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Floating Shelves: Mix Function and Style

Pull off the latest design trend in your own home. Floating shelves give any room an instant update. Interior Designer, Brooke Jones, explains how to create this hip, modern look.


Why use shelves in kitchen instead of upper cabinets?

A. Budget friendly. Using open shelves in a kitchen is a simple and budget friendly way to update an existing kitchen. Instead of spending thousands on custom cabinetry, you can spend hundreds on floating shelves.

B. Floating shelves work in both large and small spaces. In small spaces they open up the site lines, making the room seem much larger. In large spaces, using open shelving will eliminate the 'sea' of cabinetry that can overpower even the most spacious of kitchens.

C. Open shelving is more efficient that upper cabinets. All the everyday items are at your fingertips and can be easily spotted versus having to rummage through cupboard after cupboard, opening door after door.

Family Room

Why use shelves in a family room?

A. Consider your loves and interests, since this is where you can show them off! Great way to display family portraits, items from travels, etc. It's a way of showing off what makes your family unique.

B. Keeps area on either side of the fireplace "open." If cabinetry was used, the wall would be too heavy and overwhelming. Also, space above the cabinetry wouldn't make sense, as the room in the example has 2 story ceilings.


Why use shelves in a bedroom?

A. Usually there is not a lot of space for display, as storage case goods (nightstands, dressers, etc.) take up the majority of the extra square footage after the bed. Shelves add additional storage/display area without taking up any of this precious real estate.

B. Break up long, bare walls with shelving.

3 Shelf Examples and Tips:

-Kitchen (Purely a functional space)

A. The #1 concern I hear from people about open shelving is "how will I keep it looking neat and tidy?" The trick is to place the items you use the MOST on the bottom shelves for easy access (bowls, glasses, salt & pepper shakers, etc.). Since these will be used and washed on daily basis, you will always have an opportunity to straighten things out (like when you're unloading the dishwasher) and nothing stays around long enough to gather dust. Place the not-used-so-much items on the top shelves since they are harder to reach.

B. EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!!! Only keep items you actually use (who actually uses a melon baller anyway?) or you think it beautiful. If you haven't used in it a year+ and you don't think the item is gorgeous-- get rid of it! (ex. Inherited miss-matched dishes? Donate them and buy all white.)

C. Always personalize your shelf, even in the kitchen. Add in layer of art behind the functional items (i.e. use large frame to display your kid's artwork, instead of hanging it on the fridge with a magnet. It's much more chic and will make your child feel even more special).

-Family Rooms/Bedrooms/Personal Spaces (Purely aesthetic space)

A. LAYER, LAYER, LAYER. Place largest items first + then medium + then small + step back and revise/edit where needed= layering formula (no one gets it right the first time, so keep playing with it until it feels "right").

B. Graduate Levels. Don't have all items the same height. Make sure you use tall, medium & short items to keep your eye flowing.

C. Golden Mean. Group like items in groups of 1s, 2s, 3s, 5s, etc.

D. Hang Shelf LOW. Most people hang their shelves too high. Make sure you hang yours to the items on the shelf are at eye level. You don't want to crane your neck up or down to view objects.

-Office (Hybrid of Functional and Aesthetic space)

A. Open/Closed Storage. Shelves are open storage but sometime you have practical items you need that aren't so pretty. Use CLOSED storage in addition to open (document boxes, baskets, files, etc.).

B. Books. Don't just line up books from left to right. This is boring and shows no creativity. Have some books vertical, others on their side, and if you have a book you particularly like, have the book front face out. Stack accessories on top of books for extra height in objects.

C. Keep functional objects pretty and pretty objects functional (i.e. pencil cup with matching pencils, not a 'catch-all' pencil cup).

D. Repeat Layering/Personalizing/Keep functional items in reach/etc.


A. DON'T over-accessorize (this is an epidemic in Utah, for some reason). Remember, "Less is more".

B. DON'T use anything you don't find to be useful or beautiful.

C. DON'T use fake flowers and plants. Instead, use natural objects, like branches, antlers, succulents, coral, etc.

D. DON'T forget to have fun! Nothing is set in stone and there are no rules- - only guidelines. Your home should be a reflection of you!

For more design ideas and a chance to enter the e-Design board giveaway, visit Brooke's blog at

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