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5 ideas for styling living room shelves

  • Shelf styling
  • Shelves
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Olivia Lowry
red sofa bed

It’s time to get creative. Shelf styling is where form and function come together, and there’s infinite ways to style living room shelves. Nobody likes a blank wall, and sometimes shelving is the best way of breaking up a room and adding more interest.

Shelving in living rooms is pretty essential - and not just for the decor side of things. Loads of us live in smaller spaces, so keeping organised and reducing clutter is high up on the list. Breaking up blank walls, living room shelves are a great thing to add to your space that’ll make it feel less sparse and much more homely. Here’s 5 ideas for living room shelves that’ll work with every interior style, guaranteed.

1. Get creative with plants

 red sofa with plant shelf

We couldn’t talk about shelf styling without mentioning plants. You don’t have to be a perfect plant parent to get involved - use faux plants for high-up spots where it’s easy to forget about a watering schedule, or where light is less available. If you’ve got a knack with looking after real plants, use these to decorate your living room shelves.

Introduce a mix of hanging plants that can cascade over shelf edges and smaller succulents for a pop of green in-between your other decor. If you’re serious about your indoor plants and don’t mind the upkeep, creating a shelf dedicated to plants adds a stand-out statement to living rooms. Suspend this from above your sofa to create a living focal point in the room.

2. Choose complementary colours

red sofa with bookcase

You’ve spent loads of time curating the perfect living room look, so don’t skip the details. Choosing complementary colours for your living room shelves helps bring the whole look together, so try to stick within the same colour palette. Go monochromatic and play around with different shades of a single colour - choose dark colour decor and contrast it against a lighter wall, or vice versa.

Pair up colours that go well together by thinking about warm vs cool tones, and aim for a good mix of both when choosing what to style your living room shelves with. As seasons change, dig out decor in colours that work for autumn, Christmas time, spring and summer. Your decor doesn’t have to stay the same, and shelves are a great way of switching things up between seasons without loads of effort.

3. Use your favourite artwork

black velvet sofa

Who said art needed to be on the walls? Okay - technically it is on the walls if you’re using shelves, but you get what we mean. Instead of the traditional way of doing things, use shelves to lean framed artwork on. This concept is great if you’re someone who can’t quite decide where to put an art piece, or you’re likely to want to switch them out frequently. 

Displaying your artwork like this allows for easy rotation and really gives that gallery vibe - ideal for living room styling. Keeping your artwork in frames makes this look feel neat, but is a much more relaxed approach than creating a gallery wall. Try to go for a combination of different sized frames to create depth. We’re not looking for matching sizes here - it’s all about recreating a laid back effortless feel.

4. Create more atmosphere with table lamps

apartment living room with black sofa

Don’t restrict table lamps to only tables - use them for shelf decor too. Interior design is all about creating interest in a room, and you can utilise shelf space to do so. Living room lighting should always aim to make the space feel warm and inviting, and you can do this by incorporating different light sources at different heights around the room. 

Pair your floor lamps and ceiling pendants with table lamps on your living room shelves for a super cohesive look that gives your living room tonnes of depth. Pick out shelf lamps that diffuse the light instead of going for directional or task lighting. Doing this will make sure you’re giving off a cosy feel - save the task lighting for reading areas. Choose table lamps in styles that go with your decor, and hide wires behind shelves for a neat look.

5. Display books differently

brown accent chair

Books and living room shelves are a winning combination, but how do you style them? If you’ve got a few reads on the go or you’re more of a coffee table book enthusiast, try using them as decor for your living room shelves. Create super-organised shelves by grouping books by the colour of their covers, or go for a more curated collection of a few of your favourites. 

Use bookends and books to create natural divides in your living room shelves, and have fun with different styles of covers. Choose chunky hardbacks in complimentary colours, or contrast them with the rest of your shelf decor. Get creative with book stands to display your favourite pages. Styling your living room shelves like this is a great idea for reading corners - just add an armchair and you’ve got a space where your best reads are within reaching distance. Dreamy.

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