How To Decorate A Ladder Shelf

Ladder shelves are one of the best decor choices you can make in your home. Not only do they look great just about anywhere, but they also add valuable storage space. If you are wondering how to decorate a ladder shelf, start by thinking about where you will put it. According to HGTV, ladder shelves function as storage for dishes in the kitchen, towels in the bathroom, and multi-purpose space in the entryway. These shelves are particularly useful for keeping things in order if you have children or multiple people living in your home.

Likewise, ladder shelves can work wonders in your laundry room or a reading nook. If you have a book nook, a corner ladder shelf can make the space feel like home and display your books in a small space. In fact, ladder shelves are great options for smaller homes and areas with limited space due to their compact design. Unlike bookshelves and cabinets, they take up minimal floor space while holding a wide variety of objects. To take your ladder shelf to the next level, here are some great decorating tips and tricks.

Add some lighting

One of the most important things to consider when decorating a ladder shelf is the lighting. While there are many different ways you can brighten up your shelves, lamps are one of the most common types of decor. You could place a lamp near the top, if the shelves aren't too narrow, or on a lower shelf if you don't mind dimmer illumination. If lamps aren't really your thing, Apartment Therapy suggests using clip-on and clamp lighting. Since clamp lighting comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, there's sure to be one that suits your style. Plus, these versatile lights work in other places around the home and are a small space's best friend. Clamp lights can be attached to shelves or the sides of your ladder shelf, depending on what look you're going for and where you want to aim your lighting. This bookend light from Remodelista is super cute and easily fits between books and other items on your shelf.

String and fairy lights are also a great option for decorating your ladder shelves (via Decoist). While they typically don't offer much illumination, you can use this type of lighting to add charm and ambiance to any space.

Create a mini library

Books are great, so long as you have a place to put them. Decorating a ladder shelf with your favorite books is a beautiful and practical use of space. If you want your ladder shelf to look good and serve a purpose, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You should remember to vary your display when decorating with books, according to Architectural Digest. Use complementary colors, and put some of your books upright while stacking others horizontally. Choose books that speak to your personality or select classic tomes of literature — if that's your thing. If not, feel free to adorn your shelves with an eclectic mix of little-known but well-loved personal titles.

If you're not much of a reader but still want to use books to make a decorative statement, that's totally okay. According to MyDomaine, you should choose a selection of books that are all one color, or turn them so the spines face inward, making shelves look subtle and minimalist. Some used booksellers even sell books by the yard, all of one color, simply for decorating purposes.

And as wonderful as books are on their own, you can take your shelves to the next level by adding trinkets and small items to display alongside them. For example, if your book collection has a history section you could include some old-school cameras or black and white photographs.

Everything and the kitchen sink

There are many ways to make ladder shelves shine in your kitchen. According to Leaning Shelf, they help kitchens look more open by allowing the wall to peek through the items on display. However, when it comes time to decorate your kitchen ladder shelf, you have two big choices to make. Do you want practical items you use often close at hand? Or do you want to fill it with decorative items you rarely use? While this is certainly a personal choice, there are some decorating tips to keep in mind for both styles.

Maybe you're an avid cookbook user. Or perhaps you're just a collector, who buys the books with all the best intentions and then never uses them. Either way, you can display your cookbooks on a ladder shelf in your kitchen. If you use your cookbooks, you probably want your nearest and dearest close at hand. Stack the ones you use all the time on the bottom shelf, and perhaps top them with bowls you're likely to use with the recipes. If you prefer to look and not touch your cookbooks, arrange the titles according to complementary colors or cooking type.

Organize your space like a spa

Perhaps no place needs space-saving storage as much as your bathroom. While you can definitely utilize wall storage for your towels and other small items, there's still the question of where to put larger objects. Ladder shelves are a great option for storing items of all sizes, and many are crafted out of materials designed to withstand steam and water from your showers and baths. Even if you already have enough storage space for all your things, Better Homes and Gardens suggests creating a spa-worthy display to make your bathroom feel more relaxing. Filling a ladder shelf with bath salts, bombs, some eucalyptus or lavender in a pleasingly colored vase, and a stack of plush, color-coordinated towels will make your bathroom a soothing escape.

Plants are also a good way to create a lush, spa-like feeling. According to Bob Vila, many houseplants like aloe vera and pathos grow well in humid environments. Ladder shelves in your bathroom give you the option to bring some of these plants into your bathroom and create a zen atmosphere.

