need to count these items individually.  Visually, they read as one element if they’re clustered together.

shelf decorating

Size Considerations for Decorating Floating Shelves

The size of your items will help determine the quantity.  Allow for a small, equidistant space on each end of your shelf.  Avoid placing anything right up to the edge or left overhanging.

Also, if you’re working with a bookcase, this will automatically eliminate the use of an oversized piece, because it simply won’t fit.  If you have larger pieces, three to five items are ideal.

If you’re working with smaller pieces, five to seven items would be appropriate.

And, if you’re mixing and matching, large and small items, do so on all shelves.

A  set of large, oversized items on one tier of a shelf and a set of miniature figurines on the next is not ideal.

shelf styling

Selecting the Shape of Your Shelf Items

The best shelving designs adhere to a shape theme.  Most commonly used is a combination of round and square items on each shelf.

shelf decorating

Choosing Colors

Much like shape, select a color scheme and stick to it.  This should mirror the colors you already have present in the room.  Matching that pop of blue from an accent pillow with a vase on a shelf will help create a cohesive space.

decorate bookcase


Composition When Decorating Floating Shelves

Check your composition by standing back from your completed work and taking it all in as a whole.

Each shelf should be looked at individually and collectively.

Examine your bookcase or your set of floating shelves from top to bottom.  Then, take a look around the room and see how your shelves look with the other decor accents and furniture.

Once you’ve done that, stand at the doorway of the room and take a picture.  Capture the shelves and as much of the room as possible.

Use the photograph as your second opinion.  Especially, if you’ve been up close and personal with these shelves for a bit.

decorate floating shelves

The photo will tell you if your composition is balanced.

Balance Your Arrangement

Finally, balance as with all things in life is key.  Look for a balance of color, shape, size, and quantity.

Does everything jive together?  Or, does your eye zoom in to one item or one shelf in particular.

If so, do a bit of rearranging.  And as mentioned before, look at the room in its entirety.

Now that you’ve styled your shelves does this wall accent look good in the larger space?  Is it too powerful?  Is it getting lost in the background?  Or, is it just right?

If you keep these questions in mind, you’re sure to find the right balance.

I hope you find these tips to be helpful.  If you have any more shelf decorating ideas please share them below in the comments.

For more examples of how to decorate floating shelves and bookcases check out our Pinterest Board.

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How to Decorate Floating Shelves and Bookcases

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