How to Style Shelves

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January 25, 2022

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The art of shelf styling…

is sought after by many. In fact, it’s one of the processes most asked about.

Styling shelves gets better with time and practice. Even after years of creating shelf stylings, I still have moments where I can’t get it just right and know how trying it can be.

You may be refreshing your built-ins or styling your glass-front cabinet for the first time, but with a few steps, you’ll have the perfect blend between bare and busy.

Here is my step-by-step guide to curating an eye-catching shelfie that is full of interest and texture.

NO.1 A Blank Canvas

When decorating shelves, a blank slate is a necessity. Remove everything that is currently on your open shelves and lay out your items so you can see each piece separately.

Starting with a blank space is helpful. If not, you might be tempted to repeat pairings or keep the same structure which will make it difficult to add in new pieces.

NO.2 PURPOSE

Before you start to decorate your empty shelves, take a moment to consider the purpose of your shelves. Will they be strictly for show? Will they hold dishes in your kitchen? Do they need to provide storage for children’s toys? Setting the purpose for your shelving first will help determine what items you include in your space.

If your piece will be only for display, consider sentimental items or collections you’d like to incorporate.

If your shelves are in place of upper cabinets in your kitchen, you’ll need space to include everyday items, such as plates, mugs, and bowls.

If your space is incorporated into a family space, you’ll want to include storage for toys or electronic devices.

The functionality and purpose of your shelves are just as important as the items they hold.

Pictured here North Prints Meadow Painting Vintage Landscape

NO.3 ART

Now on to the fun part! Create your backdrop with a collection of art. Art sets the tone and brings color to your shelves.

When selecting which paintings to display, think of your pairings like a gallery wall. Selecting landscapes, watercolors, and sketches to compliment each other when nestled among your shelves. I look for similar color tones that reflect the season and repeat colors throughout each piece.

Art will give variance to your shelf as well and keep the eye moving. Vary the sizes and orientations of prints and frames, staggering them from one side to the other. I love to layer a small sketch in front of a large landscape for depth.

Explore Vintage-Inspired Prints

NO.4 COLLECTIONS

Gather small and medium items together to create a grouping that adds interest to your space. This will make even the tiniest of objects feel impactful.

Stacked books or plates, a collection of mugs, or a pair of vases in similar tones are some of my favorite ways to fill the spots that the larger items don’t.

Placing similar items at the same time, staggering them across your shelves will create balance, and you won’t end up with similar items stacked atop one another.

When styling our kitchen shelves, functionality is important so incorporating our everyday dishes in groupings makes them feel more like decor than utilitarian in nature.

Shelf Decor Favorites

Pictured here Target Threshold’s Potted Rosemary

NO.5 GREENERY

When in doubt add greenery. Whether you have fresh or faux on hand, adding greenery to your shelves softens the vignette.

I love to incorporate my surroundings by displaying what is in season. This may be fresh evergreens throughout the winter or faux tulips and eucalyptus through the warmer months.

Nature Inspired Accents

NO.5 REPETITION

Use the rule of three. Repeating colors, tones and shapes create a common thread across your open shelving. Repetition can be with any item from your art frames to decorative items to everyday dishes or sentimental objects.

I like to stagger similar wood tones in the form of a picture frame, a riser, and a decorative item to give my shelves cohesiveness.

NO.6 VARIATION

Nothing makes a space fall flat than too much of the same thing. Yes, you want repetition, but you also want to consider varying your decor for dimension.

  • Use a variety of neutrals, wood tones, brass, and black for an overall blend in your color palette. Mixing a wooden frame with brass candlesticks and a black vase softens the harshness of the vessel and rounds out the vignette.
  • Alternate your display with different sizes and orientations. Choosing small prints in a portrait style while having larger landscapes to keep the eye traveling across your shelves.
  • Staggering the height of objects, frames, and vases for a styled vignette. I love using stacked books to elevate a small object.

Variation in your colors, height, and placement will ultimately offer contrast and dimension to your display.

Shop My Shelves

Styling shelves is one of my favorite ways to feature decor, add storage to a space, and organize in style. Having open shelving in your home not only adds visual interest and character but also spaciousness without adding any square footage.

I hope that these steps give you some guidance to create beautifully styled shelves in your own homes!

Until next time, you can find daily DIYs and decor inspiration by following me on Instagram!

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