Wall shelves can do more than just solve storage problems. Wall shelves allow you to display items that personalize your space and extend your decor in the visual vertical. But don’t limit the shelves themselves to the utilitarian duty of holding items. Ensure that the type of wall shelves you choose match your design style.
KNOW YOUR WALL SHELVING CHOICES
There are several types of wall shelving options available. What is important is to determine which type of wall shelves will enhance, not distract from, your decor style. Here are 4 main shelving choices you can use for your walls:
- Freestanding/leaning shelves
- Built-in shelves
- Fixed bracket/hanging shelves
- Floating shelves
Do freestanding shelves really count as wall shelves you ask? My answer is Yes – assuming that they occupy a significant amount of the visual wall space vertically. Remember the Rule of Thirds? A freestanding shelf that is 2/3 of the total wall height is considered wall shelving in my book!
Freestanding or leaning shelves are typically open, not adding a significant amount of visual weight. For this reason, they are not often found in more formal styles. Rather, they lend themselves well to more contemporary styles like Industrial, Contemporary, or Modern when constructed of hard materials of metal and polished stone. However, when made with warmer, earthy colors and materials like stained or distressed wood they can emphasize Farmhouse, Shabby Chic, and Ethnic styles.
Shelves that are built into a room’s structure inherently give the feeling of sturdiness, solidity. That is why you will often find them in more formal design styles such as Traditional or Victorian. Built-in shelving takes up both visual and physical space, making its presence known! If you already have built-ins but want to diminish their formality, paint the units the same color as the rest of the room’s walls.
Fixed Bracket Shelves
Shelves with fixed brackets (below or hanging) offer a more open and less permanent approach to shelving than built-ins. I believe that bracket shelves offer the most versatility for matching your decor. You can purchase brackets by themselves and use them with planks of stained, painted, distressed, or live edge wood, laminate, or even stone. You can choose metal, wood, simple, or ornate brackets depending on your design style. Alternatively, you can upcycle other items to act as brackets such as corbels, pipe, rope, wire, fabric, or even other decorative floating shelves like the ones I used for the picture ledge below shown in the background. I used three metal display shelves underneath a floating shelf to add weight to the illusion of brackets. Their red embossed metal adds to the Ethnic design style that is emphasized throughout my home. You can see how I later updated this to a fabric picture ledge by getting access to my Style Library.
To be honest, floating shelves are my personal preference for shelving style. Floating shelves really allow the items on display to take center stage. There is no supporting structure to distract your eye. Additionally, floating shelves are typically thicker to emphasize a very linear form which lends itself well to the predominantly Prairie style of our home. Following the importance of repeating patterns and repeating colors in a cohesive design, I incorporated floating shelves into multiple rooms throughout the house including the kitchen, bathrooms, wet bar, and study.
However, the study floating shelves needed to cover the entire wall span of the room. Hence, it was critical to add interest to the floating shelves themselves. I created additional dimension by:
- random placement of the shelves throughout the wall space
- asymmetric vertical segments that bisect the horizontal lines of the shelves
- two-tone stain to distinguish the horizontal from the vertical (admittedly hard to see in these early morning shots)
Wall shelves are a great way to display and also store items. But don’t limit them to a utilitarian nature. Make your wall shelves enhance your design decor and match your style. Take wall storage and display a step further and go beyond shelving – upcycle other items like these leftover drawers I used in my sons’ room for his sports trophies.