Decorating ladder shelves with baskets is another option to create a spa-like environment in your bathroom. Simply scatter baskets on the shelves and stock them with cotton balls, cotton swabs, and other essentials. 

Relive your favorite moments

Decorating ladder shelves with photos of your favorite memories is a great way to remember them and spark conversations with friends and family. Whether your ladder shelf is in your bedroom or living room, Comfy Cozy Home explains that shelves are a fantastic place to share framed photos of moments you never want to forget.

You can decorate shelves with wedding photos, baby photos, or pictures from recent travels. Or, you can style the rungs of the ladder with photos from different special events or stages of your life. Maybe dedicate shelves to your childhood, graduation, or time spent studying abroad. You can also display pictures of your friends, family, partner, or children to make this space feel like home. Fill in the empty spaces with corresponding knick-knacks and decorate with artwork that complements the images you've chosen to display. For example, if you are showcasing photos from a beach vacation, decorate the surrounding space with seashells or other nautical-inspired pieces.

Travel the world with your decor

There are plenty of ways to bring travel into your home. According to Great Wide Somewhere, you can decorate with scratch off or pin maps, prints, and framed photos from your last adventure. A ladder shelf is the perfect place to display all those great things you brought back from your latest trip, too. Or, if you don't have the time or money to travel, decorate with items that inspire your wanderlust or desire to explore the world. Display a collection of travel magazines or pictures of places you'd like to visit, or adorn shelves with mini globes. While vintage suitcases might be too big to fit on your shelves, you can decorate with travel guides or objects from faraway destinations like a Brazilian Teak bowl.

If you're lucky enough to travel the world, you can fill ladder shelves with memorabilia. While travel photos are always a good idea, you can create a travel display of diaries filled with ticket stubs. Tiny maps or artistic renditions of destinations you've visited would also make lovely additions to this type of display. Or, if you're not from the country where you currently live you could also include relics from your country of origin.

Brighten any space with flowers

During dark and dreary winter months, flowers have the power to remind us that spring and summer are on the way. According to Bright Side, adding live and dried flowers to your home brightens the gloomiest of days. Ladder shelves are a great place to display flowers, whether you place them in glass jars or canisters, fill romantic teacups, or let buds peek out from the tops of candlesticks. You can also put your flowers out loose in a vase, although this option has the shortest shelf life.

If you live in a wet climate, displaying your flowers in rain boots is a unique and peppy option. If you're on the coast or just love the ocean, shells in small jars full of flowers are a great choice.

If you wish to decorate with dried flowers, display them in vases or other small displays. Pebbles and sand are suitable bases, since they help the flowers stand upright while adding artistic flair. If you love the look of pressed flowers, frame and display them with your photos or travel-themed objects (via Uncommon Goods).

Woven and wicker storage

If you're more interested in storing things on your ladder shelf than decorating it, HGTV suggests using baskets. Since baskets come in almost endless sizes, shapes, and colors, you can easily use them for shelf storage and decoration. A good styling tip is to arrange baskets of different sizes and shapes on shelves, while sticking to one color per shelf. Best Shelving Units recommends using wicker baskets, as they are versatile and easy to find. When decorating, you can create a stunning display by varying light and dark shades on different steps of your ladder shelf. 

When it comes to filling your baskets, the world is your oyster. All different kinds of things can go in the baskets, helping to cut down on clutter. While this style will work anywhere, it's best in cramped or heavily trafficked spaces like a hallway. Try putting a ladder shelf in your entryway and add baskets filled with items that typically fill this space, such as shoes, gloves, hats, and scarves. If clutter is getting the best of you, a ladder shelf could be just the solution you've been looking for.

Use as home office furniture

If you're working from home, ladder shelves provide ample storage space for all the things you need in a home office. As so many of us have learned in the past two years, storage is essential when your home includes an office and things can quickly get out of control without proper organization. To make ladder shelves work in your home office, decorate them with woven boxes that can be used as file boxes and wood boxes for the paperwork you're currently handling. According to HGTV, using vertical space is key to creating a successful home office that works as hard as you do. Knowing where all your things are will keep you focused on the task at hand rather than spending valuable time trying to locate lost items.

If you share the space with your kids, ladder shelves can work double duty. Adding an additional ladder shelf to the space for storing kids' toys will help maintain the balance between work and play.

