Decorating Q & A Q & A

Q & A – How To Decorate The Ledge Above A Front Door?

This reader question comes from a fellow blogger, Lori from The Stonybrook House.  And her problem in one that many, many homeowners have — the really high decorative ledge above the front door.

reader question - how to decorate ledge above front door

Here’s what Lori said:

What should I do with this space??? It’s hard to reach, except with a ladder. I’m not going to want to go up there and change is seasonally. It’s like a ledge above the door. The picture is from my staircase. I like that adding that gave me two closets on either side of my front door. But my mind is at a loss.

Kristi’s suggestion:

I’ll admit that these ledges are a real decorating headache for me, because I never know what to do with them either!

I know what I wouldn’t place up there — pictures or artwork.  That area is way too high for any pictures or artwork to really be enjoyed by you or your guests.

So I really have two different suggestions:

1.  Ignore it.

I feel like these ledges are similar to the space above kitchen cabinets.  Because there’s space there, and there’s a ledge, people feel this uncontrollable urge to put stuff up there.  Honestly, if it were mine, I would try to resist that urge.  There’s not really anything you can put up there that will make or break the decor of your house.  Guests entering your house won’t even see it.  It won’t be until they’re leaving that they’ll see it.

So just as I tell most people to resist that urge to clutter up the top of their kitchen cabinets with fake plants and tchotchkes, I generally give the same advice about these ledges.

If you decide to ignore it, I would also suggest painting it out the color of the walls to make it disappear.  Right now, the color is causing it to draw attention.  Unneeded attention, in my opinion.

2.  If you must decorate, keep it large and simple.

Just remember that anything you put up there will just be a dust collector, and you will have to get up there and dust it periodically.

For that reason, I say that if you can’t resist the urge to decorate up there, then keep it large and simple.  It needs to be large, because the space is large so whatever you put up there needs to match the scale of the area.  (So no collection of tiny little bottles or small figurines lined up along the ledge or anything like that.)  And simple because…you know…dusting.

Examples:

  • Three large (as in, really tall) glass or ceramic vases in varying heights in one corner, and one really full and pretty (and real looking) fake plant in the other corner.  (I’m not opposed to fake plants like so many homeowners and decorators are, as long as they’re high quality and look real from that height.  But resist the urge to use fake ivy or grapevine extended across the full width of the ledge.)
  • Use two or three really big (but simple!) architectural salvage pieces.
  • Add some salvaged shutters to the window to add color and texture, and forget about the ledge completely.  (Open shutters.  Not closed.)

But again, big and simple is the key.  Keep the number of items limited.  In other words, don’t just line up tchotchkes from one end to the other.  That would be way too busy and unnecessary.  Plus…dusting.

Now I know the question was about the ledge and not the lighting, but if this were my house, I’d go with option 1 (ignore and resist the urge to decorate the ledge).  Then I’d add some salvaged shutters to the window in a color that coordinates with the rest of the entryway.  (And it’s okay if the shutters are wider than the area beside the windows.  If they stand open just a bit at an angle, they’ll just take up some of that space, which is probably a good thing.)  And finally, I’d add a big, gorgeous chandelier and let that be the star of the entryway.  That way, no tchotchkies or fake plants are needed.  🙂

Those are my suggestions for Lori.  What are yours?



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55 Comments

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Xann Olsen
    February 16, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I vote ignore it and leave it clutter free.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Frances
    February 16, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Love the Shutter Idea and yes definitely a beautiful chandelier, as this will become the focal point. I love the dark brown on the ledge…..once you put the shutters up it will just create the look of another floor, albeit it small – but the 3 elements will create a beautiful non cluttered environment combined.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Vicki
    February 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    I have a huge area above my entrance that’s large enough for a children’s sitting area and I did really large fake suitcases and trucks that you can find at hobby lobby.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Beverly N.
    February 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    So this would be *more* than decorating… but how about extending it out into a loft? I saw a pinterest (I know, I know) picture where they did that and it was really cool. Otherwise, I agree, Ignore and go with a huge chandelier.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Betty
    February 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    I agree. Paint the ledge so it doesn’t catch your eye and ignore it. Interesting that there is an electrical outlet up there. The only time I might possibly decorate would be at Christmas and then only with something significant and high quality. Spend your money on a great light fixture.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Gretchen
    February 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I was in an open house recently and the homeowner put a long twisty piece of beach wood up there. Her decor was a bit nautical all over. I loved it.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Deborah Vitale
      February 17, 2014 at 11:33 am

