How to Style Wall Shelves Like a Pro

I’ve been keeping busy getting my new art studio ready to be a combination office and also display space open to the public. I’m creating a series of art arrangements for inspiration and I started with art ledges. I’ve written about modern looks for art ledges before but this time took the opportunity to create an arrangement of my own.

As I researched the issue again I noticed common techniques in the wall shelves styled by brand professionals to feature products. There are some similar strategies employed to create an interesting arrangement with a combination of five elements.

1. Framed art or photographs. Frames are either leaning, hanging, or both. As a practical element, they fill vertical space, but art is a way to showcase your unique style and personalize a space. Art or photographs are an opportunity to add both color and style (vintage, botanical, abstract, etc).

2. Books. These are stacked both vertically and horizontally on deeper shelves. Shallow art ledges don’t allow for stacking, but bookcases and deeper wall shelves do. Books are heavier so they provide 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 bring shelves to life but don’t forget about sculptural shells, textured stone or fibrous objects, and wavy or colorful ceramics.

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

I used four of the five elements to create this arrangement below with black art ledges in my studio.

Here are more examples of floating or bracketed wall shelves styled by professionals using the same five elements listed.

ballard designs


ultra shelf



pottery barn



west elm



ballard designs

I didn’t use books on mine since the ledges are too narrow but used the four remaining elements to style mine. I love how they look, mixing botanical and landscape artwork in a black and white palette.

I found these black ledges at Lowe’s and they’re surprisingly sturdy. I plan to buy another set and paint them gold. When styling, play with perspective, heights, and shapes to achieve a look you love!

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