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Question for Readers: To float or not to float

September 23, 2009

I’ve got a living room design dilemma, and I want to know what you think.  

Now that I’ve hung my enormous modern painting on one wall of my living room, the next steps are as follows:

  • Choose wall shelves to hang above glass-door credenza
  • Decide where to hang (or place) collage of black-and-white photos in black frames (currently living on hallway walls)
  • Refinish asian-style cabinet (end table) with a glossy red
  • Obtain gray sofa cover (or dye existing one)
  • Find mid-century fabric to recover ottoman and make some pillows
  • Recover lamp shades to coordinate
  • Find a fabulous grey, black, red rug (budgeted for November)
  • Finish accessorizing
  • Find new additional mid-century seating (now that my two chairs moved to the new office)

It’s those first two tasks that stumped this chump.  Below you’ll see the photo of the glass door credenza above which I’d like to hang two shelves.  Two floating shelves.  (Don’t worry, I’m fixin’ to paint this wall ASAP.)

Living Room Dilemma 3Below that you’ll see a very rough illustration of the shelf arrangement I’m considering.  Two floating shelves of differing lengths.  I have two antique cameras as well as an old-school wet-plate photograph (currently framed in silver, on the credenza) that I’d like to display on the shelves.  I will then move my old black and white family photos (hanging in hall) to the shelves.

Living Room Shelving Layout 1

(Disclaimer: The messy laptop and speakers and fall decor items will be moved posthaste.)

Dilemma:  I found that the Ikea Lack shelves I’d hoped to use do not come in a wood tone that would match my credenza.  I really want to avoid big shelf brackets because I’m trying to keep things in line with my clean and streamlined mid-century modern furniture.

Here are the options.  The shelves must be at least 10″ deep:

  • Build two floating shelves; stain to match. Upside – what I want.  Downside – a lot of work.
  • Install Ikea Ekby shelves (or my boards) with Ekby Bjarnum brackets instead.  Upside – easy peasy.  Downside – the brackets are chrome.  Not wood colored.
  • Install other shelves altogether.  Suggestions, please?

While I’m at it with this “ask the reader” business, is the current lamp too short? Should I move the lamp from the end table over to the credenza?  (It’s much taller)

Finally, what should I hang over my sofa?  I was planning to make a mid-century modern inspired art piece on a canvas.  Or maybe I should make a grouping of smaller art pieces?  I don’t want to take away from the large painting on the opposite wall, but at the same time the sofa wall can not be neglected.

Living Room Dilemma 2

Living Room Dilemma

 So, to sum up, the questions are as follows:

  1. Should I build “floating” shelves and stain them to match the credenza, or should I purchase something that isn’t quite “floating?” 
  2. Does the staggered shelf look work with the lamp, or would a taller lamp (like the one by the sofa) be better?
  3. What should I hang over the sofa?  Should I make my own art on a painter’s canvas?

Please let me know what you think!  All opinions will be fairly considered!  Thanks so much for stopping by.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2009 8:02 AM

    Love where you’re headed with this stuff! Here’s our two cents:

    On the shelves, we found one other option online that may work for you here, but unfortunately can’t speak to their quality or if the wood color is really close enough to what you want.

    Another option would be to consider getting Ikea’s black or brown-black (our bed is Ikea brown-black, and it has some faux-wood-grain to it). Since it will be hard to match woods perfectly without staining it yourself, it may be better to go intentionally different. Then you could frame your photos in wood frames that match the credenza, so you’re still trying everything back together.

    Also, we think the current lamp height is great and painting your own big canvas over the sofa sounds awesome!

    Hope that helps!

    -John (& Sherry)

  2. September 23, 2009 10:28 AM

    Hi Jane! I love your idea of shelving, but for the sake of balance I would move the top shelf to the right, and maybe have the ends of each shelf line up. (I don’t know if that makes sense) Then you won’t have a gap on the right side of the credenza, and it will balance out the weight of the credenza. I like the lamp, but since it’s hollow form I don’t know if I like it to counterbalance the heavier looking shelving.

    I know you love your big painting – why not do a mod mirror over the sofa to reflect it? I love mirrors, and I always find great ones for around $40 or thrift ones that need some spray paint, but are cute.

    Back to shelving – if you want them to be seriously weight bearing I would not go with floating shelves. We have them and we hate them. We ended up putting corner braces under some to help them out. You can always spray paint brackets to look like a wood tone, or to match a lamp or some other features in the room.

    All in all – I love your ideas and look forward to seeing the finished space.

    • Borrowed Abode permalink
      September 23, 2009 11:35 AM

      Julia – You know what, I really wanted to do my own painting but have been so unsure of what I could paint that would work with that large painting…so I LOVE your idea of the mirror instead. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I’ll see what everyone else has to say, but I bet you I go with the mirror over the sofa!

      Also, thanks for letting me know you had such trouble with weight loads on floating shelves. I don’t want to have that issue either!

    • Lisa permalink
      September 23, 2009 1:07 PM

      Mirror is a MUCH better idea!

  3. Lisa permalink
    September 23, 2009 12:51 PM

    Definitely move the lamp. With the b&w photos, I think the white shade ties in better.

    Shelves – if you have a building reuse place near you, check there. I found some wood that I used to make an open shelf bookcase. The wood is fabulous! Those you could always refinish and stain. On something like that, it would be easy. I would double the shelving; do the same thing, higher, on the other side. There are two sections in the credenza – follow that through. Plus the other side of the wall won’t look so barren. Brackets? Spray paint.

    Possibly a triptych over the couch?

    Good luck! It’s looking great so far!

  4. September 24, 2009 5:34 AM


    right, I’d go with black IKEA for the shelves, I think it will tie-in with the wood anyway and save all the work, and just my opinion but I would have them both the same length…with the stacks of b/w photos in chunky frames

    I think the sofa would look great with a mirror behind it to bounce some light around

    hope that helps, sure it will look great


  5. Rebecca permalink
    September 27, 2009 12:17 PM

    I have no advice….Just wanted to say that everything looks great! Hopefully this horrible best friend of your will come see it in person one day! Love you!


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