      LOVE the wood idea! A huge piece of gorgeous driftwood, would hardly ever need dusting too. Would also go with big beautiful chandelier to match decor.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Debbie
    February 16, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Ignore, paint same color, get a new big beautiful chandelier and paint inside of front doors black or a pretty color that goes with your decor so that is you statement.
    Looks like a really great home:)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Candice Crossley
    February 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve seen where people extend the ledge and add a protective rail and then create a walkway from the top of the stairs. Have a few decorative pillows and a bookshelf for a reading nook with a view. It’s quite expensive to get a contractor to come out and run the joists and hang drywall needed for that project though so I would probably agree on big simple decor and updating the lighting to take your eyes away from the (In my opionion) most useless architectural design feature. 🙂 (THOSE LEDGES ARE SOOOOOOOO 90’S!) sorry… I had to! 😉

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Krikit
    February 16, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I’m with Candace, in that all I see is the immense potential to build a ‘loft’ area of some type by extending it. As she said, likely expensive, but it’s what I would do. I couldn’t stand for long all that lovely space going to waste! ~:)

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Krikit
      February 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Oops, sorry, misspell… “Candice.” ~:/

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Candice Crossley
        February 16, 2014 at 1:09 pm

        I’ll let it slide this time 😉 it’s actually what my parents wanted to do in their split level home years ago… but the second stairway would have been less than 36″ wide if they did, which would not have worked if anything needed to be moved up/down the stairs.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Donna
    February 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Leave it uncluttered. I agree with the big stunning chandelier/ light fixture…creative…not the usual chandelier. Then change out the windows from tacky builders grade to big beautiful…some thing to frame and do the light fixture justice. It looks plain because of the nondescript casement windows. Finally paint some color up there on the walls…again to eliminate the mundane.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Charlotte
    February 16, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    I agree….I would hang a great big, gorgeous honking light fixture….something that would draw the eye up…and let it be the focal point. Great idea to paint the ledge the same as the wall and let it disappear…rather than have it as it is now…saying….”hey, I’m here…do something with me!”
    I am so envious of your ginormous entry….I would kill to have your problem…lol! My entries are so narrow…my backside barely fits thru….it’s true….a real challenge when purchasing furniture too!

    http://queenofheisle.blogspot.ca

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Pam
    February 16, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    This may be far fetched but how about a library ladder (you have to have some way to clean it), a comfy huge cushion and overly large pillows. What a great reading nook!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Amy Green
    February 16, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I have those same ledges in my house. I went to Hobby Lobby and picked up a wooden words such as “family” and put it in the middle with two large vases on either side closer to the wall.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      KELLY
      January 27, 2018 at 12:30 am

