How to Style Wall Shelves Like a Pro

I continue to be busy getting my new art studio ready to be a combination office as well as feature space open to the public. I created a series of art arrangements for inspiration and I started with the edges of the art. I’ve written about modern looks for art edges before, but this time took the opportunity to create my own setup.

As I researched the issue some more, I noticed a common technique on wall shelves set up by brand professionals to highlight products. There are several similar strategies used to create interesting arrangements with five-element combinations.

1. Framed art or photos. Frames can tilt, hang, or both. As practical elements, they fill vertical spaces, but art is a way to showcase your unique style and personalize spaces. Art or photos are an opportunity to add color and style (vintage, botanical, abstract, etc).

2. Book. These are stacked both vertically and horizontally in deeper shelves. The shallow art ledges don’t allow stacking, but the deeper bookcases and wall shelves do. Books are heavier so it provides weight to allow for lighter contrast elsewhere.

3. Decorative objects in various shapes. Since books and artwork are square or rectangular, adding objects with curves, sheen, and texture keeps the arrangement interesting.

4. Organic elements from nature. Plants are the easiest way to liven up a shelf, but don’t forget sculpted shells, textured stone or fibrous objects, and wavy or colorful ceramics.

5. Negative space. To avoid a cluttered look, it’s important not to show too much and to give the object room to breathe and the eye a place to rest.

I used four of the five elements to create the settings below with black art borders in my studio.

Here are more examples of floating wall shelves or brackets laid out by the professionals using the same five elements listed.

ballard design

super rack

pottery warehouse


western elms

ballard design

I didn’t use the book in mine because the edges were too narrow but used the remaining four elements to style mine. I love the look, mixing botanical and landscape artwork in a black and white palette.

I found this black edging at Lowe’s and it’s surprisingly sturdy. I plan to buy another set and paint it gold. When styling, play with perspective, height, shapes to get the look you love!

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