Use Your Vertical Space: 12 Ways to Decorate With Floating Shelves
Use wall shelves for storage, decor and more.
Floating shelves are one of the magical unicorns of design; they just seem to work everywhere. They're often the perfect choice if you need a bit more storage or if you want to add some visual interest to a space. And since they come in all different styles and sizes, they're incredibly versatile.
Here are 12 of my favorite examples of floating shelves done right. And luckily I managed to find examples in almost every room of the home. So no matter where you want to put your shelves, I’ve got you’re covered.
1: Over the TV
Add some floating shelves above your TV to draw the eyes up. In this example, the TV fades into the background. Adding color-coded books to your shelves is another fun trick to attract the eye away from the TV.
2: Dish Display
Consider adding a few shelves between your existing kitchen cabinets. You can display your prettiest dishes and glasses, and simply switch it up depending on the time of year or season.
3: Book Collection
Neutral Contemporary Bedroom With Floating Shelves
Black floating shelves add extra storage space in this streamlined contemporary bedroom by designer Diego A. Rincon. The colorful books become eye-catching wall art!
These narrow shelves are used to display books like a magazine rack. This would work well if you have a lot of coffee table books to showcase. It could also be a great solution for displaying framed artwork or family photos.
4: Statement Piece
Shelves prominently displayed on the wall can actually take the place of artwork. Here, the rustic, reclaimed wood shelves are used to showcase decor, houseplants and accessories. When cleverly arranged, they manage to stand in for a large piece of art.
5: Laundry Room Storage
Floating Shelves in Transitional Laundry Room
Floating shelves provide handy open storage in this transitional laundry room. Glass jars house detergent, clothes pins and other essentials, while sunburst wallpaper adds a glam touch to the space.
House of Jade Interiors
The laundry room is another great spot to add shelves if you have the space. You can increase your storage space with a couple of extra floating shelves and quickly upgrade the functionality of your laundry room. If you don’t need the extra storage room, you can add some artwork or some plants to warm up your space.
6: Easy Bookshelf
Living Room with Nine White Floating Shelves
White floating shelves display books and photos in this transitional living room. Hung above white beadboard and a small black desk, the shelves create a functional gallery wall of personal items.
Caitlin & Caitlin, Scripps Networks
Hung all in a row, you can actually use floating shelves in place of a bookcase. If all of your books are similarly sized, you can hang the shelves equidistant from one another. However, floating shelves would also allow you to customize the space between each shelf to account for books of all different sizes.
7: Kids' Storage
These white and gold shelves would make a great addition to a modern kid’s room. They can do double-duty as both a spot to store books, as well as a place to display fun decor. Hang the shelves higher if you want to make sure your kid can’t reach the shelves or down low for easy access.
8: Bath Hack
Contemporary Floating Shelves Line Blue Bathroom Wall
Storage in a small bathroom can be beautified by adding wall shelves. As seen on Design On a Dime, these white floating shelves make the space appear much larger and offer an attractive way to display bathroom accessories.
Floating shelves can be miracle workers for anyone who happens to have a small bathroom. If you lack storage in your sink vanity, or just need more space, add shelves to your bathroom walls to manage the overflow of toiletries.
9: Hallway Update
Decorative Floating Shelves in Contemporary Hallway
Making the most of a little nook in the hallway, floating shelves are hung to display favorite books and art. A planter of grass adds a life to the space, while a blue vase on the floor brings in a touch of color.
If you happen to have some dead space at the end of your hallway, consider adding some floating shelves. These chunky, wooden shelves are solely decorative, but they manage to liven up an area of the home which would have otherwise been empty.
10: Library Style
Custom Library With Floating Shelves and Seating Area
Custom shelves were built to create a library space in this urban loft. Two leather armchairs create a reading nook alongside the library.
Floating shelves can also be a great solution to use in the corner of a room. Again, because you're using shelves rather than a bookcase, you have flexibility to arrange them exactly as you like to work with your specific space. This homeowner even used a ladder in front of their shelves to make the space feel like a traditional library.
11: Color Pop
Blue Floating Kitchen Shelves With Bowls
Open shelves, especially in a fun color like this blue, are a great way to show off pretty bowls and platters. Add a photo or framed artwork for a personalized touch.
