17 Shelving Ideas For A Living Room To Elevate Your Space

shelving ideas for living room

These 17 shelving ideas for living room will help to elevate any space, whilst adding ample storage and a perfect place to display your aesthetic style.

Where space is a premium in a living room, anywhere that can house extra storage and conceal it is a godsend. Through styling a living room, adding shelving is one of the best ways to a) elevate the space and draw the eye up b) add additional storage and c) bring a design aesthetic to the room, allowing you to display your favourite decorative accessories.

I am a huge advocate for shelving in living rooms and it can totally transform the way a room looks with minimal work involved.

Get ready to style and shape your living room with these gorgeous 17 shelving ideas for living room that will look like a pro designed them.

17 Shelving Ideas For Living Room To Elevate Your Space

1.Soften With Curves

If you have alcove space to build into, there’s not just a traditional way to do it.

I personally love creating an arched alcove within a dead space, it softens the room and creates a really modern, and laidback look in the space.

This style of curved shelving is best for modern and transitional spaces which are more accommodating for this style of modern, contemporary curvature.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: ILIV

2. Elevate With Rustic, Wooden Tones

Create a set of shelves within an alcove with raw, natural wooden planks of wood. This style of shelf brings warmth and depth to the alcove and can really help to break up the monotony of an all white room.

Dress with your favourite decor accessories, but do add a spattering of black accents to bring definition to the shelving and a modern touch to the living room.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: Furniture and Choice

3. Alcove Shelving & Cupboard Built In

If you have dead alcove space, one of my favourite ways to transfer this dead space is to build into it. Not only does it maximise storage space available, but if fitted correctly it can make it look like this part of the room always existed.

This is a shot from our own living room renovation in our Victorian terrace house. By building in a cupboard at the bottom we created ample storage for the bits and bobs that don’t have homes. Out of sight, out of mind.

We then elevated this section with space for 4 shelves, styled with a mix of rustic accessories, defining black details and a touch of something vintage for a transitional look.

If you’re looking for some tips on how best to style shelves, I’d definitely head over to my post on how to style a console table which touches on very similar principles for styling shelves.

shelving ideas for living room

4. Add A Touch of Modernity With A Corner Unit

So, what about more modern living spaces or new builds which don’t often have alcove space? There are still plenty of opportunities to introduce some gorgeous shelving to the space, and I love this idea for dressing a corner.

A corner unit is a great choice for a larger living room that can carry a unit of this size. It will instantly lift an otherwise dead corner, and maximises the space you do have.

With a large area to fill, you can create divides with larger items such as boxes, large decorative accessories or a big stack of books.

Remember to mix up the items you do have on display and of varying heights to create visual interest and balance on the shelves.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: Shelved

5. Rustic Shelving Ladder

Ladder shelves are the perfect piece of furniture for rooms where shelves may otherwise feel awkward in the space. They become a feature of the room and can be positioned wherever makes the most sense in your living room.

These rustic shelves would make the perfect addition in an industrial or modern space, as the iron material of the ladder brings a defining look to the space.

Top with terracotta pots for a rustic edge, frames, books and some real foliage for a nod to the natural world.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: Vincent and Barn

6. Modular White Shelving

Not all shelves are born equal, and a shelving unit with different sized divides adds greater visual interest than just one long shelf to fill.

If you are struggling to fill a blank wall in a living room and aren’t privy to alcove space, adding a static set of shelves like this will solve your conundrum, and bring some depth and character to your otherwise blank space.

When styling the shelves focus on a few key pieces and work your way out from there, always start with more items than you will eventually need so you can carefully edit, revise and create the perfect set of styled shelves.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: Shelved

7. Keep It Simple With Picture Shelves

It’s not all about chunky shelves in a living room. Picture shelves are a simple, yet highly effective form of shelving in a living room.

Add a couple or a few rows of picture shelves on an empty wall or on the sofa wall and stack with your favourite prints, trailing plants and any other small decor accessories that the shelf can take.

This creates a well layered and elevated space that can introduce an abundance of colour and character.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @tuliphousestudio

8. Colour Blocking

Painting an entire alcove unit the same colour is the more common route, but even with expert styling it can still make a room feel flat, and lack depth.

By colour blocking the base cupboard in a bold, contrasting shade, it instantly elevates and brings some warmth and colour into the living room. I love this coastal shade, and it works so well with the laidback and nautical inspired elements on the shelves.

Driftwood is a great element for a set of shelves, it helps to fill a space, whilst the scale will differ greatly with your other accessories, giving greater visual interest.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @akinteriorsdesign

9. Media Wall Shelving

Media walls are continuing to see a huge uptake in living rooms, they’re a great solution for new builds that lack character, and they have the benefit of housing a TV unit and shelving too.

From a designers perspective, I am not a huge advocate for media walls, there I said it.

