Built-ins Decorating Ideas

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built-in wall unit with storage

Built-ins are a great way to utilize space that would often be lost in a room. They add an elegant touch and are a great addition to any space in your home. But what happens when it comes time to decorate and organize items on your built-ins? Many start with the best of intentions but end up creating a cluttered mess that draws the eye in a negative way. Here are some tips that will help you decorate your built-ins and avoid some of the clutter. 

Before you begin this project, it is a good idea to block out a few hours and dedicate time to your built-ins so that you can take your time and avoid some of the stress that may come with being pressed for time. 

The easiest way to tackle this project is by first taking everything off the shelves and make a big pile of stuff. Starting with a blank canvas will allow you to focus on each individual shelf without getting distracted by other items. This also lets you see everything you plan to put on your shelves in one group. 

Don’t be afraid to look around your home for different items that may work better on your built-ins or give it a fresh look. Sometimes all you need is a little bit of swapping to keep things interesting. While buying some new pieces is okay, you also don’t want to add to your clutter. Unless you can’t live without something you found in the store, think about what is already on your shelves and ask yourself “will this make more clutter?” If you do decide to purchase, it is also a good idea to get rid of something old to prevent having an excess of items. 

Adding books to built-ins adds color, texture, fills space on the cheap, and are also perfect for adding height to certain accessories. Don’t over-do it with books, just a few here and there to accessorize. Be mindful of what color spines the books have (and sometimes even their titles!) so they look good while styling. Another tip is to remove the jackets too, to see what color the spines really are, it could make a world of difference. 

Adding some greenery to your shelves will also give your built-ins a fresh and fragrant look and feel. Just be careful when watering your plants. Remove them from the built-ins to water to prevent damage, wait until they are dry, and then return the pot to its rightful place.  

Mixing and matching vases, boxes, frames, books, plants, and quirky accessories creates a layered shelf look. You don’t want to decorate with only frames, but you also don’t want to decorate with all vases. Too much of one thing isn’t good, but a little bit of all of these things is perfect. Try not to focus too much on being “matchy” but rather pairing items together that you wouldn’t necessarily go together.  

Most importantly, keep it sentimental. Add items that are important to you and your family. Pictures, recipe cards, ticket stubs- anything that is meaningful to you should be on your display. While store bought things are nice, it won’t have the same story or feeling as that photo of you and your family. 


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