      I know this is an old post but if you still have it up would you be willing to post a pic?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    suzette
    February 16, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I agree it would be nice to light something for Christmas. What about hanging a stain glass piece in the windows? Or, possibly, oversized candle sticks? I like the idea of vintage luggage stacked. Could include architecture pieces with the luggage.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Regina
    February 16, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    I too, have a space like this in my house. What I’ve done, is put a large antique trunk up there. I do use it for storage, as that is always at a premium. And, yes I do have to get up there and dust it, however, I’d have to dust up there from time to time anyway. My house carries that nautical theme and on the walls outside of the ledge I have a large lighthouse on one wall and across from it a equally large compass. The trunk fit in with the nautical theme. It actually belonged to a family member who arrived at Ellis Island in the 1800s.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tammy
    February 16, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    I agree, large and simple or leave it. I would leave it, basically dusting would be a nightmare, and I would rather have it look clean than decorated. Maybe painting the wall would help? instead of decorating. good luck!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kim
    February 16, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    I think you are bang on Kristi! Why highlight an awkward space? Make it blend in and highlight the light fixture instead.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Audrey
    February 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I love the stained glass idea! I think shutters are very pretty, but I would hate to block all of that natural light. Looks like a very nice home!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Dee
    February 16, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    I really like this series. Getting help for different decorating problems. For my taste I would go with Kristi’s shutters (opened and on the side) and big, beautiful chandelier to grab the attention. And for me it would get a big tree covered with lights at Christmas to enjoy from outdoors and from the stairs for the family. And I would have that outlet on a switch downstairs, of course. I am selling my house soon and back looking for another so will look at the ledges with some new ideas. I agree with the owner, it gave her two closets so well worth a little decorating.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tracy
    February 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I would never have thought of painting it to make it “disappear”, but it’s a great idea! Save your money for a wicked awesome chandelier!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Joan
    February 16, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    I’ve got three strawberry baskets on my over-door shelf. Plain and simple. W
    hat I like most is the natural wood doesn’t show dust! (I didn’t say no dust, mind you, but at least my dust bunnies will stay quietly invisible until I take ’em down!)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    lori
    February 16, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    i like two of the replies the first one was decorate for Christmas and then when that passes put up some kind of signage. please let us know/see what you end up with

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Shia Simone
    February 16, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Simple. Go with the shutter and chandelier ideas. Don’t waste a good design opportunit.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Shia Simone
    February 16, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Color glass that catches the light would be good.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lois Harry
    February 16, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I would just ignore it and go with larger chandelier but one that will be easy to clean with extended pole duster. Chandelier will catch and hold eye. After spending good money on light I wouldn’t want any competition.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Genelle McDaniel
    February 16, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I’m 100% with Kristi. Less is more. Paint the top of the ledge the same color as the wall. Shutters wider than the windows so that you have to leave them open with them filling up the space, and leaving the windows showing. Really great chandelier. And if you do go for a lighted Christmas tree use one of those new remote switches to turn it on and off. They’re really great and I use them for lamps. The one I’ve had for years worked for 3 different lamps, but the newest one I’ve bought works up to 5 outlets. Love it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathleen a
    February 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    I love your ideas Kristi of the shutters (open of course) on the ends of the windows AND the large chandelier as the focal point, but what about a wrought iron railing across it to look like it might be an inside balcony. We have a hotel in town that is like that with railings and windows with shutters inside the main gathering area. It goes up like 5 floors and looks really cool.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Colleen F
    February 16, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I like the idea of painting the shelf to match the wall/trim and getting a nice chandelier also.

    The shutter idea I am just having a hard time visualizing in my mind, so I don’t know about that one.

    I am a minimalist, so I could even just ignore it and leave it as is.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Stacey Mangum
    February 16, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    I agree. Ignore. Paint the door and alcove and add shutters to the windows. That would look great and would make the whole wall be cohesive and the ledge would disappear.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    vicky coryea
    February 16, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    I think i would get a childs red wagon and or other vintage sizeable toys.or how about some weathervanes that could be seen from the outside at nite whenlite is on.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lori
    February 16, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    This is awesome, Kristi! Thank you for choosing my dilemma! I never considered painting the ledge. I do want to get rid of that builder basic chandy. In time, its low on the list. I like the ideas of the shutters too! This is a great series, and I appreciate your advice. And to everybody that commented thank you! You all have terrific ideas!
    I’m with you….. less is MORE!
    Blessings,
    Lori

