Shelves are made to be utilitarian, which is fine. But, with the right eye and a little creativity, they can become utilitarian works of art – or, at the very least – utilitarian accents that enhance an interior design.
9 Ways to Make Shelves Stand Out
Here are 9 Ideas for replacing existing shelves, or updating the ones you want to keep, so shelves do more than just “hold stuff.” Give them something to brag about while they’re at it…
- Make them disappear. Here’s an idea for the modernist as well as the decorator who appreciates a little whimsy. Purchase metal L-Brackets at the hardware store. Then mount them about 10-inches to 12-inches apart- or as far apart as some of your largest, hardly-read books. Then, stack the large book on the bottom (forming the shelf) with smaller books stacked on top. The effect is a floating stack of books on the wall.
- Put an old ladder to work. Have a loft or industrial-style space? Find an old antique ladder and paint it any color you like. Then, open it up against a wall and run planks of wood, metal or whatever hard material appeals to you (thick glass with dulled edges would be awesome too) through both sides of the ladder.
- Don’t forget the white space. One of the biggest mistakes most of us make is overcrowding shelves so they become a boring, non-stop run of books and/or cluttered with curios. Don’t forget the white space. From books to collectibles, shelves will always look cleaner and more interesting if you leave some gaps in between things.
- Wallpaper them. Budget designers can turn ugly, old wooden shelves into works of art by wallpapering them top and bottom. You can often find old scraps of wallpaper for cheap, but even purchasing it new will cost less than $50, depending on how many shelves you have. This is idea is especially attractive for shelves that are higher up, because the undersides of the shelves add unobtrusive color and interest.
- Old crates or boxes. Sand, finish or repaint old wooden boxes or crates. Even old dresser drawers or file drawers will work. They can be mounted on the wall like a curio cabinet individually or in unique arrangements.
- Display collections. We posted an entire piece on how to display your collections. Interspersing a collection amidst books or designating “display” shelves is a smart way to add interest to various rooms in your house.
- Use rough planks. I love the look of thick, natural wooden planks that keep the edges of the tree in their natural curvature. They work wonderfully for mantel tops and also as shelves. Have a small entryway? Use a thick wooden plank or two, hung above the height where it would knock ahead, to display some curios.
- Stack antique benches. Most plain, wood benches are about the same depth as substantial shelving, which makes this a smart way to convert antique benches into shelves. You can stack them, bracing them for safety to make a bolder statement. A distressed look is always appreciated and it’s just fine to mix-and-match colors.
- Use art. Shelves are a great place to display some of your art, especially smaller pieces that can get lost on a wall by themselve. Instead, you can show them off – and create a little of that aforementioned shelf space – by using a shelf to prop them up against the wall. Even larger works of art will look stunning this way if the shelf and space accommodate them.