Styling Shelves

Tips on Styling Shelves in Your Home

Style Tips on Creating Shelves Straight Out of a Home Magazine!

Shelves can be catch-all for all sorts of things.  Books, papers, varying electronics, kids' art projects, etc. In short, they can quickly become a hot mess. That is true for any level surface in your home no doubt. Anything that stands remotely still, can easily get covered with junk before you know it. Looking at any HGTV program, home website, or design magazine, there are countless images of beautifully stylized shelf displays that seem well…. right out of the pages of a magazine. Truthfully, these types of shelves, to the common home decorator, seem not only impossible to achieve but somewhat impractical…like, where is all the stuff?

Nevertheless, so many of us strive to have these types of beautiful shelves, that we thought we would cull together the best tricks of the trade so that you too can have beautiful shelves and still keep some of your stuff.  These types of shelves are not just for your living or family room either, but these techniques can be used anywhere - yes your living room or family room but also your playroom, bedrooms, bathrooms, and let’s not forget the kitchen! Open kitchen shelving also can benefit from showcasing a combination of items that are not only practical but items that you actually use. With so many spots to get your style on, let’s get to it.  Here we go!

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What to Use When Styling Shelves

We are big fans of using what you already have. So before you run out to your local home store to fill your cart full of beautiful things, (and believe you/me, this is tempting!) first, go on an initial shopping excursion - in your own home. Look at the contents of your home with fresh eyes, and look everywhere. You may be surprised that you can find some fun and functional items from the workbench in your garage, or the Christmas boxes you only crack open once a year. We may all have a tendency to use the same decorative items over and over, but is there a way to see some of your things from a new perspective?

  • Books- use as is, or cover them in a beautiful paper in your color palette
  • Candlesticks - of all types, materials, and heights
  • Plants - living ones preferred, but there are some great artificial ones out there too
  • Vases - all types, materials, heights
  • Pictures/Frames - photographs or art prints, or even empty
  • Baskets
  • Wood Boxes
  • Serving Platters or Trays
  • Stackable items
  • Metal/old unique looking tools
  • Items that have a sentimental value or meaning

While hunting, gather like-items, and things that have similar color palettes - even if they don’t go together at this time. You may be surprised at how things come together when working on styling your shelves. Have an open mind - not-so-attractive items could possibly be unified by painting them a similar color. Grab metal objects or boxes and baskets with texture. These are some of the things that you can use to style your shelves.

While doing so, make notes of items you wish you had such as things you could use as practical storage (to hide not so pretty, but necessary items away from plain sight). Add these things to the list of other items you can use that you may have to eventually purchase. Using a nice mix of items you already have, some thrifted items, and new ones as well will keep your shelves looking unique, and not like you bought all the latest decorative trends from Homegoods and plunked them on your shelves. Your shelves will be more personal and look like they were curated over time.

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When styling your shelves of choice, the basic principles are quite simple. Throughout your shelf styling, you will:

Use items of:

  • Varying Heights
  • Mixed Textures
  • Similar Color Palette

When placing items:

  • Work from the top to the bottom
  • Place items from biggest to smallest
  • Place things you use on a regular basis within easy reach

Apply These Techniques

Layering: Work in layers, larger things in the back, smaller things in the front. Low items in front of tall items.

Balance: Periodically, step back from your entire display, and have a look. Do your shelves seem balanced?

Repetition: Of like items, color, and texture throughout the shelves

Groupings: Group items together in odd numbers - three is the ideal number. Three books, three candlesticks, etc.

Key Tip: When you think you are finished arranging and rearranging your shelves, walk away from them and into another room. Then come back in. Look at your shelves again, how do you feel? Do the items catch your attention? Better yet, take a picture of your shelves.  For some reason, using your camera to look at a display can really showcase its strengths or weaknesses. This is how other people will see your shelves.

Final Thoughts

Over time, don’t be afraid to move items around. Nothing is glued down. As you find other items you love, don’t be afraid to shuffle your displays. Some people change things up depending on the season, or for special holidays. Overall, your beautiful shelves should tell the story of who lives in your home, and what is important or loved by those that do. Don’t be afraid to showcase your personality and style that is uniquely your own.  That in itself is good enough for any magazine!


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