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sue
    February 16, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    I know a lot of people who have this dust collector shelf in their foyers but have only seen two that I thought were decorated to scale and looked nice. One, had a collection of childhood toys (wagon, tricycle, sled, large rag doll and a couple of teddy bears) that were arranged nicely. The other had a couple of very large vases in a contrasting color to the wall paint. I find it interesting that this one has an outlet under the window. If you don’t want to have to dust periodically pther than the shelf itself, you might want a larger foyer light fixture as your focal point. Good luck and a finished photo would be lovely.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Sue
      February 16, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      Kristi,
      I like this series of looking at someone else’s decorating dilemma and trying to come up with a helpful solution for them. I try to think of a solution and then post it. Then I go back and read what other people suggest. Sometimes I’m with the majority and other times, not so much. I hope that in the future you post photos of the before and after from some of these makeovers. Thanks.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Gem in Perth
    February 16, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    I would get a lovely big chandelier to hang in place of the existing light and leave the ledge as is.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Joanne
    February 16, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    I agree with the large beautiful chandelier suggestion. I also like the suggestion of the Juliet balcony look. However, here’s another idea to consider, where you are looking for a “more dustless” option. Create a sloped wall from a little below the windows to the edge of the existing ledge, filling the space in. Then, you could simply paint the wall and it disappears and can be wiped as easily as the other walls around it. Or, you could put up some scrolly wooden decorative piece on the new sloped wall, painted the same color as the wall. (This idea came from the thought of some of those built-in range hoods you see in fancy custom kitchens.)
    And, finally, with the ledge gone and the chandelier in place, a coloured front door would really complete the look.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lynne
    February 16, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    I think Kristi gives great advice and I usually agree with her suggestions. I have a high ledge above an entry closet and it drove me crazy. The builder actually carpeted it! How dumb is that? Well, I ripped the carpet off which was no easy task. I painted the ledge and then I found a couple of big wicker trunk like baskets. It is just enough to add interest but doesn’t look too busy. You could store stuff in them too if you needed to. Hobby lobby had really great looking big wicker trunks that kind of looked old. Those would look fantastic up there, especially if you added shutters like Kristi suggested.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rissa
    February 17, 2014 at 1:18 am

    I had exact same entrance in my previous house minus the light. I lived with it for a whole year and couldn’t stand it. I finally found a mix of decorative vases, some tall some mid size and small ones. I only arranged them on one side and they worked beautifully.
    Our ledge was all white and you could see the dust building up, our wall colour was off white more cream/butter so terracotta or Red vases worked well.

    We just drove by the house yesterday and we noticed that the current owner has fake flowers up, worst thing i could think of. We could see it driving.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Nicole
    February 17, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Great advice Kristi. I read this post, removed all of the clutter from the top of my kitchen cabinets and wow, what a difference! It is so much more open and clean looking. Thanks!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    lisa brown
    February 17, 2014 at 7:19 am

    In going to swing to the opposite direction. I like the idea of a accent colour, and since there is an outlet I works put some accent lamps on each end and some beautiful artificial greenery all the way across and slightly draping over the shelf or whatever you want to call it. I love the color of it I would just passing the wall, or wouldn’t even have to be a stark accent, it could just be several shades up from what’s already there

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kathy Showalter
    February 17, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I would my this area look like a sitting room. I would put an old rocking chair with
    maybe a small table, books on the table. Or even some old Crete boxes stacked
    with knitting needles and a unfinished scarf with the needles. But you do need to
    fill the space up there. The dust would not be an issue for me. I could see a silk
    Tall plant behind the rocking chair or in the corner behind the table. This is a great
    place to make a focal which it should be.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    lisa brown
    February 17, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Oops! Swipe is horrible today! Sorry about typos. I’m* would* paint* not passing. And ledge not shelf. :/

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    AmyF.
    February 17, 2014 at 11:30 am

