43 Shelf Decor Ideas to Help You Style Yours Like a Pro

shelf decor ideas

deVOL Kitchens

Shelf decor in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, home office, home bar, or any other room in the house can include a tastefully edited assortment of well styled objects, keepsakes, and everyday items.

Style your shelves with items that you want to remain visible and accessible, or simply enjoy looking at as you go about your daily life. Rather than stacking shelves with meaningless clutter, aim to display objects you find both useful and beautiful, and that complement the function of the room in question and the style of your home.

These shelf decor ideas will help inspire you to keep yours looking sharp and shelfie-worthy.

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    Add Something Metallic

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    K Shan Design

    When styling shelves, think about adding a metallic element that will bring some shine and bounce light around, like these clean white shelves from K Shan Design that are styled with a selection of books and objects. Leave plenty of white space around your shelf display to maintain an airy and uncluttered feel. And when styling an edited number of books, display them in both horizontal and vertical stacks for a more dynamic look.

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    Paint the Background

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    Pluck Kitchens

    Pluck Kitchens ran a long slim wood shelf that matches the kitchen cabinetry along the top of the backsplash and painted the wall behind it in a soft blush color. The shelf is styled to look spontaneous and not too calculated with vases, candlesticks, small framed floral and landscape paintings, and other accessories that make it feel nostaglic and warm.

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    Add a Contemporary Feel

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    Sola Kitchens

    Sola Kitchens added a thin painted black shelf above the dramatic black-and-white stone backsplash and countertop in this stylish British kitchen that gives it a contemporary spin, and styled it with plants, objects, and framed artwork.

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  • 04 of 43

    Display Preserved Flowers

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    Lobster and Swan

    Lobster and Swan hung reclaimed wood shelves in the window of this rustic U.K. kitchen to display a mix of plantings and preserved greenery and flowers. The natural elements are mixed with earth-toned accessories like amber glass and weathered terracotta to create a harmonious mix that is effortlessly styled for an organic look.

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  • 05 of 43

    Go Black on Black

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    Lobster and Swan

    Lobster and Swan hung black shelving on black walls in this moody bathroom that makes the shelves fade into the background, leaving objects like terracotta pots and white vases to stand out.

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    Add Farmhouse Vibes

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    Design by Leanne Ford Interiors / Photo by Alexandra Ribar

    Leanne Ford Interiors hung dark wood and black metal bracket shelves on the white subway backsplash tiles of this renovated kitchen that give it a homey modern farmhouse feel. The shelves are styled generously with a mix of practical objects, bunches of multicolored wildflowers, and a vintage mirror to create a vignette that sets the tone for the cozy space.

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  • 07 of 43

    Stick to Black, White, and Gold

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    Design by Leanne Ford Interiors / Photo by Nicole Franzen

    This dressing room shelf display from Leanne Ford Interiors mixes objects, souvenirs, clothes, and shoes and is topped off by an ornate gilded mirror. The limited palette of black, white, and gold keeps the jumble of disparate objects looking chic and intentional.

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    Add a Railing

    shelf decor ideas

    deVOL Kitchens

    This vintage style kitchen from deVOL Kitchens has traditional wood shelving that is painted in the same vibrant mustard yellow as the walls, and includes an integrated brass railing below with hooks to hold both practical and decorative items. The shelf is styled with unframed vintage art and earthenware that infuses the space with a sense of history and warmth.

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    Keep It Modern

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    Fantastic Frank

    When designing a kids' or teen room, adding a light and airy shelving unit around the desk can give them a place to display favorite objects that will encourage them to keep things tidy, like this modern white wire shelving unit from Fantastic Frank styled with sculptural objects and toys.

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    Use Contrasting Materials

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    deVOL Kitchens

    A rustic wood shelf held up by shiny brass hardware adds contrast with the aged patina of this brick wall in this picturesque space from deVOL Kitchens. Framed color illustrations of baked goods and well seasoned cutting boards add a vintage feel to the shelf display.

