Options for Decorative Shelves

Sally Painter
Cherub wall sconce

Shelves can become centerpieces in decorating your home. Consider going with something decorative for your shelving instead of a plain utilitarian one. This type of shelf design can add to your overall room décor by repeating or introducing a new color or design element.

8 Types of Decorative Shelves for Home Décor

There are many types of decorative shelves that you can use for every room in your home to display objects, books, framed photos and other décor items. You can use wall areas over a table, mantel, sofa/chair, toilet, bathtub, bed, and even unused corners to make a decorative vignette. Some of the shelves to choose from include pedestal, cubbies, stacked, and single styles.

#1 Pedestal and Corbel Shelves

This type of shelf is great for displaying a cherish item, candle or plant. You can use just one, a pair or more together.

  • A reproduction of a Greek/Roman capital makes a dramatic statement for a figurine, candle or plant.
  • A shabby chic, distressed, scrolling pedestal shelf that's handmade adds glamour to any elegant bedroom or sitting room.
  • An Olde World corbel shelf can be used in a country chic or formal decorating scheme.

Where to Use

You can use this type of shelf in almost any room. You can add various embellishments to them if appropriate, such as ribbon streamers, vines or flower garland. Some of the room you may wish to use this type of shelving include dining room, bathroom, bedroom, living room or foyer to display a cherished vase, figurine, candle lantern, or plant.

This shelf design can be:

  • Placed above a nightstand
  • Set above each end of a mantel
  • Hung beside the fireplace in the same fashion as a wall sconce
  • Used as step down shelving along a staircase or in a hallway
  • Set over a writing table or console table
  • Used in a grouping with framed artwork and wall art
  • Added in a group above the faucet end of a soaker tub to hold candles

#2 Combo Shelf

Shelf with sunflower

A combo shelf can include a shelf with hooks underneath for hanging hats and/or coats. It can be a combination of a shelf with drawers underneath and can also include hooks/knobs along with the drawer feature. It may even be a basket type of shelving with a highly decorative back.

  • Consider hanging a distressed shelf with decorative four drawers and five knobs.
  • A hook shelf combo with two shelves and decorative see-through sides is a classic look.
  • This metal shelf has a woodland art scene back with a bird perched on top.

Where to Use

You can use this shelf in a variety of rooms, from cottage chic to country to modern since you can find design for most styles.

  • It's a great addition for a bedroom to display collectibles, store jewelry or makeup in drawers and hang caps, scarfs and jackets from hooks/knobs.
  • Hang one in the bathroom. Place baskets and jars on shelf, toiletries in drawers and towels/robes on hooks.
  • Use the shelving unit in a bedroom to hold perfumes and display collectibles.
  • Place one in the mud room to set up a charging station on the shelf, keep up with wallets and cards in the drawers and hang keys on the hooks.
  • Set one above a kitchen desk to keep your life organized.

#3 Decorative Bracket Shelves

A single shelf that's supported by decorative brackets gives a design boost to any room while providing needed shelf space. Choose from stained to painted shelves.

Where to Use

This type of shelf can be used in any room as long as the design goes with the rest of the decorations used in the room.

  • Use a long bracket shelf on either side of the bed instead of a night stand. Add a shorter one above the longer one for a greater look. Place a lamp on the lower shelf, add a vase of flowers and various decorative objects.
  • Place a bracket shelf above a bathroom towel rack to hold baskets of extra washcloths and hand towels.
  • Set the shelf on the wall behind an end table or above a mantel for extra display space. Be sure to anchor each end of the mantel with tall object to balance the height.
  • Add this shelf in a set of three to create a wall for books, baskets, and decorative objects above a desk or work space.

#4 Corner Shelves

A great way to make use of a corner is to create a vignette with a corner shelf. Many of these include several shelves for a great impact.

Where to Use

A corner shelf is a great way to display dishes in a dining room or breakfast nook. Any space that is too small to accommodate a console table, such as a small foyer, is an ideal candidate for this type of shelving.

  • Place in a nursery or child's bedroom to hold toys, framed photos, and other items.
  • A bathroom is another choice area, placed in a sink corner to hold such things as extra soaps, bath salts, and rolled up hand towels.
  • A dining or breakfast room is ideal for a corner étagère to display china, African violets, Christmas cacti, books, and other objects.

#5 Whimsical Shaped Shelves

Where to Use

Whimsical shelves can be used in almost any room. Dress up a bathroom, add to a child's room décor, or a breakfast room.

  • Add a shelf that reflects a hobby and then display collections, such as model cars on the bridge shelf.
  • Go with a theme when selecting a fun shelf such as a whale cubby shelf for a beach-themed room. Display seashells, photos from beach vacations, and other memorabilia.
  • Display a bird figurine collection on a two shelf birdcage in a breakfast room beside a buffet, over a toilet or beside a lounge in a sunroom. Be sure to add a plant or two. Shelving unit can also be placed directly on a dresser or console table.

#6 Kitchen Sink Shelves

Sometimes kitchen sinks need a little more storage options and an over the sink shelf can be a lifesaver. This is especially true for anyone who wishes to grow herbs and doesn't have an ample window sill. You may decide to place dish washing sponges and other items in decorative wire basket. Just because they are functional doesn't mean they can't look attractive.

Where to Use

These shelves are designed to be used in the kitchen. You can use them in a home, RV, or cottage vacation home. Whatever you decide to place on the shelves, this shelf design is a desirable addition when space is a premium in smaller kitchen designs. When you pick an ornamental style, you add to the current decorating scheme.

#7 Room Divider Shelves

You can use a shelving unit to separate spaces, especially when you wish to create separate areas in a larger room. There are many styles available. Choose one that goes with your décor and can be adequately decorated to give an airy yet secluded feel.

Where to Use

This type of of shelving can be used in several rooms to create a new space for a specific purpose.

  • Place in a den to create an office or study area.
  • Set at the end of a bathroom counter to separate toilet from rest of bathroom.
  • Use a couple along an open staircase to create a wall effect.
  • Set two between two twin beds, angling the headboards to create an L-shape to the shelves. Place one bed on each end of shelving unit. Add a desk on the other side of each bed for greater space utilization.
  • Use in a one-room apartment- place at foot of bed to create faux wall effect.

#8 Leaning Ladder Shelves

A popular choice for a decorative type of shelving is the ladder shelf unit.

  • A powdered metal driftwood gray leaning ladder shelving unit is one option and it would match a masculine or minimalist decorating style.
  • An antique white ladder shelf with an X-brace will match many decorating schemes.

  • If you like the rustic look, choose an industrial shelving unit design features rough-sawn lumber and metal X-shaped brace and fittings.

Where to Use

This type of shelving can be used where you have ample floor space to allow for the space needed to accommodate the leaning design. Most don't have a footprint much larger than a typical bookcase.

  • Use in a den to hold books and art objects.
  • Place in a home office between a pair of windows or on either side of a desk.
  • Set in a kid's room for toys, books, and other items.

Create Interest With Ornamental Shelves

There are numerous places where you can use a decorative shelf. It can be used to add more than just a storage or display area; it adds to the depth of your design and creates greater interest.

Options for Decorative Shelves