Shelve It Chic

By Sharon Naylor

January 30, 2013 6 min read

An easy and inexpensive way to transform a room is to install new and stylish shelving features. You don't need to build a bookcase that extends the entire length of a wall. That kind of big, heavy feature lessens the floor space of your room and can make the space look smaller. What is trendy for interior design right now is the addition of individual shelf pieces and ledges measuring two feet, three feet or four feet in length. A single attractive shelving piece gives framed artwork a chic place to rest and a small grouping of collectibles a tasteful home.

Here are the top trends in shelf and ledge features this year, any of which would serve you well in an easy, get-it-done-in-no-time home decor project:

--Ultra-narrow shelving. A ledge that extends just two inches to four inches from the wall maintains the open and airy space of a room, especially if it's a small room. The new class of ultra-narrow shelving features a groove or a front lip that keeps frames, artwork and smaller items securely in place. Consider installing a narrow single shelf the entire length of the wall, set high to run above the windows, for the purpose of displaying artwork and collectibles the full length of the room. When painted the same color as the wall, the shelf becomes an "invisible" architectural detail that eliminates the "stuck to the wall" effect of a contrasting color.

--Rustic wood ledges. Rustic is in this season, adding a more natural look and feel to a room. Unique woods such as bayur are found in Pottery Barn collections and others, and they offer that telltale aged look of rustic charm. One top trend for rustic shelves and ledges is displaying not just one piece, but two or three in different sizes, such as a 4-footer on the bottom, a 3-footer above that and a 2-footer above that. The stacked effect maintains rustic comfort while providing a unique visual flair that's far more en vogue now than a trio of matching shelf lengths.

--Rattan. For an island-style effect, choose a wood shelf that gives the effect of woven rattan. Pottery Barn features an extra-thick mango wood shelf with a chunkier appearance, giving the look and feel of a fireplace mantle because it is six inches high, as opposed to those 4-inch-high display shelves.

--Marble top. A white marble embedded with natural crystalline sparkles, and colored veining provides a European elegance for a bathroom, kitchen or white-decor living room. With a decorative black metal brace beneath, the effect is opulent, yet still soft enough for modern decor.

--Beveled-edge shelves. The slight angles of a beveled edge add a more formal look to a shelving piece and may coordinate with other furniture pieces in the room. A style to check out is Pottery Barn's corbel decorative shelf with beveled edges, cutout corners and curved supports that, with its classic profile, adds to the architecture of a space. Pottery Barn style consultants (whom you can contact via www.potterybarn.com for your own personal decor consultations, and even send them photos of your room) say, "Use them in rows or with staggered shelves to showcase frames, books and keepsakes."

--Moulded-base shelves. Shelving pieces with decorative moulding on the bottom can coordinate with the design of moulding encircling the tops of your walls, for a polished look.

--A-frame bookcases with matching shelves above. Bed Bath & Beyond showcases a four-shelf A-frame bookcase in a trendy espresso color made from solid hardwood and veneer for a contemporary, geometric pattern. Matching small ledges above or positioned on either side extend the wood shelving effect in an eye-pleasing upward direction to continue the display of similar items, such as books, collectibles and artwork.

--Gallery-style display. The popular home decor site Casa Sugar listed the gallery wall as one of the top design trends for this year, encouraging the artistic collection of different colors and sizes of framed art arranged randomly on a wall. Narrow-edged shelving pieces or ledges can be used to create this same effect, and it may be your choice to display matching frame colors and styles -- in different sizes for visual effect -- to show off your kids' artwork and other prints or creations.

--Mix shelving units with shelves and ledges. Individual shelf and ledge pieces can be hung between two built-in bookcases, such as above a bed and situated in the middle, or small ledges could be hung next to a bookshelf to make use of staircase space and other awkward empty wall areas.

--Eco-friendly woods. Since green living is a top trend in interior design, choose eco-friendly bamboo, or borrow from prized designers who use reclaimed wood such as railroad ties and pine lengths to customize inventive shelves.

--Natural colors. The top hues of shelving pieces include mahogany, cherry wood, espresso and lighter shades such as natural, white and silver. Brights may be used in children's rooms, nurseries and now even in kitchens for a pop of color in an all-white or tan space.

The key to perfect shelving pieces is precise, level installation, which can be achieved via Pottery Barn's Simple Mount System, which includes a built-in bubble level for proper placement. The site also offers videos to help you mount your shelf pieces right the first time. A laser level can also be used to help you install your shelving.

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