Build a beverage cart bar

While you unfortunately can't wheel a ladder shelf over to your serving area, it still makes for an excellent bar cart. According to Bob Vila, designing your own bar cart is a great way to spend a weekend. Plus, there are plenty of fun ways to decorate ladder shelves with your beverage of choice. Install a wine rack on one of the wider bottom shelves or just group wine bottles together, perhaps by reds, whites, and roses. Maybe line the bottom shelf with those wines you are saving for a special occasion or put your high-end liquors here — the reverse of a "top shelf" at the bar.

The upper shelves are a good place for housing your glasses and stemware. Or you could add some accessories like ice buckets, corkscrews, and coasters next to your other beverage accessories, or look for alcohol, wine, or beverage-themed artwork to weave throughout your display. Since books look great on ladder shelves, you could add some titles about mixology. Cocktail recipes would also make a lovely addition to this display, or wine charms, either laid out individually or attached to glasses on a shelf. Additionally, you can use cloth napkins as decorative items alongside liquor bottles or glasses, or perhaps underneath them.

Keep things simple

As reported by Enjoy Travel Life, the key to a successful minimalist design is to keep things simple. When decorating ladder shelves with minimalism in mind, you can use any items you want — books, baskets, photos, art, knick-knacks, glasses, and alcohol. The point is to only decorate with a few items you really love. You can't really do minimalism wrong, unless you display too much stuff.

To really knock this design theme out of the park, carefully curate your selections and keep your shelves looking clean and contemporary. Use just a few colors with a few small plants or knick-knacks. Sticking to just one or two colors will keep the lines of your shelves open and your decorations looking clean and crisp. For a modern and minimal look, decorate with a small assortment of books or a couple of oversized items. If you already have a ladder shelf and want to make it more minimalist, Woah Style suggests removing everything currently on the shelves and starting from scratch. By carefully selecting the items you want to keep on display, your ladder shelves will look chic and refreshed.

Organized clutter works too

While minimalist design tends to favor a less is more approach, farmhouse style is quite the opposite. Lakeside View explains that checked and heavy fabrics, candles, and bright colors reign supreme in this style. To decorate your ladder shelves with a farmhouse aesthetic, fill your shelves without overstocking them. Stack books and place items like candles and plants on top. Or you could layer items, putting larger items in the back and smaller, shorter pieces in the front. In this casually cluttered style, mismatched colors tend to work best.

When selecting candles, Casual Luxury Home suggests varying colors, shapes, and sizes to create the most compelling display. Ceramics, pottery, and collectible items all contribute to a charming ladder shelf display. If you have the opportunity, add risers to your ladder shelf to make them more eye-catching. Plants also work well in farmhouse designs. You could use a wide variety of them on the same shelf or spread them out around other items on your shelf. Greenery is an excellent opportunity to fill your space with color.

Reinvent the toy box

A ladder shelf can be a busy parent's best friend, providing a place for your kid's toys. According to Home BNC, you'll get the most bang for your buck by filling ladder shelves with storage boxes or baskets, or choosing shelves that include built-in drawers or receptacles. It's also important to teach your children where things go on the shelves, whether you designate one shelf for stuffed toys, board games, and so on. Baskets are a great place for storing random items that don't fit into any category and smaller toys like blocks. Plus, they open up extra floor space and reduce the risk of tripping over small items like Legos.

Storables suggests using boxes, bins, and baskets to reduce cleanup time. Items can be quickly swept into these bins and organized later. As your kids grow up, they can also decide which objects go in the baskets and rearrange the ladder shelf to reflect their personal tastes.

A place to display your collectibles

While some people prefer spreading their collections throughout the entire house, Storables explains that treasures actually look better when grouped together. A ladder shelf is the perfect place to display your collection in one place. There are a few ways to make this tip work for you. You can group items by color, style, or type, as long as you are careful not to overfill shelves. Remember, you are displaying decorative items, not filling a shelf at the grocery store.

One way to avoid over-cluttering shelves is by keeping smaller collectibles in glass jars or grouping them together. Gather Home and Design shows us some larger knick-knacks capable of holding small items. This is a beautiful way to create a themed and curated display.

Having a plan always makes decorating more manageable, and these tips can help you make the most of a ladder shelf. Try one or more of these ideas, and you'll likely be back for more tips on how to decorate your next ladder shelf. Maybe your next one will be in a different room or used in a surprising new way.