Styling a shelf is often a daunting task. When faced with a blank space full of styling opportunities, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start.
Shelves are an integral part of any home, from providing practical storage space to creating an area for you to store and display your favorite items and accessories to express your style and identity.
When designing a shelf, think carefully about the type of objects you want to display and what it means to you, as well as how you want the shelf to actually work in the space.
Whether you’re using shelving for bookcase ideas, functional storage, or arranging decorative art and decorations, you’ll want your shelving styling to add visual interest and character to a room.
Shelf Styling – Become a Shelf Styling Expert with Our Top 10 Tips
Of course, there are many ways to style a shelf, so we’ve rounded up our top styling ideas to give you some inspiration. Remember, we don’t offer tips for organizing bookshelves; these tips focus on the aesthetics of the shelf shape.
1. Coordinate with your existing decor
Designing a shelf with objects that reflect the textures, palettes and materials already present in your scheme can create a cohesive, unified look in your space.
In this relaxing living room by Jessica Bennett of Alice Lane Interior Design, the room has a soft, neutral look filled with cozy textures, natural materials and earthy colors. Large shelving and media units are filled with beautiful decorations and books that coordinate with the room, elevating the design and effortless look.
2. Symmetrical style
Symmetry in interior design can be used throughout the home, and if you have a large number of shelves in a room, whether in a study, home library or living room space, symmetrical shelving can create a sense of balance and calm.
In this cozy reading room, bookshelves are mainly used to store and display books. However, by keeping the two bookshelves empty and styling them with matching decorative vases, an element of contrast and a calming focal point are created within the library.
3. Embrace minimalism
“Overcrowded and filled with shelves can be very tempting. In many spaces, this minimalist look can work well. However, minimalist-inspired shelves allow key decor products are fully appreciated—and are also a great option for smaller spaces,” says Jennifer Ebert. Home & Garden‘ Number editor.
In this kitchen by Kimberley Harrison Interiors, glassware and a selection of accents adorn warm wood shelves. The result creates a calm, spacious display where each item can be easily viewed and removed from the shelves if needed.
4. Add artistic flair
Using a shelf as a platform for collecting art and decorations can create a unique display area in a room.
This living room’s painted built-in vaulted shelving unit is filled with eye-catching art designs, creating a mini gallery and art viewing space in the home.
Experimenting with paint ideas when designing your shelves can add a dynamic element of color to a room and complement your choice of Art Deco designs.
5. Keep your balance
When styling a shelf, considering the layout and placement of objects will create a harmoniously balanced design that is visually appealing.
Lou Graham, co-owner graham and green The statement “creating beautiful shelves all comes down to layering objects of varying heights, widths and shapes”.
Rather than grouping items together by size or similarity, play with scale and create different layouts by mixing different objects, which will create an appealing and diverse shelf design.
6. Prioritize practicality
For many of us, shelves in the home provide a functional surface area to store everyday items.
In this kitchen, three wooden wall-mounted shelves make the most of the empty wall space above the pretty yellow cabinets. These jars feature a practical glass storage jar design that’s easy to grip and allows you to quickly see what’s inside.
These kitchen shelf jars are shaped as functional as they are decorative, with varying heights, colors and textures creating a visual point of interest in the room that is perfect for kitchen shelf ideas.
7. Create Contrast
If you want to add a contrasting element to a space, designing shelving with colors, textures, and materials that differ from the main decor scheme can create a unique design feature in the room.
In this living room, a cozy alcove bookshelf is adorned with books in bright, striking colors that contrast with the natural, earthy tones and materials used in the rest of the room. For living room bookshelf ideas, this styling idea not only creates a colorful partitioned space but also highlights the book collection.
8. Give your items the space they deserve
From family heirlooms, to photos and items collected while out and about, designing a shelf with space for your most meaningful and precious items will ensure they are fully respected and appreciated by all.
The colorful shelving unit in this living room provides a generous platform where decorations large and small can shine. Instead of being lost along with many others, each item has room to stand out and be taken away by bystanders.
9. Create an eye-catching decorative display
Being bold and creative when designing shelves can create unique decorating ideas for rooms throughout the family.
When considering wall decor ideas, using multiple shelving units and styling them to create an eye-catching decorative display area can change the look of a space.
Why have one bathroom mirror when you can have 17 bathroom mirrors? The beautiful mirrors in this bathroom space have been carefully placed to create a truly unique and eye-catching mirror wall. Using blue-painted, glossy shelves as platforms for mirrors of varying heights, shapes, and styles creates a striking design feature in this bathroom space—perfect for bathroom shelf ideas.
10. Eclectic combinations of items and accessories
“When you design a shelf in your home, ultimately, you want to use an eclectic mix of items and accessories to create a personal space that reflects your identity,” says Home & Garden‘ Editor-in-Chief Lucy Searle.
Displaying everything from plants to books, decorations and candles, your shelves can tell the story of your style and personality.
Of course, our tastes and styles may change, so editing your collection of items and changing items over time will ensure your shelves stay fresh and meaningful.
How do you arrange items on the shelves?
When mixing different items when designing shelves, making sure each layer has different heights and shapes will ensure a balanced design that is pleasing to the eye.
If you’re organizing things like books, combining them by color and size can create a streamlined, uncluttered look – our bookcase design methodology provides more guidance.
Leaving enough space between the shelf and other wall-mounted shelves will also ensure that your shelving design doesn’t feel too cluttered or overwhelming.
According to Elizabeth Krueger, founder of Elizabeth Krueger Design, “Once you start putting your items on the shelf and get to the point where you feel good about what you’re adding—go away (and come back). Go away and come back to a Space, allowing you to experience the overall feel of the room – if it inspires you, your work is done – and if something doesn’t feel right, start moving around again.
Overall, the factors to consider when arranging items on the shelf are size, color, location and variety.
How can I make my bookshelf more interesting?
Shelf styling is all about being creative and displaying items that inspire joy and conversation.
From the integration of new books to decorating with flowers and plants, editing your shelves over time, keeping your style interesting and current is key.
Elizabeth Kruger said: “If you want to fill your shelves with home stuff instead of buying new stuff, put all your stuff on the kitchen table and start busy grouping, come Buy your own home.”
Changing your shelf design doesn’t mean you have to keep buying new items and decorations, however, simply removing your items and organizing them in a whole new way can make your shelves feel rejuvenated.