How to make a shelf look good: decorating floating shelves

Your guide to making a shelf look good

Open shelving can be a great addition to a room; it adds personality, flair and it’s a handy place to pop plants.

How to make shelves look good - decorating floating shelves
photo: @lindsey_isla

Well…in theory anyway; shelving is great, as long as it’s well styled and you don’t mind dusting regularly.

I have open shelving in my kitchen and I DREAD to think of how dusty it is up there; maybe its time for a bit of a spring clean…but let’s not get off topic.

The best way to make your shelf look good is to stop thinking of your shelf as a place to put stuff – it’s not storage, it’s a display. You don’t want it to end up as a dumping ground; think of it as a curation of your best bits only.

How to make shelves look good - decorating floating shelves

It’s all about getting the visual weight right when it comes to open shelves. To do this, you want to add different layers and different heights with things like candle sticks, vases, hardback books, bowls and picture frames.

Stacking books on their side and using them to balance trinkets and vases is a great trick. Pick books with pretty covers and colour coordinate them with your room scheme.

If your stuck for inspiration then Pinterest and Instagram have some great ideas to help you get started.

Decorating floating shelves tips:

  1. Keep to a colour scheme
  2. Choose strong brackets to hold it up
  3. Paint the shelf in a contrasting colour to make it ‘pop’
  4. Add lighting
  5. If you’re in the kitchen planning/building phase, add a plug socket where your shelf is going to be so you plug in your lamp or your Alexa

How do I make my shelf look pretty?

Fresh or dried flowers in a vase definitely add a lot of prettiness to a shelf, but other little touches like a mirror or a disco ball are also cute; they can bounce light and sunshine around your room – resulting in a really gorgeous effect.

How do I make my shelves look expensive?

How to make shelves look good - decorating floating shelves - minimal shelf styling

To make your shelf look good and expensive it has to be fitted right. Make sure it’s screwed in tightly to the wall and the wall itself is in good nick; fill in any holes and paint over any marks etc.

When it comes to the shelf, again, make sure it’s in good condition: freshly painted with no chips or cracks.

Lighting is a great way to make a shelf look more expensive: fairy lights for something pretty and strip lighting for something more sleek. However, I’d avoid any coloured lighting as it tends to look tacky and will date very quickly.

Read more: how to make your room look better without buying anything

What are cute things to put on shelves?

How to make shelves look good - decorating floating shelves - eclectic colourful shelf styling

There are so many cute things you can put on a shelf and most people with opt for plants, books, vases and picture frames. Layering art work is a really great way of making a shelf look good too.

The key here is to make sure the shelf is a reflection of you and your personality, find the balance between too much and too little, but here are some ideas to get help you feel inspired:

  • Plants
  • glassware
  • vases
  • crockery
  • books
  • pictures
  • awards
  • magazines
  • musical
  • instruments
  • bags
  • accessories
  • prints
  • mirrors
  • disco balls
  • crystals
  • shells
  • fruit bowls
  • fresh flowers
  • stationary pots
  • lamps
  • candles
  • neon signs
  • trinkets
  • memorabilia
  • antiques

How do you dress up a bookshelf?

There are so many different ways to dress up a book shelf, it just depends on your own personal taste and aesthetic. Organising your books in height order is a good way to keep them looking tidy, but you could also organise them by colour (my personal favourite) or back to front so you only see the beige and the brown colour of the pages.

As well as the above, you should leave space in between books for plants or sculptures. This will make it look curated and like you know what you’re doing – which you do, of course!

Shop for your own shelf here:

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The happy blossoms dried flowers for a shelf

The ‘Sherbet Macaroon’ dried flower baby baked blossom with vase – The Happy Blossoms £27

orange scalloped picture frame - how to make a shelf look good

Orange scalloped lacquer photo frame – Addison Ross £45

green bobbin picture frame how to make a shelf look good decorating floating shelves

Bobbin green wooden photo frame 8 x 10 – Oliver Bonas £39.50

decorating floating shelves red our place perfect pot

Perfect pot in red – Our Place £140

Matilda goad scalloped plant pot in yellow

Small, yellow, scallop planter – Matilda Goad £36

pooky orange candlestick holder bobbin

Larger Mildred candlestick – Pooky £28.50

wavy candles

Pink wavy taper candle 2-pack – Urban Outfitters £17

pink champagne flute

Textured glass champagne flute – Urban Outfitters £9

broccoli novelty LED night light

Broccoli LED light – Urban Outfitters £25

tiled plant pot in yellow

Yellow tile print plant pot – Urban Outfitters £24

yellow striped vase

Riviera stripe yellow ceramic vase – Oliver Bonas £38

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