Decorating a Built-in Shelf

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In our house, we have a built-in bookshelf next to our fireplace. We just have one, not one on both sides like so many houses do. It is about 4 feet wide with 4 shelves above cabinet doors.

Now that you have a visual, I want to talk all about decorating these shelves. For me, it’s really hard to decorate empty shelves. For the past 4 years, I have felt like the shelves have been too crowded, but I never really knew how to change it. It was a total hodgepodge of random decor!


Every year, I take all of this decor off at Christmas-time, and replace it with Christmas decorations…

As I was putting the Christmas decor back this year, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was determined to figure out a way to redecorate the built-in and make it less cluttered! I did some research and found some pics of ideas I liked, and tried to find items around the house to use to mimic the pictures.

Here are some of the ideas I really liked online…

Since our shelves are fairly wide, I had always decorated each level with things on the left, in the middle, and on the right. But, I didn’t like it to be too matchy-matchy and each level have items in the same spots. I wanted some open space on some of the shelves, too.

Mid re-decorating

One problem I had to work around was that there are plugs and cords in really obvious spots. I had to find items that could cover them, and put those items in those specific spots on the shelves.

Check it out now, and see below for things I did differently:

Here are some things I changed:

-The bottom shelf was always the hardest to decorate, as it holds our Apple TV box and has cords leading to the outlet that is on the second shelf. It also became a dumping place for random items- charging cables, books, paperwork, etc. From the pics I liked, I noticed how many of them had bigger baskets on the bottom. I purchased these rope baskets on Amazon, which were the perfect size for the bottom shelf! They filled the space while hiding most of the cords/Apple box. Plus, we can put excess items in the baskets!

-From the research I found, several sites suggested to follow the “odd number” rule. That means when grouping items together for decoration, keep them in groups of 1, 3, or 5. I mostly went with 3, but one would be good if you have a bigger item that would fill a lot of space by itself.

-Since I didn’t want each level to match too much (have things on the left, middle, and right), I decided to leave the 2nd shelf down empty in the middle. I would have left the middle open for the third shelf as well, but there were several outlets that needed to be covered, and one was… you guessed it… right smack in the middle! I found something small to cover the outlets in the middle.

-I tried to get a different variety of similarly-themed items. Not too many pictures; not a lot of variety of colors (mostly white, grey, and greens); I tried to keep to one theme (in my case, farmhouse-ish).

There you have it… my research and my thoughts for decorating our built-in bookshelf! I love looking at the shelves now… it doesn’t overwhelm me anymore. Hopefully you can take some of the pointers to help decorate any shelves you have in your home!


2 thoughts on “Decorating a Built-in Shelf

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