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    Mix Materials

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    Design by Cathie Hong Interiors / Margaret Austin Photo

    Warm wood floating shelves styled with greenery and neatly stacked fresh white towels add warmth to this white, minimalist laundry room from Cathie Hong Interiors.

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  • 12 of 43

    Accent With Copper

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    Alvin Wayne

    Interior designer Alvin Wayne accented black shelving with shiny copper cocktail accessories that adds a decorative metallic touch that warms this black and white NYC apartment kitchen.

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    Make a DIY Pegboard Plant Shelf

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    Most Lovely Things

    Blogger Annie Diamond from Most Lovely Things added a DIY plywood pegboard shelf high on the wall of a small bathroom which she styled with an assortment of plants. But you could take advantage of vertical space in your small bathroom to add a pegboard wall with adjustable shelves to store bath supplies, towels, toilet paper, or anything else that needs organizing.

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    Add Corner Shelving

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    M Starr Design

    M Starr Design added thick chunky wood corner shelves to this modern kitchen that contrast with the cool gray backsplash tiles and create space for a mix of practical and decorative objects in organic shapes and warm earth tones.

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    Plant an Herb Garden

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    Neva Interior Design / Photo by Agathe Tissier

    In a tiny space, use shelving to display thoughtfully chosen everyday items that can double as decor. Neva Interior Design styled a small wooden shelf with things like salt and pepper shakers and coffee mugs to keep countertops clear and a selection of potted herbs in this tiny Paris apartment kitchen.

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    Add a Vintage Country Feel

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    Kate Marker Interiors

    Kate Marker Interiors created a timeless laundry room feel with pale oak shelving custom-fit to the space above the countertop styled with vintage-style art, objects, and cleaning supplies to give the laundry room a country-inspired feel.

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  • 17 of 43

    Put Heavier Items on the Bottom

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    Neva Interior Design / Photo by Agathe Tissier

    Neva Interior Design added a pair of leaning shelves to this tiny Paris studio that helps to fill the wall beneath the loft bed while retaining a light and airy feel in this space decorated in shades of green, blue, and white. When styling multiple shelves, put the items with the most visual weight on the bottom, like the row of paperback books seen here.

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  • 18 of 43

    Add Contrast

    shelf decor ideas

    Lobster and Swan

    Lobster and Swan mounted live edge wood shelving on pitch black walls in this calming bathroom to add contrast and warmth, then styled the shelves with a mix of toiletries, plants, and art.

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  • 19 of 43

    Use Garden Trimmings

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    Lobster and Swan

    Lobster and Swan added earthy warmth to a corner of the kitchen with a display of reclaimed wood shelving that houses earthenware, teapots, and vases filled with trimmings from the garden.

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  • 20 of 43

    Add Brass Brackets

    shelf decor ideas

    deVOL Kitchens

    In this lovely space from deVOL Kitchens, brass brackets hold a marble display shelf in place, and echo the brass accents used on plumbing hardware and the traditional pulls on the forest green kitchen cabinets. A thin brass railing around the shelf ensures that glassware, teapots, and vases full of flowers will stay safely in place.

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  • 21 of 43

    Put Something Under a Cloche

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    Neva Interior Design / Photo by Agathe Tissier

    Neva Interior Design covered a bunch of wheat branches with a transparent glass cloche, a simple move that will make anything look more special.

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    Add Farmhouse Style

    shelf decor ideas

    Liz Marie Blog

    Blogger Liz Marie styled her farmhouse kitchen shelves with neutral-toned dishware, dishtowels, art, and a collection of mortar and pestles, and hung a row of copper pots from hooks below that are both practical and decorative.