    I agree with everything Kristi said-paint ledge white, keep plain, spend the decorating dollars on a beautiful chandelier you love.
    We have the same gold chandelier in our entryway and I want to replace ours. I’m toying with the idea of remaking it somehow but am stumped on what to do with it, Kristi, Do you have any ideas on how to remake this style into a more modern chandelier. I considered painting the metal, taking off glass, and adding repeating sculptural parts from the hardware store for a warm contemporary mid century feel but can’t come up with anything concrete and could use ideas. It’s possible this style can’t be remade nicely. Possibly these ideas would help the homeowner too depending on their style.
    If you replace the lamp you can re-use it in a non traditional lamp sort of way. A Pinterest idea I’ve been considering for our house is remaking this style chandelier into a stylish terrarium by laying it on its side, filling with moss and other plants and placing on a dining room table or buffet cabinet.
    At the holidays I would put on the shelf, pine branch garland with white lights since you have a handy outlet up there. Use a timer if there is not a switch for that outlet in your hallway (I bought an appliance/lamp timer for under $10 on Amazon, other than with Christmas lights I use mine with my crockpot so my steel cut oatmeal/no dairy so it doesn’t cook too long overnight) add a few large Christmas balls (kickball size) as “statement jewelry” in your holiday decorating colors along with some just a bit smaller sizes so the design doesn’t get lost. Another idea if you celebrate Christmas would be pine branch garland, white lights and a med.to large scale nativity. Our local garden center still had Christmas decor on sale for 75%off last week and I picked up some of the large kick ball size ornament balls for next Christmas (with 75%off $3.50 sale!). Maybe a store in your area would still be having sales for your seasonal decor if you this route. I remember seeing larger nativity sets at Christmas Tree Hill at the mall before Christmas. Let us know what you do with an after picture!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lyn
    February 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I’m with Lisa and Kathy – I don’t have the front-door ledge, but I do have several other display-ledges on top of closets and walls that don’t extend all the way to the vaulted ceiling, and used high-quality artificial plants – mostly vines & grape leaves, & other non-flowering greenery a lot.
    I ran grape leaves along the top of the wall between the kitchen and dining room (easy to lay a string of Christmas lights across at holiday time for some fun extra sparkle), and it looks great.
    The entry closet has a gargoyle sitting on the top of the front corner with greenery around him that extends along the two sides of the corner and hangs down over the wall just a little.
    I put a large, old, scrollwork-style metal vase and filled it with greenery that spills out and runs along the top of the pantry,
    Over another section of wall that sits under a very high part of the vaulted ceiling, I put a very large planter, and let its leaves & vines run most of the length of that wall and “drip” down along the end of the wall. It fills the space, instead of leaving it just looking empty and forgotten.
    Because I splurged a little and got very realistic-looking, good quality artificial plants, they look great, don’t need to be watered, and fit the decor of the rest of my house (which also has lots of live plants in it).

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marie W
    February 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I agree with Kristi – Avoid decorating it and switch out the light for an amazing chandelier. There are so many options – look on Pinterest for some nice ones.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    janpartist
    February 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Kristi is definitely spot on here-ignore it, maybe paint it the same color, and her idea to rev-up the chandelier is excellent! Great ideas!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Christine
    February 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Kristi, I really enjoyed this post. I actually mentioned you and your blog in my blog post today. I took your advice and got rid of all my fake ivy throughout my house….LOL….here is a link if you want to take a look
    http://littlebrags.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-copy-cat-demijohn-and-problem-with.html

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Geneva
    February 23, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    an arrangement of old antique books. vintage library look.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Elizabeth Sagarminaga
    February 26, 2014 at 6:59 am

    Hi,
    I love your wood idea and yes definitely a beautiful chandelier, as this will become the focal point. I agree it would be nice to light something for Christmas.
    keep in touch

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Michele
    March 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    If I had that kind of ledge I’d put something on it. Bare is not my style. The ideas about baskets or trunks sound good to me. If it was closed like a trunk you could even use it/ them to store cool things for Christmas in them, then utilize the wall socket to decorate with them and light the area up for the holidays.

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