You can even use wall shelves to add a splash of color to a room. Here, robin’s egg blue shelves are used in a white kitchen to add some visual interest on the wall.
12: Clever Use
This is a perfect example of how to use shelves on an awkward space in their home. Using shelves in this spot brings order to the living room but also keeps things tucked away. The flexibility of the shelves also allows the homeowner to go higher than a standard bookshelf.
Bunk Bed Staircase Bookcase
Tamara Hubinsky’s mission for this design was to create a hideout for the 9-year-old boy that would still accommodate him as he matured. The bookshelf stairs were custom designed to provide storage and utilize precious bedroom space. The stairs also add structure to the loft bed, which is important for kids’ rooms that are subject to lots of movement and heavy use. Small stair carpet treads (in a stone, riverbed pattern) add comfort and safety.
It’s an easy chair, it’s a bookcase – it’s two, two, two things in one! Believe it or not, there's 27 feet of book storage space in Alexander Love’s elegant design. That’s enough to hold 350-400 books, and there’s even a secret compartment under the seat which can be accessed from the front book shelf. It’s made of 1/2-inch Baltic plywood, a nine-layer material that’s incredibly strong, according to Love. You can have the seat in the fabric of your choice, because the Library Chair is made to order. Available for $2,950 on Etsy.
Secret Door Bookcase
This hidden door bookcase leads from an office to the guest quarters in a private home in Alameda, Calif. Designed by Mark Dutka of InHouse Design Studio, it’s made of rift oak with a natural finish, and is just one part of a highly complex design which covers every inch of the room’s walls. It was quite the challenge, but Dutka's specialty is the design of custom cabinetry solutions for specialized residential environments. Our question is, what’s the secret password?
Dutch designer Dille Thomas calls this bookcase “Bubba,” explaining that it’s “a well-rounded multipurpose bookcase which can also double as a playful room divider.” He uses top-grade western red cedar slats flowing into an organic shape, held in place with two spray-painted MDF panels that come in either black or white. It’s designed and manufactured in Somerville, Mass., and can be purchased for $2,850.
Celebrity Bathtub Bookcase
The A-List celebrity who had these bathroom bookcases designed exclusively for her Hollywood-area home loves reading so much she wants books within reach at all times. Something tells us, however, that her invaluable first editions are stored elsewhere, as a steamy tub could ruin pages, spines and glue. But who reads priceless books in the bathtub anyway? The reading material here is purely for pleasure and relaxation.
Don’t throw out that old wooden ladder that’s been gathering cobwebs in your garage for years — it can be re-used as an arresting book storage solution. Whether you leave it as-is as these folks did, put a sealcoat on it or paint it to match or contrast with the rest of your decor, it makes an intriguing design statement. If you decide to angle your ladder/bookcase against the wall, you might consider attaching fishing line or a wooden slat across the back above each step so the books don’t fall through.
Designer Ryan Webb was inspired to create this bookcase by his wife, who wanted a piece of furniture where they could display wedding photos, albums and keepsakes – but it would work just as well in a bedroom or nursery. It’s five feet tall, two feet wide and four inches deep, and made of solid birch hardwood. He planes and sands every piece by hand for a smooth finish, and sells these masterpieces on Etsy for a very reasonable $75.
Why waste space with plain hallways when you can add attractive, custom-built bookcases like this one, designed by Stacy Jacobi. Her design style has been described as “New England Coastal went to Hollywood,” and we think this bookcase demonstrates that perfectly. Jacobi had the bookcase handmade by Mark Blaire, who used simple unfinished pine with glass panes, then painted it with Benjamin Moore high-gloss White Dove paint.
Wooden Spool Bookcase
This clever little bookcase, made from a recycled industrial cable spool, can also serve as an end table, or in this case, a reading/coloring table for the little ones. Depending on how you finish it, it can look equally nice in a bedroom, den or nursery. Painting or refinishing these spools can be a fun family project — consider letting the kids add colorful hand prints. And best of all? You can often find them for a very low cost at home improvement stores.
Book Collectors’ Paradise
This may look like an elegant library in a private club or grand Newport mansion, but it’s actually an addition to a one-story, Mediterranean-style home in a small California town, added on where other people might have built a garage or game room. Patterned after a library in an Austrian monastery, the room was built to hold the homeowner’s thousands of volumes, as well as emphasize family commitment to literature and education, creating a reading respite and escape from a high-tech, digital world.
