Built-in ledges and cubbies are a common feature found in the living rooms of older homes. They may be built in on either side of a mantle or along the diagonal wall in front of the staircase. While the narrowness of the ledge may make it tricky to decorate, keeping a few design principles in mind will help you make the most of this useful display space that is so much a part of your home’s character. Here are suggestions on how to use motifs as well as design concepts that will create a well-integrated look.
As is the case with any design decision, first consider the overall look of your living room and consider what would be appropriate in carrying that style to your ledges. Is your room traditional, modern, country, cottage, and so on? Look for inspiration in your favorite decorating magazines, home décor websites, catalogs and even sets of your favorite movies and TV shows. Consider the size and location of the ledge: Is it in front of a window? Can it be a focal point or enhance another focal point, or will it function more as a backdrop? Is it in a precarious location where breakables could get jostled?
Design Concepts to Keep in Mind:
1. Repeat colors, shapes and textures from other areas of the room into your ledge arrangement. A color palette of three to five colors throughout the room creates a well-designed look.
2. Mixing heights of items on the shelf adds interest and movement.
3. Create balance in your arrangement. Your arrangement does not have to be symmetrical but imagine the ledge as a seesaw and offset a bulkier item with several smaller items.
4. Don’t overload your ledge with a cavalcade of accessories. Edit by color, theme, texture, size and balance and use the pieces that best capture your sense of style. Don’t be afraid to move things around and edit pieces out until you find just the right arrangement.
Here are some ideas on themes or motifs you might consider:
1. Create a photo display: Assemble generations of black and white family photos and unite them with similar frames then cluster an odd number of frames on the ledge with taller photos in the back.
2. Indoor garden space: If your ledge is in front of a sunny window, use it to nurture an indoor garden.
3. Display collectibles: Whatever you collect, amassing all of your collection in one location will give it greater impact. If your ledge is more of a cubby hole, consider re-painting the inside in a color that will make them pop. If you have a lot of collectibles, rotate your stash so there’s always something new.
4. Favorite books: Use your ledge to create a mini-library with leather-clad books. Mix the arrangement for visual appeal: Stack books horizontally and balance them with vertical volumes. Work with the shape and size of the ledge and sprinkle in a few accessories or collectibles for balance.
5. Make seasonal displays: From ceramic pumpkins to a snowman collection, you can use your shelf to keep your living room always in step with the seasons.
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