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    Try Black Metal

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    Design by Cathie Hong Interiors / Christy Q. Photo

    If you are the kind of person who splurges on luxury beauty products and scented candles with pretty packaging, install a floating shelf or two in your bathroom to keep them on display. In this bathroom from Cathie Hong Interiors, slim black metal shelving matches the black plumbing hardware and creates a spa-like feel in a small space.

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    Use Decorative Brackets

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    Design by Leanne Ford Interiors / Photo by Reid Rolls

    In this neutral-toned farmhouse style kitchen from Leanne Ford Interiors, white shelves with painted white scroll brackets are hung on the shiplap walls, adding a decorative element to shelving that holds simple dishware and glassware.

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    Make Them Look Spontaneous

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    Design by Leanne Ford Interiors / Photo by Nicole Franzen

    If you like an uncluttered living room but have a sentimental streak or a collector's heart, concentrate your collection in one area, like the niche with built-in shelving in this living room from Leanne Ford Interiors.

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    Limit the Color Palette

    shelf decor ideas

    Design by Leanne Ford Interiors / Photo by Nicole Franzen

    Leanne Ford Interiors used a limited neutral palette and warm tone metallics on the accessories in this shelf display that keeps the maximalist jumble of objects from feeling too random while maintaining a casual and effortless look.

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    Add a Trailing Plant

    shelf decor ideas

    deVOL Kitchens

    In this minimalist space from deVOL Kitchens, simple white shelving mounted on the white brick wall houses bowls and mugs, while a vibrant green trailing plant on one end adds color and a focal point that brings the space to life.

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    Wallpaper the Built-Ins

    shelf decor ideas

    Caroline Andréoni Interior Design / Photo by Sophie Lloyd

    If you're styling built-in shelving, make anything you put in them more interesting by wallpapering the back, like this Parisian living room from Caroline Andréoni Interior Design.

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    Try Fake Plants

    shelf decor ideas

    A Beautiful Mess

    A Beautiful Mess turned a living random niche in a light-challenged corner of this living room into a multi-level no-maintenance faux plant shelf.

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    Use a Single Color Accent

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    Design by Leanne Ford Interiors / Photo by Reid Rolls

    This clean and modern kitchen from Leanne Ford Interiors sticks to a strict palette of white that is energized with bright red accents that make choosing accessories simple. If you don't like red, try another bold accent color like yellow, orange, green, or blue for a similar effect.

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  • 31 of 43

    Style Your Cloffice

    shelf decor idea

    Ursula Carmona for Home Made By Carmona

    Ursula Carmona for Home Made By Carmona turned a closet off her living room into a functional home office, styling shelves neatly with leather books and knick-nacks and storing unsightly office supplies and clutter in the desk drawers below.

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  • 32 of 43

    Go Vertical

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    Fantastic Frank

    A tall wall-mounted tower of bookshelves optimizes vertical space to store plenty of nighttime reading material without cluttering the minimalist white space in this Scandinavian bedroom from Fantastic Frank. The books add color in a spontaneous way, and a miniature armchair on the top shelf adds a note of whimsy.

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  • 33 of 43

    Paint the Inside Black

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    WRJ Interior Design / Photo by Tuck Fauntleroy

    This living room at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort from WRJ Interior Design mixes classic Swiss chalet style with modern influences. The row of bar shelves are painted black to complement the Danish-inspired fireplace at the center of the room, allowing bottles and glassware to reflect light and creating a sophisticated spot for après-ski relaxation and entertaining.

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    Use Baskets

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    A Beautiful Mess

    Elsie Larson from A Beautiful Mess created generous built-in storage on a whole wall of her laundry room to provide easy access to laundry, cleaning, and bathroom supplies. In an effort to eschew plastic storage containers, she outfitted the open shelves with wire locker, ceramic berry, and hyacinth baskets that help keep supplies neat and tidy on the large cubby-like shelving.