Metal book racks like this one are ideal book storage solutions for small spaces because the case itself doesn’t take up any room, and it’s super easy to fold up or disassemble and move. Modern book “towers” like these usually consist of a flat, narrow aluminum spine, mounted on a stand, with “shelves” that extend out for book stacking. The height of the shelves can often be readjusted. You can easily find these devices at most casual furniture and storage stores.
This stately bookcase is befitting the award-winning residence of the chancellor of North Carolina State University. Designed by Design Lines, Ltd. and built by Rufty Homes, it was constructed as four boxes that were then set flush in-wall. We especially like the faceplate overlay with the black lacquer finish that serves to frame the bookcase. Note how it was also used on the baseboard where the cabinets are set, anchoring it to the room.
A step up in book storage, these Japanese-inspired “Tansu Stairs” were designed by Steven Ehrlich, FAIA - Ehrlich Architects and hand crafted by David Albert. They’re set in a sustainable residence just one kilometer from the Pacific Ocean, and are built to reflect the bohemian spirit of Venice, Calif. A staircase bookcase is a great space saver in a home like this one, built on a narrow lot.
Question Mark Bookcase + Reading Light
Designer Tembolat Gugkaev created this fascinating bookcase/reading light combo with help of his wife Ashlee Webb and Ryan Webb. He calls it the Wha Cabinet, referencing its question mark shape. Made mostly of MDF, the shelves are color backlit. Position it next to your sofa or favorite reading chair, and voila! It holds books and illuminates them all at the same time.
Bookcase Room Divider
Look closely at these bookcases and note that they’re built on industrial disc casters, designed to be beautiful and practical office/room dividers. They’re literally colorful, moveable walls. Hanson Hsu of Delta H Design Inc. designed them with both form and function in mind. The shorter, higher shelves hold smaller books, which are lighter. The middle three shelves hold standard-sized binders and/or medium-sized books, while the very tall lower shelves are for large-format art, architecture and photography books, which can be heavy and cumbersome, therefore easier to handle down low. These bookshelves are constructed of walnut and have a frosted Plexiglas backing so the books don’t fall through.
Got a fireplace that you never use? Why not clean it out, paint it, and stack your books within. Or, if it’s a large fireplace, you could build a wooden frame to fit the space, fit it with shelves, and it will appear as a built-in bookcase. This can make the interesting statement that nothing warms the heart and soul like good reading material.
A-Frame Bookcase Chair
This clever reading chair and bookcase combo was designed and produced by Tembolat Gugkaev, with help from his wife Ashlee Webb and Ryan Webb. Gugkaev lives mostly in the Caucasus Mountains in Ossetia-Alania, but will ship his design, which he calls “Tatik,” anywhere. Made mostly of MDF, its pyramid shape allows you to store your books on three sides, so you won’t have to get up to switch reading material.
Gallery Wall Bookshelves
You may have a great collection of art and photography books, but you can only stack so many at one time on your coffee table. Why not display those magnificently designed covers where everyone can see them: gallery style on narrow shelves? For drama, use books with all black and white covers against a bright, solid colored wall. For fun, use books with covers in a variety of colors and shapes.
Children's Room Bookcases
Children’s book covers are such works of art, why not display them as such, rather than tossing them in a pile or placing them so that only the spine shows? Narrow shelves that allow you to display books with the cover out add pops of bright color and interest, helping children make that all-important decision about what story to read before they go to sleep.
Book Display by Color
Sometimes it’s not about the bookcase, or even the book itself. Note how, in this instance, books are stored and arranged by color. You’ll see designers using this motif quite often these days, with the right-colored books replacing vases or other knick-knacks on display shelves. For the most colorful impact, paint the bookcase either deep black or stark white.
Wall-Mounted Spine Shelves
Whether they’re made of wood or metal, wall-mounted spine shelves allow stacks of your favorite books and magazines to become colorful design elements in a room. They also conserve space, and, because the books are visible from several angles, these shelves encourage organization and discourage clutter and messiness. Since they will bear a considerable amount of weight, you’ll want to be careful to mount them to beams, rather than plain drywall.