I feel like in 20 years time this will be the one element you will see being ripped out of every house. If you have a large living room they can work well, but you will lose a proportion of your living room to create the frame for this, so they are not an sensible option for smaller living rooms.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @ourrosedalehome11

10. Sage Green and White Shelving

Sage green reigns supreme in living rooms, it’s a restorative and well balanced colour that makes it perfect for a relaxing living space.

Mix with white shelving units for a soft, complementary contrast. Pair with neutral decor accessories, grey and wooden tones for a rustic finish.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @newhome_oldhouse_

11. The Ultimate In Modern Styling – Curves & Black Accents

Bringing a touch of modernity to your shelving game in your living room has never been so easy. This sleek, curved and black beauty adds a refined and focal feature in a living room.

Combined with the glass doors, it adds further visual interest, allowing the inside contents to gleam through. The rich wooden inner of the unit creates a sumptuous contrast that adds overall definition to the room.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @letiziasophiejung

12. Box Them In

As I will mention throughout this article, there isn’t just one way to to do built in shelves.

Mixing up one length shelves with box divides makes the space feel more uniformed, yet at the same time it actually makes styling this size of shelving much easier to execute as smaller decor accessories, and often one off pieces look best in these single compartments.

Opening up to one long length shelf at the bottoms stops the space feeling monotonous and is a favourite spot for storing rustic, rattan baskets.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @halfway_wholeistic

13. Mix The Depth of Shelves

Create your own balance and visual interest on built in shelves by mixing the depth of shelves.

It’s all too easy to rush in and creates shelves that have an equal divide between one another, but think about function, as well as aesthetics here.

A larger bottom shelf is a great idea if you plan to have a lamp on display or a series of frames that demand more height.

By layering with shorter shelves above it also helps to draw the eye up and create far greater visual interest than same height shelves.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @athomewiththelloyds

14. Black Shelving Unit For Definition

Out of all the shelving ideas for living room, this is probably one of my favourites. The sheer simplicity and beauty can totally transform a room.

A black unit like this is just the perfect addition to a modern or transitional living space, the colour brings a defining accent and when paired with other black items around the room, it will create a cohesive feel.

Top with your larger items placed in the middle, with a series of object beneath of differing heights to create visual excitement.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @sagephillipshome

15. Wall Length Shelving For Serious Presence

Larger living rooms demand carefully executed zones, and filling blank walls can often feel like an impossible conundrum.

One way to instantly add some design inspiration to a large empty wall is to build a fitted length of shelves and cabinetry to the wall.

It creates ample space for styling, and displaying books – a large space like this must be practical after all too! Use the bottom section to build in cupboards for some really generous storage to keep things hidden.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @georgiewykehamdesigns

16. Double It Up

It’s worth thinking outside the box if you are designing shelving within an alcove, it pays to be different and do something that will create better visual interest.

This perfectly executed alcove space, combines a double arch of shelving to create individual, smaller pockets of space which are arguably easier to style than expansive lengths of shelves.

The result is often a better edited set of shelves that will instantly draw the eye in as you enter the room.

If you are creating a stand out alcove like this, invest in some good quality picture lights to really enhance the area.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @pollyashman_design

17. Wall Mounting Shelving

If space is a premium in a living room, wall mounted shelving is a savvy way to create more storage without implicating your floor space.

Plus, it will help to split up the monotony of one colour walls, allowing you to inject some colour and personality into your styling. This type of shelving is most suited to modern and contemporary living rooms.

shelving ideas for living room
Image credit: @kristina.ahoi

Where Should Shelves Be Placed In Living Room?

If you are opting for wall mounted shelves that are not within an alcove space or unit in a living room, position them at eye level, but slightly above head height to help draw your eye up the room as you enter. This will give the illusion of higher ceilings and a larger space.

Before You Go…

Have a dead alcove space in your living room just made for shelving? I personally find building into the space is one of the greatest ways to seamlessly use the areas, and a bespoke fitted shelving and alcove unit doesn’t have to cost the world if you’re thrifty with DIY.

In the below post I show you exactly how we created this set of shelves and cabinet in our own living room.

How to build a cupboard in an alcove

alcove shelving
Photo of author


Nicole Sage

Nicole Sage is the founder of Sleek-chic Interiors and is a highly experienced interiors writer and skilled home renovator who has a passion for all things design. She has been featured as an authority at Pinterest, Ideal Home, Daily Mail and in countless other interviews. For 8 years, Nicole has written, observed key interior trends, renovated and undertaken interior short courses at the renown KLC school where she has gained her grounding interior design principles. With a keen eye for detail and a love of creativity, she shares her expertise on the latest interior trends, practical DIY tutorials, and styling inspiration to help others transform their homes into stunning spaces. With a commitment to delivering informative and engaging content, Nicole inspires and empowers readers to explore their own unique sense of style and create beautiful, personalised interiors. Contact her at hello@sleek-chic.co.uk for interiors advice, colour questions and any commentary.

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