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    Hang Them From the Ceiling

    shelf decor ideas

    Jessica Nelson Design / Carina Skrobecki Photography

    Jessica Nelson Design suspended a brass and glass bar shelf from the ceiling to define a small wet bar area while maintaining light and flow in the relatively compact space. Transparent glassware practically disappears, keeping the shelf display feeling light.

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  • 36 of 43

    Use Mason Jars

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    Lobster and Swan

    In this rustic kitchen from Lobster and Swan, humble Mason jars in a variety of sizes are used to display pantry items stacked on dark stained wood shelving that creates order from chaos and looks stylish without trying too hard.

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    Use Everyday Items

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    Design by Emily Bowser for Emily Henderson Design / Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

    In this bathroom designed by Emily Bowser for Emily Henderson Design, space-saving glass shelving installed in a recessed window is casually styled with everyday items like toiletries and beauty products that keeps them visible and accessible.

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    Use Colored Glassware

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    Emily Henderson Design / Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

    Emily Henderson Design styled the marble bar shelf of this home entertainment center with amber glassware that adds warmth and complements the bottles of wine and spirits on display.

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  • 39 of 43

    Let Them Breathe

    shelf decor ideas

    Fantastic Frank

    In a minimal space, confine the bulk of decorative items to a large shelving unit like the black metal and wood shelving in this Scandinavian living room from Fantastic Frank that is styled with an uncrowded selection of objects that dress the room while allowing it to breathe.

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    Use Spring Colors

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    Design by Cathie Hong Interiors / Margaret Austin Photo

    In this light and airy California kitchen from Cathie Hong Interiors, pale wood floating shelves are mounted on the white tile backsplash and stacked with dishware in soft shades of green and brown, then styled with flowers, for a fresh and springlike feel.

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  • 41 of 43

    Elevate the Poolhouse

    shelf decor ideas

    Christina Kim Interior Design / Raquel Langworthy Photography 

    A wall of space-saving built-ins keeps this cabana kitchen from Christina Kim Interior Design neat and organized, while open shelving creates a place to style and store refreshments for people of all ages, from the row of sparkling water to the top shelf containing the hard stuff. Styling the bar shelf with decor objects like vintage photos, a mini globe, and a midcentury modern style sunburst infuses the wall of pool house bar shelves with a touch of glamour.

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  • 42 of 43

    Pick a Theme

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    Mindy Gayer Design Co.

    Mindy Gayer Design Co. styled the shelving in this family game room with playful objects like vintage racquets and balls that reinforces the theme of the room.

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  • 43 of 43

    Decorate Them with Framed Art

    shelf decor ideas

    deVOL Kitchens

    In this space from deVOL Kitchens, a marble shelf is used to display colorful still life vegetable paintings in simple gilded frames that echo the warm metallics used throughout the space.

What should you put on shelves for decoration?

You can decorate your shelves with small objects from keepsakes to toys to everyday items. From the kitchen to the bathroom to the laundry room, home bar, or any other room in the house, shelves can be used to store items that are useful to have visible and accessible, or those that you simply enjoy seeing as you spend time at home. To avoid stacking shelves with meaningless clutter, aim to display objects that you find both useful and beautiful. 

How do you make a shelf look cool?

The easiest way to make a shelf look cool is to style it within an inch of its life while giving the impression that you made zero effort. Effortless cool shelves feature collections that look improvised and spontaneous, collected over time rather than calculated. To style disparate objects, aim to create a balance between different shapes, materials, and heights, creating a conversation between your motley collection that adds personality to your home and will spark a conversation when guests drop by.

What can I use to decorate small shelves?

To decorate small shelves, opt for lightweight, transparent objects like glassware and those with metallic finishes that will reflect light and won’t visually weigh down a smaller surface. You can also use small bunches of preserved flowers or small plants like succulents or cacti, on their own or interspersed with a small framed print or two, to decorate a small shelf. Remember that you don’t have to fill the entire shelf, and that leaving some negative space will give the impression that your home is airy and uncluttered without being too sparse.