Living Room Shelving Ideas: Stylish Storage Solutions

Shelving is an integral part of any living room’s storage and style. The right shelving solution can make your space feel curated and complete. From built-ins to freestanding units, shelves keep items organized while displaying your decor.

Living Room Shelving Ideas

This in-depth guide covers the most popular shelving options to inspire your living room refresh. We’ll explore design styles from industrial to minimalist, materials from natural wood to gleaming metal, and tips to maximize form and function through smart shelving.

Floating Shelves: Modern and Minimalist

Modern and Minimalist Floating Shelves

Floating shelves make a contemporary statement and are ideal for small living rooms. Mounted directly on the wall, floating shelves create a streamlined look. Follow these tips:

Choose Simple Floating Shelves

Choose Simple Floating Shelves

Floating shelves span a variety of materials, but simple designs work best. Look for sleek wood, marble, glass, concrete, or metal options. Avoid ornate brackets or edges.

Match shelf finishes to other metals and woods in the space. For example, brass shelves would complement brass light fixtures.

Style with Plants and Decor

Style with Plants and Decor

Floating shelves are perfectly suited to styling with plants, books, and decor. Try pairing cacti with ceramic vases, coffee table books with a brass object, or a colored glass box with eucalyptus.

Repetition looks cohesive. Stick to a color theme or material pairings. For example, use all white pottery or group green succulents.

Use for Display Only

Use shelving for Display Only in living room

While floating shelves store lightweight items well, avoid loading them up. A few curated objects look best. Use other solutions like cabinets for concealed storage to prevent clutter.

Leave breathing room between objects. Floating shelves beg negative space. Cluster 3-5 items together, keeping some shelves empty.

Consider Ledge Floating Shelves

Consider Ledge Floating Shelves in living room

Ledge shelves offer extra depth for display. They can hold rows of books, trays of trinkets, or multiple potted succulents. Use longer ledges over seating areas.

Add discreet LED lighting to ledges to spotlight displays. Conceal cords along the back edge or in wall cutouts.

Mix Shelves at Various Heights

Mix Shelves at Various Heights in living room

Install floating shelves in staggered heights for interest. Place them above eye-level to encourage gazing up.

Try pairing a ledge shelf with two smaller, higher shelves. Or alternate between wall-mounted and ledge shelves.

Built-in Shelves: The Custom Look

Built-in Shelves in living room

For a polished, bespoke aesthetic, built-in shelving is unrivaled. Constructed specifically for your living room, built-ins maximize storage and style.

Flank Fireplaces or Windows

Flank Fireplaces or Windows in living room

Built-ins classically flank fireplaces, TVs or large windows. The symmetrical look provides balance while defining the space.

Customize the built-ins to fit your wall exactly. Opt for cabinetry on the bottom and open shelving up top to conceal media components.

Choose Custom Materials

Choose Custom Materials for shelving in living room

While wood is common, built-ins can incorporate marble, metal, glass, and more. Mixing materials adds interest.

For example, try a marble base with wooden or metal shelves atop a wood base. Painted built-ins also lend character through color.

Incorporate Doors and Drawers

Incorporate Doors and Drawers for shelving in living room

While built-ins often have open shelving, incorporating drawers and cabinet doors allows you to hide clutter while displaying favorite items.

Closed storage on the bottom keeps DVDs, board games, and clutter out of sight. Use doors with indented handles for a streamlined look.

Include Specialized Storage

Include Specialized Storage for shelving in living room

Since built-ins are customizable, you can incorporate specialty storage needs like glass-fronted cabinets for barware, adjustable shelving for media, or divided drawer organizers.

Consider pull-out trays for stowing remotes or outlets and ports for hiding unsightly cords inside the units.

Add Lighting

Add Lighting in shelving

Sconces, reading lamps, and accent lighting integrated into built-ins make them both functional and atmospheric.

Try install recessed lighting above open shelves to illuminate displays. Or opt for sconces flanking the units for ambient lighting.

Ladder Shelves: Rustic Industrial Charm

Ladder Shelves ideas in living room

Ladder shelves infuse living rooms with urban character. Typically made from salvaged wood, ladder shelves have an imperfect, vintage appeal.

Scour Vintage Shops

Scour Vintage Shops as shelving

True ladder shelves are made from retired wooden ladders. Search antique stores and flea markets for old wooden ladders to repurpose.

Look for well-worn and weathered varieties with character. Vintage finds add authenticity and a sense of history.

Display Large Items

Display Large Items in shelving

Ladder shelves suit displaying large decorative items given their generous scale. Use them to show off oversized vases, bundles of dried botanicals, or stacked coffee table books.

Angling ladder shelves against the wall at a slight tilt adds extra interest while allowing you to view items from multiple sides.

Add Industrial Pipes

Add Industrial Pipes in shelving

Pair salvaged wood ladders with iron or steel piping for added industrial edge. This mixed material look amps up the rustic warehouse vibe.

Black or galvanized steel pipes can be used horizontally, vertically, or diagonally with wood shelving.

Incorporate Woven Baskets

Incorporate Woven Baskets in shelving

Soften the hard wood and metal aesthetic by weaving in rattan, wicker, or woven rush baskets for concealed storage.

Baskets keep remotes, blankets and other clutter out of sight while adding organic texture.

Use Rope for Hanging

Use Rope for Hanging in shelving

Opt for versatile jute rope rather than hardware to make your ladder shelf installation a cinch.

Clop rope through the ladder rungs and hang directly from ceiling hooks for an adjustable, casual look.

