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How To Style Your Shelves

January 25, 2021


Erin Schrader

From built-in-bookshelves to office hutches to floating shelves in the kitchen, there were plenty of shelves that needed decorated around here. While I am no expert in the shelf styling department, I have decorated and redecorated enough times in my day to share a few things I’ve learned along the way! Before we dive in, a few things to keep in mind before you get started…

  • Always start from scratch – allows you to focus on one shelf at a time, rather than everything that’s already there on other shelves. This will help you to place items next to each other that maybe you wouldn’t have thought to pair together if it’d been left up!
  • Start decorating with items that have special meaning and you KNOW you’ll want to showcase, then add in other items from there.
  • Shelves will be an area that you decorate, and then decorate again, and then redecorate it completely as you acquire new items or want to switch it up!
  • If your space starts to look cluttered, take a few things away and see how it looks. Take more away, add a few back, rearrange, and on and on. Shelf styling will never be perfect, and can always be tweaked. Consider this your newest indoor physical activity 😉

I’d also just like to note, that I just learned today that the term #shelfie exists [as in, a great photo of your styled shelves], and now I’m way too deep into the 2.4million #shelfies on Instagram.

As I take you through my shelves, I’m sharing sources for several of the pieces shown [if they’re still available], as well as several similar styles!

Don’t Overstuff It:  Blank space is not a bad thing! Just because you have 30 things sitting out in front of your waiting-to-be-styled shelf doesn’t mean that you need to put 30 items on them. The more you cram on, each individual item gets to stand out, and it starts to look like an overstuffed thrift store. Try to balance blank space with the weight of an item so there is still a good balance!

Try to Find a Cohesive Color Scheme: Does every item have to be the exact same color? No, most definitely not, but to have several pieces that are in the same color family, or a few coordinating colors, it’ll make the whole shelving area more aesthetically pleasing!

Vary Heights: Everything doesn’t need to be perfectly in a line! If you have a tall skinny candle, try placing that next to a picture frame for balance!

Vary Textures and Materials: Don’t fill your shelves with 10 glass items, 5 plants, or 30 books [although, that would be what a bookshelf was originally intended for, huh?]. Mix it up using different textures across your shelves! Balance smooth shiny objects like glass with rougher items, like a textured basket or wooden bowl.

Work In Groupings: If you have two or three of something, try to keep them together as a set! These can then be treated as a group as one item when trying to balance a larger item! Line them up perfectly, stagger them at an angle, or try other scenarios depending on the items you’re working with!

Display Items You Love: What’s a beautifully styled shelf if you don’t actually love the items you’re looking at? Be sure to include personal mementos like photos, trip memorabilia, or family heirlooms that truly bring you joy. And if it’s the new hot trinket from Target that brings you joy, then by all means, put that up on the shelf sister!

Add Greenery: One of my favorite ways to add a pop of color to a shelf is to add in a bit of greenery. And in my case, that greenery is almost always of the faux assortment. If you’re going to go with a real plant, just make sure that you remove it from the shelf to water it! We don’t want you ruining your pretty newly styled shelves!

Don’t Be Matchy Matchy: While I’m sure you could hop on Amazon and find a “shelf decorating kit” where’s the fun in that? As I’ve mentioned before, shelves don’t have to be perfect, and you want it to include pieces you love! If they aren’t all in the same color scheme or don’t all have the same “chic” or “industrial” look to them, so be it! Sometimes a shelf full or random items ends up looking the best! Rules are meant to be broken [even my own ;)].

Books [and cookbooks!] Are Your Friend: Books are not only great to read, they’re fantastic for adding color and texture to bookshelves! And isn’t it wild to actually put books on bookshelves? You can do so much with them! A few examples… 1) Lay them down flat to give other objects some height. 2) Lean them against a wall or stick them between two bookends. 3) Remove the jacket from the book to see what the hardcover color looks like. Even collect several books from the local thrift store solely based on their hardcover color [you can often find books for less than $1 if you’re looking for several!]. 4] Turn the books around so that the pages are facing outwards instead of the spine. You never knew books were so versatile, did you?

Shop Your Own Home: Guest bedroom with decor you never found a place for? Miscellaneous serving dishes stuffed in a cabinet? Books piling up next to your bed? These are the perfect items to bring to the the shelves to see how they may fit in their new potential home!

Don’t Overthink It: Last but not least, don’t overthink it. None of it is permanent, and it can be changed at any point. Put what you love where you love it

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