Happy Friday everyone!
I’m here today to share some tips for how to style shelves. Knowing what to display on your shelves and how best to arrange these items can be a little daunting. Styling a shelf is like creating a piece of art. But you don’t have to be an artist to do it well. And even though there are no strict rules for how to do it, I’ve come up with a few guidelines that I think work well and will get you over the fear of styling a shelf.
I bought a multi-shelf unit for our sunroom and I finally got around to styling it to be a purposeful, pretty display that’s also meaningful to us. Just like anything in your home, your shelves should reflect your style. Looking on Pinterest and in magazines for ideas is helpful, but ultimately your style should be a reflection of you.
STEP 1. Figure out what you like. Instead of just filling the shelves with random pieces, I try to figure out what I really like and what’s meaningful to me. This is where you can search blogs, Pinterest, and home decorating magazines for what catches your eye. Then write a list to help you streamline your ideas. Keep in mind where your shelf will be displayed. Is it in a kitchen? A bedroom? Or a sunroom like mine? A sunroom may have more natural and airy items and colors, where a bedroom might have a warmer and cozier feel. Wherever your shelf is going, be sure to make your items purposeful and not just pretty.
My list looked like this:
– blues, neutrals and grays
– burlap and natural elements
– pop of color like red or orange
– nautical items
– distressed wood
– initials, signage and thoughtful art prints
– place for small games and some storage
STEP 2. Shop your home. You don’t necessarily need to buy new items. Once I have my list of items, I start searching my house for things that fit that description. If you have to go shopping, HomeGoods is always a favorite of mine. Be sure to bring your list and check out the discount aisles first. You should also look in all departments such as kitchen and even storage. I’ve found some great single dishes, adorable storage containers, and even cake stands that work great on shelves. Since I’m somewhat of a
hoarder collector, I had a lot of stuff to work with. I bought 2 new pieces but I only spent $24 which was pretty good! Gather all your items so you can decide what works best. It’s hard to visualize what will work on your shelves, so I find it’s best to just try them all out before you make any decisions. And returning items is always an option!
STEP 3. Start with larger objects. These are the objects that will fill the most space. Be sure to spread them out. My multi-colored wood board balances with the big basket and welcome sign. Leaning some of these pieces against the back of the shelf – or the wall if your shelves are open – is a good solution too. If your shelves are closed in the back, consider lining the back of a few shelves with decorative paper. This will add a big impact and the color and pattern will have the same effect as a large object.
STEP 4. Add the tall items. Don’t forget to add height to your shelves. It’s not a strict design rule but putting tall items on the ends seems to work well. Almost like bookends. But tall items also need to be balanced. If you have a tall item on the left side of one shelf, add a tall item to the right side of another shelf. I also like to put one of the biggest and/or tallest items on the top shelf – like the sailboat. This makes the unit – and the room – appear even larger by forcing your eye to move upward and around the room more.
STEP 5. Break it up. If you’re styling more than one shelf, sometimes they can get a little busy with all the items. So I like to break this up by keeping one shelf very simple with one large item. Here I used a big basket to hold magazines making the shelves look less busy and more visually appealing. If you have just a single shelf, it could be something as simple as balancing a busier side with a larger, more simplified item on the other side.
STEP 6. Stack & layer. After I have my larger and taller items, I begin to fill in the gaps and layer in items. Items should actually touch or overlap each other – this way they create a more cohesive unit and are more pleasing to look at. This might mean covering some of your favorite items a bit. Don’t worry though, you’ll still see them and they’ll probably get noticed even more if it’s a more pleasing arrangement.
STEP 7. Repetition. By repeating similar colors, shapes and textures, your eye flows more easily because it relates them visually. For example, the pop of red is repeated in the lantern, the air plant and the glass balls. Repeating also works with textures and shapes. The silver orb, decorative dish, colorful glass balls, and white cake stand are all good examples of repeating the circular shape.
STEP 8. It’s all in the details. Here’s where you add the smaller items for a personal, finishing touch. I love natural elements like shells, plants (I heart air plants!!), candles, jars, coasters – even beautiful rocks. These items may not be large in scale but they have a huge effect to the visual balance of your shelves. A good rule for adding smaller items is to keep them to a minimum and space them out. You can pair them with larger items or ground them with a dish, tray or pedestal.
STEP 9. Trial & error. Once your shelves are looking good, just keep moving things around until you have a nice balance. Again, your eye should move easily around your shelves. It shouldn’t get stuck on one area or one item. I’ve changed these shelves several different times over the past few days until I really liked how they looked. I even just recently added a small art print on the lantern shelf. Click here to purchase that art print in my Etsy shop too!
And remember styling a shelf is more like creating a piece of art than an exact science. There are no real rules but I hope these tips will help. And even though I find styling shelves to be somewhat daunting, if I go through this process, I love how my shelves look in the end!
sweetteasweetie (@SweetTSweetie) says
Pretty styling ideas!
Sandra L. Garth says
This was a perfect step by step! Sometimes Pinterest and be a bit overwhelming and end up pinning things I never go back to. Love the idea about shopping your home and the way your displayed turned out.
Thanks Sandra! It can be a little daunting so glad you found it easy to follow!
I love this “tutorial” for us design-challenged individuals! I would love to link you up to ‘My Post Monday’ over on my blog! Come visit! A GAL NEEDS…
Thank you!! I’ll definitely be linking up!
It can be hard at times to decide how to dress up shelves, you make it look easy. Thanks for sharing some great tips! I found your blog through Creative Spark.
Jen Panguluri says
Thanks for the tips. I like your idea that a styled bookshelf is like a piece of art. I haven’t been a very successful decorator, but somehow this idea helps me think about it.
Thanks Jen – good luck!!
Mary Hunnicutt says
The shelf looks gorgeous! I always struggle with styling my shelves, so I am pinning this for later!
Thanks Mary – good luck!!