ne of the most common interior design dilemmas I have come across over the course of my interior design career is how to decorate a large wall in a way that fills up the space without making it look overly cluttered. It can be overwhelming. Either you feel like you need to cover the entire wall with artwork and it becomes sensory overload or you focus on decorating a small localized area with items spaced too close to each other which ends up making the wall look even larger.
To strike a balance between these two extremes, I have found that adding dimension in the form of floating wall shelves works beautifully.
Here are a few pro tips that will help you create a more beautiful and functional Military home.
Color & Placement
When deciding on a shelf color, consider what pieces you have in your room. If you have dark furniture or pieces that are a mixture of colors, I recommend going with white which goes with just about everything. For a more rustic look, choose a light natural wood color or a whitewashed gray.
Floating shelves come in a wide range of sizes. I have found that a shelf depth of between 5.5”-9” (Target and Walmart have well-priced ones that are easy to hang and sturdy) works best, it is wide enough for small decor pieces but not so wide that it juts out too far from the wall.
The appropriate number of shelves to use and their placement depends on your furniture arrangement and wall size.
How to Work Around a TV
Note the height of the shelves in these pictures: My clients had small children, so we strategically placed the shelves out of little-hands’ range. Down the line, when your children are older and you don’t have to worry about shelf decor becoming play toys, you can always add lower shelves.
Image 1: In the original arrangement, the TV was not centered, so I staggered two floating shelves in the large open space to the right of the TV, and placed one above the TV.
Image 2: Again the TV was not centered on the wall, but the large space I needed to fill was to the left of the TV so I staggered two shelves on that side and placed one above the TV.
Image 3: This time, the TV was centered on the wall so I decided to go with an overall symmetrical look and hung two shelves at the same heights on either side of the TV.
What Makes Floating Shelves Such a Good Choice?
Floating shelves can be used in other spaces in your home, not just around a TV. They are versatile and can be functional if you need them to be. They are a great way to create display space for decor and photographs especially when you are short on space and don’t have room for a bookcase or console table. For example, only a sofa and coffee table could fit in the small seating area I arranged off a base-housing kitchen. This was my solution:
Image 4: I hung two floating shelves above the sofa to create a way to display decor and picture frames.
I have used floating shelves in just about every kitchen or dining room project I have done in base housing because there always seem to be a serious shortage of cabinet space.
Image 9: Wine glasses hang from wire glass racks that were mounted to the bottom of the floating shelf that hangs above a bar console I styled.
Image 6: I used two large shelves mounted above a kitchen buffet to display cute kitchen serving pieces mixed in with farmhouse decor for a base housing kitchen.
There is no rule book on what kind of decor you can or can’t use on wall shelves. I always encourage clients to incorporate family photos as well as pieces of decor or sentimental items that have personal significance to them. I mix these with store bought decorative items of varying sizes that match my client’s style.
Some examples of sentimental items you could incorporate in your wall decor:
- Shadow boxes: A great way to display items that can’t be framed. I used one to preserve and display a rose my husband gave me when he came home from deployment. The possibilities are endless! You could display your wedding bouquet, or military coins, medals or patches, items you’ve collected during family trips, things your children have made, etc.
- Maps: So many options! You could cut out the shape of states you have lived in using maps from those states and frame them or frame a map specific to a place that has significance to you like the map of Newport, RI’s harbor to the left of the TV in in the “After” photo in Image 1 above. Or save map(s) you used while on vacation (I framed and hung maps my husband and I used during our honeymoon)
- “Artwork”: It may have been made by your children, yourself or your spouse when you were younger.
Image 7: I framed a journal entry my husband made at a young age that says “When I grow up I want to be an airplane pilot”, and hung it next to his Naval Aviator certificate in our office.
Once you have selected the decorative items you want to place on the shelves, you still need to fill up the wall space around them. To avoid the overly cluttered look, try to stay away from using too many small pieces/frames. I like to hang medium-sized pieces of artwork or larger gallery frames. When hanging the shelves, I recommend keeping at least 12 inches of space between shelves to allow for 8” 10” or 11”x14” frames to hang between them.
Here are a few more easy and inexpensive DIY suggestions for ways to add dimension to your walls customized to your style:
- Hanging, glowing lanterns: Select a lantern style you like, place some battery powered string lights in it, attach it to a piece of wood with a hook of your choice and hang it on your wall.
Image 5: I used a lantern from Amazon, an iron hook from Hobby Lobby, and a small wood plank from Michaels.
- Greenery or florals:
- Place a large floral blossom in a color of your choice (I used a pink hydrangea) in a mason jar and then hang it from a piece of wood or small shutter with a hook and nautical rope (both from Michaels)
- If you want something larger for your wall, attach a metal floral container (these are from Hobby Lobby) to an old shutter, fill it with some large floral stems in whatever color you like and finish it off by attaching a burlap bow to the top of the container
I hope that I have been able to provide some inspiration and guidance for the challenge of decorating a large wall! Don’t be discouraged if you feel like you don’t get it right at first, it took me a lot of trial and error to get to a place where I feel I can confidently tackle a large white wall. You will get there!