20 Stunning Shelf Ideas for the Living Room

A floating shelf unit above cabinets next to a fireplace in a living room.

Interior Impressions

Adding shelves to your living room is a great way to maximize storage and style. From open shelving to bookshelves, built-ins, and more—there are endless ways to add shelves to your space, regardless of your style. If you’re looking for some living room shelf inspiration we’ve got you covered. Here are 20 shelf ideas for the living room that you’ll want to copy. 

  • 01 of 20

    Flank Your Fireplace

    Built-in shelving on either side of a fireplace and TV in a living room.

    Wildwood Photography for Allison Ruda Interior Design

    Make the most of that awkward space on either side of your fireplace with built-in shelves. Go the custom route for built-ins that are designed specifically for your space, or create some DIY built-ins using these expert-approved hacks.

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  • 02 of 20

    Pair Cabinets With a Floating Shelf Unit

    A floating shelf unit above cabinets next to a fireplace in a living room.

    Interior Impressions

    Instead of going all-in on built-ins, consider pairing base cabinets with a floating shelf unit for a lighter and more minimal look. For this project, the designers at Interior Impressions chose dark paint for the back wall to add eye-catching contrast and depth to the space.

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  • 03 of 20

    Style a Glass Display Cabinet

    Glass display cabinet with shelves in a bright living room.

    Desiree Burns Interiors

    Glass display cabinets are both stylish and functional. They can give some added protection for delicate or sentimental objects that you want to display, while also providing plenty of storage space. Plus, if you are renting and drilling into the walls isn’t an option, a glass display cabinet is a great alternative.

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  • 04 of 20

    Add Floating Shelves

    Floating shelf in a boho living room.

    Arbor & Co.

    Floating shelves are a great choice for any space. They are easy to install, affordable, and available in many different shapes and finishes to suit any design style. In this boho-style living room, Arbor & Co. added slim hexagon-shaped floating shelves to display small trinkets and artwork above the living room couch.

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  • 05 of 20

    Add Asymmetrical Built-ins

    One built-in shelf unit in a living room beside a fireplace.

    Interior Impressions

    If you’re working with a smaller space that doesn’t have room for built-ins on either side of the fireplace, don’t fret! Try an asymmetrical look by installing built-ins on just one side.

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  • 06 of 20

    Utilize Unexpected Spaces

    Built-in shelves under the stairs in a living room.

    Molly Rose Photo for Prairie Interiors

    Not everyone has the space for large, wall-to-wall built-ins. The designers at Prairie Interiors gave their client built-in storage by utilizing an unexpected place—the space underneath the staircase. This ingenious design proves that where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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  • 07 of 20

    Add Bookcases

    Two wooden bookshelves in a bright living room.

    Gray Space Interiors

    You can’t go wrong with good old bookcases. Add some much-needed storage to your space with a pair of bookcases on either side of a window or TV. Use them to showcase books, family photos, or decorative accents.

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  • 08 of 20

    Combine Wall Shelf Units

    Wooden wall shelves in a living room.

    Christopher Stark for Jaclyn Christensen Design

    Wall shelves are a great way to add some extra storage without taking up valuable floor space. Group multiple shelf units together to create a large installation and then fill it with books and sentimental knick-knacks and artwork.

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  • 09 of 20

    Install Room-Dividing Shelves

    Large room-diving shelves in a bright living room.

    Lauren Miller for Studio HA/WA

    Studio HA/WA used large shelving units to help create a division between their client’s entryway and living room. The use of both open and closed shelving creates the opportunity for decorative elements to be displayed, while clutter is easily hidden away. Plus, light can easily flow through the space which helps it feel nice and open.

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  • 10 of 20

    Create a Moody Accent Wall

    Dark built-in living room shelves.

    Whittney Parkinson Design

    Make your built-in shelves pop by painting the whole wall a contrasting color to the rest of your space like this living room by Whittney Parkinson Design. Add a couple of dedicated wall sconces to the display to really make the wall pop.

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  • 11 of 20

    Create an Arched Alcove

    An arched alcove with shelves in a living room.

    Yael Weiss Interiors

    Arches are having a moment in interior design right now and are a great way to soften up any space. Try adding shelves to an arched alcove for a seriously stylish and artistic finish.

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  • 12 of 20

    Add Ultra-Thin Built-ins

    Thin built-in shelves in a bright living room.

    Courtesy of Sarah Barnard Design

    Don’t be afraid to use your living room shelves to add to the artistry and design of the room. For this contemporary living room, thin built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace became a primary display space to carry color throughout the room.

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  • 13 of 20

    Add a Floating Mantel

    A floating shelf is used as a floating mantle in a living room.

    Rikki Snyder for Caroline Kopp Interior Design

    Use a floating shelf above a fireplace or an electric insert to create a DIY floating mantel. It’s the perfect way to add some extra shelf space while also adding some serious style and warmth to any space.

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  • 14 of 20

    Create a Wall-to-Wall Display

    Wall to wall built-in shelves and media console in a living room.

    Rikki Snyder for Caroline Kopp Interior Design

    Create a wall-to-wall shelf unit and media console using a combination of open shelving and cabinetry as seen in this living room by Caroline Kopp Interior Design. Try installing the shelves at varying heights so you have room to store books, artwork, or a minibar tray for afternoon cocktails.

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  • 15 of 20

    Add Built-ins Behind Your Couch

    Built-in living room shelves behind a couch.

    Molly Rose Photo for DMAR Interiors

    Sometimes you have to get creative when it comes to adding shelving to your space, particularly if you’re working with a small living room. Don’t be afraid to use up that dead wall space behind your couch by adding built-ins like DMAR Interiors did for this project.

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  • 16 of 20

    Add Display Shelf Units

    Two black display shelves in a dark green living room.


    Add some display shelf units to showcase all of your favorite artwork, books, and decorative accessories. Design studio TIEK BYDAY added two black display units to either side of the living room couch to create a stylish and moody living space.

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  • 17 of 20

    Create a Wall-to-Wall Bookshelf

    Blue wall-to-wall bookcase in a living room.

    Emily Gilbert Photography for Colleen Simonds

    Turn your living room into your very own home library space with some wall-to-wall bookshelves. Consider stacking your books horizontally and vertically to provide some contrast and movement to the overall display.

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  • 18 of 20

    Add Picture Ledges

    Two wood picture ledges in a living room.

    Molly Rose Photo for Cottino Design

    Picture ledges are thin floating shelves with a lip to hold artwork, photos, and picture frames securely. They are great for people who like to switch up their photos and artwork frequently. Cottino Design used picture ledges to display some of their client’s records.

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  • 19 of 20

    Stack Wall Shelves

    White wall shelves with gold brackets stacked above one another in a living room.

    Lauren Moss for Caroline Kopp Interior Design

    No built-ins? No problem! Mimic the look of a bookcase by stacking wall shelves on top of one another for a stylish and open display. The use of delicate gold brackets in this living room by Caroline Kopp Interior Design brings some added style and personality.

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  • 20 of 20

    Add Long Floating Shelves

    Floating shelves above wood cabinets in a bright living room.

    Molly Rose Photo for Tamara René Designs Inc.

    Add some stylish open shelving to your space with long floating shelves. Use them above cabinets as seen in this living room by Tamara René Designs, or utilize a blank wall to create a shelving display.