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Decorate a Shelf / Ladder Shelf Like a Pro

When it comes to decorating, there are no rules, just merely suggestions. And even those suggestions can be adjusted. For those of you where the idea of decorating gives a chill down your spine, I'm here to break it down in a simple, easy, and fun way. Let's start by learning some basics when it comes to decorating a shelf (or ladder shelf).


Shelves are a way to showcase your creativity, unique touch and interests. Be as creative as you'd like and/or tie in elements and colors from around the room to keep the look cohesive.

Decorating a shelf can be tricky if there are height restrictions, so before you start buying anything, take measurements so you know what you have to work with. I also recommend taking pictures of your shelf so you can easily reference it when at a store.

When decorating a shelf, you can make it as simple or complex as you'd like - both can be effective and memorable. Arrange and rearrange the items until you are content with the overall look and feel. Here are a some ideas to get your creative juices flowing and add interest to your shelf/shelves. Consider this an extensive list akin to the Golden Corral buffet... pick and choose what you'd like to focus on... ;) (P.S. I've never actually been to this fine establishment before, this is just heresy from hubs and his analogy after reading the below list...)

  • Incorporate a variety of heights

  • Combine objects with various sizes and shapes

  • Add a plant, multiple plants, branches, or faux plants / trees

  • Create small groupings that combine items with different sizes, colors, shapes, and textures

  • Even though items grouped into odd numbers keeps things ironically balanced to the eye, sometimes having items in pairs can be aesthetically appealing as well

  • Overlap items to allow for more space as well as add visual appeal to groups

  • For multiple shelves, tie in elements that coordinate into each shelf

  • Incorporate a statement word, quote, or inspirational sign

  • Carry the theme throughout the shelf/shelves

  • Incorporate different textures and designs

  • Adding multiples of the same object spaced on opposite sides and ends (ex. top right and bottom left) can add symmetry and provide balance

  • Sometimes less is more so that the shelf doesn't become overcrowded and too busy

  • Space between objects can add to the overall setup

  • Think outside the box and use your creativity to showcase your unique interests and style

  • Whimsical or unique items can serve as a conversational piece

  • Keep scale in mind to choose objects of the right size that are visually appealing and fill up the space

  • Picture frames placed in various orientations (horizontal and vertical) are an easy way to bring in a variety of shapes and sizes

  • Use stacked books to create height, elevate items, and add color

  • For a large shelf or mantle, hanging a mirror or piece of artwork can add a nice backdrop with which to work with

  • Use a repetitive color throughout to create harmony

  • If still needing ideas, think about your location, history, and scenery (such as the coast, mountains, lake, desert, etc.) to incorporate those elements to tie in your location

In many homes, a mantle or statement shelf may be the first thing guests notice upon entering a room, such as a living room. Because of this, keeping some items neutral while swapping out other items to reflect the different holidays and seasons is a fun way to keep things interesting and fun.


To check out mantle decorating ideas and inspiration, click the following link, Decorate a Mantle like the Pros.


This ladder shelf has been one of my favorite additions. We swap out the decor, depending on the season. For this look, I created the display with 80% of what I already had around our home and repurposed a few items to new places.

The P-E-A-C-E lettered votive candle holders from Pottery Barn have been in my Christmas collection for a few years now, but I find a new spot for them every year. When lit (with battery-operated votives for safety), the letters glow and give a subtle calming effect.

Adding a few more matching trees in varying heights to the room can tie the theme all together.

Ladder Shelf: Hobby Lobby

Rustic Christmas Trees: Hobby Lobby

"Good Tidings" Sign: Marshall's

"P-E-A-C-E" Lettered Candle Holders: Pottery Barn

"Love" Sign: TJ Maxx

"Peace on Earth" Sign: HomeGoods

Ribbon: Michaels

Battery Votive Lights: Hobby Lobby


Even though these shelves and spaces aren't decorated with Christmas items, I wanted to provide some other inspiration and ideas of how to decorate shelves. I've included a few shots of various shelves in our home to give you an idea of different ways to group items and how to incorporate different sizes, shapes, colors, and textures.

Here is another example of how we decorated our ladder shelf for the spring. After looking around our home and in our remaining wedding decor bin, I was able to fully decorate this shelf just by repurposing and relocating a few items to make this shelf look complete. The items found new life in their new home while giving the room a new look as well. The only extra purchase I made was for the hooks to hang the ladder shelf.

Sunroom Collage

The spare flowers were leftover from decorating the office. The flower pot was originally on our patio, the vases were from our wedding, the "S" and teal glass vase were just waiting for a home, and the other items were scattered around our home. I even used two old finials to prop up the "&" and the "S" to give them a little height. I'll do my best to remember where most of these items came from originally:

Ladder Shelf: Hobby Lobby

picture frames: HomeGoods

vases & decor: HomeGoods

"&" wooden letter: HomeGoods

faux flowers: Pottery Barn

faux flowers: Hobby Lobby

vintage clear frosted vase: Omaha's Real Deals

"s" metal letter: Michaels

Flower Pot: Ross

Thanks for reading! To check out additional ideas and inspiration for decorating a mantle, check out my post, How to Decorate a Mantle Like a Pro. For more home design ideas, click the link to check out a tour of our Newlywed Home Makeover or click the link to check out fun and festive Christmas Decorating ideas!

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This lifestyle blog is a sampling of my many passions and interests that are a reflection of my soul essence.
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