Decorating Shelves And Picture Ledges
I am still fully enjoying my new picture ledges in the living room that I have built and filled with all kinds of colorful and fun artwork. If you missed this project, you can find these details here. I admit that I walk around this room several times a day just specifically to look at the shelves and the works of art on them.
And if I’m being completely honest, the new one still hasn’t disappeared from the music room libraries. It makes me laugh to walk through this room and see these shelves filled with such colorful items.
I love decorating shelves, but sometimes it can be hard to make things balanced and pleasing to the eye, especially for someone like me who prefers everything perfectly symmetrical. Perfect symmetry doesn’t really work on bookcases, bookshelves, and picture frames, so sometimes it takes a little longer to find asymmetrical arrangements while looking balanced.
I’ve learned a few tips over the years that have helped me, so I wanted to pass them on to you in matter you struggle with this too sometimes. Note that none of these rules are strict and fast. But if you have a bookcase or bookshelves that don’t look quite right, you can try incorporating some of these tips and see how it works for you.
1. Groups in odd numbers are pleasing to the eye.
We’ve all heard that, haven’t we? And I can tell you it’s true! In fact, odd numbers (and for some reason, three in particular) when decorating something like bookcases and shelves are so naturally pleasing to the eye that I do it without realizing it. When I put things on our new picture lists, I jumped up and arranged things, moved things, added things, removed things, until everything seemed balanced in my eyes.
And what did I end up with? Groups of three on each ledge, with three groups of three on the long upper ledge. I didn’t plan this, and it wasn’t intentional. That’s exactly what seemed balanced and pleasant to me.
On the bookshelves in the music room, more often than not, I ended up with odd numbers too. I have a few shelves with one large colored item, other shelves with groups of three, and only a few shelves with two colored items.
But as I said, This is not a strict rule. Just use this as a guideline if something doesn’t seem quite right. But if you have a few items that look good on you (like my only shelf above with only two colored items on it), there is obviously no reason to change it.
2. Leave some room to breathe.
When I started organizing the picture cornices in the living room, my very first attempt on the top shelf had things from one end to the other, without any breaks. This gave this shelf a very messy look, which you can see here. (Excuse my light that keeps falling from the ceiling.)
I got a little frustrated with it, I took a picture to see if I could identify what was wrong, and I took a break for a while. When I came back, it seemed very clear what the problem was. I had to give some space to the objects. So I superimposed a group, created a space, superimposed another group, created a space, and superimposed a final group. It looked so much better and much less messy.
On the shelves in the music room, I also tried to leave a little respite on most of the shelves. It is not necessary to wrap a full shelf from left to right. I mean, you can definitely do it on a few, but it doesn’t have to be that every shelf is full. These libraries have a lot of leeway.
3. Vary the height of the elements.
As a general rule, varying the height of the items on the shelves will produce a much more interesting collection than if you filled your shelves with items of the same height. It’s a bit common sense, and yet it’s something I find difficult almost every time I start decorating shelves. In fact, you can see that it was a little more challenging for me on the bookcases in the music room, but I seemed to manage a little better (and in my opinion, end up with a better result) on the picture cornices in the living room.
I think it looks so much better if you don’t have items of the same height lined up next to each other. Of course, there are always exceptions to this. Again, this is not a strict rule. It’s just something to keep in mind if you’re struggling to make your shelves look good. See if you have elements of the same height next to each other, and if so, try placing them at a distance with elements of different heights between them and see how it works.
4. Not everything has to stay on the shelves.
Please note that just because you decorate shelves, it does not mean that every item you use should be placed on the shelves. For example, on the edges of the photos I used two hanging planters in the arrangements on two of the shelves.
And on the shelves in the hallway bathroom, I hung a work of art above one of the shelves instead of putting it on the shelf. This gave more different heights to the shelf than I could have created by placing the work on the shelf or even on a donkey.
5. Use books on bookshelves.
It’s one of my personal pet annoyances, and it’s entirely a personal matter. But since these are my tips, I’ll add it.
If you decorate bookcases, add books. Even if you are not a big reader, go to the used bookstore and pick up books for your libraries. They add interest. You can use them to add height to your items that you want to show off. And the word is literally in the name. These are libraries. * And if you just want to use them to decorate, vary the placement from shelf to shelf and make sure they don’t align perfectly from shelf to shelf.
You can see on the bookshelves in the music room that I stand a little, lie flat a little, lean a little, lean a little. And from shelf to shelf, the placement is varied.
I have walked in so many houses over the years (and I see it very often in open houses and model houses) where the bookcases are filled with tchotchkes only from left to right, from top to bottom. In my eyes, when bookcases and shelves are just tchotchkes, things get confused and it becomes harder to appreciate decorative objects. Books provide a resting place for the eye and spread out decorative objects so that they are easier to see and appreciate.
Again, there are exceptions to these tips. I have seen bookcases and shelves solely dedicated to displaying a beautiful collection, such as white wrought iron plates from left to right and top to bottom, or nothing but colored glassware. Shelves and libraries dedicated to collections, of course, do not need books.
6. If you are a bibliophile…
Ignore everything I said about decorating bookcases. “I know for you bibliophiles — those of you who have collections of hundreds of books that you have read and that you cherish — people like me who are all about decorative and beautiful, who cover our books with white paper because we think the colors of the Thorns are distracting, and who go to second-hand bookstores to buy books that we will never read to serve decorative purposes only, are a real source of frustration. I’m starting to get it. So, if this describes you, forget about the decorative elements. Forget about the “breathing space”. Forget the thought of “varying the heights and arrangements of books from one shelf to another”. You do, and you fill those shelves from left to right, from top to bottom, with the books you love and cherish. Because I know you have as much fun seeing your bookcases filled with these treasures as I have seeing my cornices filled with colorful artwork.