Wall-Mounted Rail Shelves: The Modern Gallery Wall

Wall-Mounted Rail Shelves

Wall-mounted rail shelves create a modern gallery wall effect. The continuous line offers plenty of display space for artful arrangements.

Select a Streamlined Profile

Select a Streamlined Profile for shelving

Thin, streamlined rails disappear against the wall and put the focus on objects rather than hardware. For a minimalist look, steer clear of chunky supports.

Floating glass shelves and slender steel rails have an almost invisible edge. Walnut or oak rails add organic texture.

Mix Sizes and Materials

Mix Sizes and Materials for shelving in living room

Creating visual interest is key for rail shelves. Mix different sizes, colors, and materials rather than uniform shelves.

For example, combine matte black rails with a rustic wood shelf and a sleek glass shelf in one arrangement. Vary objects too.

Multi-Height Design

shelving with Multi-Height Design

Install rails at varying heights for a dynamic look. You can make the shelves ascend diagonally or in a stair-step profile.

Placing rails closer together on one section and farther apart on another adds depth. Incorporate ledges for plants and baskets.

Use Wall Cubbies

Use Wall Cubbies for shelving

In addition to horizontal shelves, incorporate wall cubbies or vertical dividers to “frame” shelves and objects.

Cubbies create dedicated vignettes for books, candles, or small decor items. Use them to separate shelves into sections.

Add Discreet Lighting

Add Discreet Lighting in shelving

Discreet lighting transforms wall shelves into a focal feature. Try attaching under-cabinet lights beneath ledges or sconces next to cubbies.

Opt for integrated LED strip lighting or low-voltage rail lighting. Dimmer switches allow you to control ambiance.

Colored Shelves: The Accent Wall

Colored Shelves

Brightly colored shelves create a bold style statement and a focal accent wall. The punch of color spotlights displays.

Complement Your Color Scheme

Complement Your Color Scheme in shelving ideas

Pick a vivid hue that complements your living room palette. For a traditional space, try emerald green or sapphire blue. In midcentury rooms, orange and yellow add retro flair.

If you want drama, saturated colors like fuchsia, tomato red and cobalt blue make shelves pop. Or try an energetic color like chartreuse or lime green.

Paint Wood Tone Shelves

Paint Wood Tone Shelves in living room

For colored built-ins, opt for wood shelving you can paint rather than permanently stained varieties. Poplar, pine, and birch take paint well.

Sand shelves lightly before painting for proper adhesion. Choose a gloss, satin, or matte finish based on your preference.

Stick to One Color Story

Stick to One Color Story for shelving

While patterned or colorblock shelves may be tempting, one bold color is best. Sticking to a single vibrant hue keeps the look cohesive.

You can subtly vary tones of that color throughout built-ins. For example, use “blush” and “peony” to get light and dark pink shelves.

Style with Neutrals

Style with Neutrals in shelving

The key to styling colorful shelves is ensuring displayed items don’t compete visually. Keep accessories and objects minimal and neutral.

White vases, natural wood bowls, black and white photography, and greenery give the eye a resting place. Avoid clutter.

Add Contrast with Metallics

Add Contrast with Metallics in shelving

Brass, gold, and silver accents complement vibrant shelves beautifully. Try metallic frames, candleholders, vases or decor items.

Aged brass and soft gold provide warmth against cool hues like blue and green. Silver pops against warm shades like red, orange, and yellow.

Small Space Shelving: Clever Solutions for Compact Living Rooms

Small Space Shelving in living room

Don’t let a small living room deter you from great shelving. With some creativity, you can still incorporate stylish storage solutions.

Use Shelves Behind Furniture

Use Shelves Behind Furniture in living room

Take advantage of “dead space” behind sofas, chairs, and sectionals by adding shelving directly on the wall. This hides clutter while utilizing every inch.

Floating shelves mounted just above furniture work well. Opt for slim ledge shelves to avoid a bulky aesthetic.

Install Corner Shelves

Install Corner Shelves in living room

Corners become functional space with triangle corner shelves. The angled platforms fit neatly into wasted areas.

Style corner shelves with decor objects like plants, mini vases, candles, or baskets. The triangular shape adds visual interest.

Get Creative with Bookcases

Get Creative with Bookcases as shelving

Standard bookcases may overwhelm a compact room, but creative adaptations work beautifully. Consider a ceiling-height ladder-style design or narrow shelving unit.

Install bookshelves horizontally above eye-level to save floor space. You can also recess shelves into the wall for a built-in look.

Use Wall-Mounted Cabinets

Use Wall-Mounted Cabinets as shelving in living room

Wall cabinets provide enclosed storage without taking up room space. Opt for wall-mounted cabinets above seating areas or media consoles.

Glass-front cabinets maintain the airy look while concealing items. Or try open cabinets with cubbies to corral clutter.

Incorporate Multi-Use Furniture

Incorporate Multi-Use Furniture

Tables, cabinets, and media consoles with built-in shelving maximize functionality. Look for a console table with lower cabinets and upper display shelves.

Multi-use furniture consolidates storage to open up floor space. An ottoman or bench with interior shelves adds seating and storage.


With so many options, from minimalist to rustic and built-in to freestanding, shelving can make a stylish statement and provide plenty of function. When selecting shelves, consider your living room’s size, style and storage needs.

The finishing touch? Thoughtfully styling shelves to display favourite items, books, art and greenery. Well-designed living room shelving conceals and reveals, keeping rooms clutter-free while offering decor inspiration.