Shelf Styling

Too often I see boring, cluttered or misstyled shelves. To be honest, I consider this a travesty, although one that can be easily corrected. Shelf-styling is something that anyone can do to create a “designer-look” in a room. Paying attention to details help create that wow-factor when someone walks in.

Think of the accessories and styling in a room as icing on a cake! They can elevate the room to a new level by helping give it a more complete and personalized look.

First, I’ll go over some general rules and share a few tips and tricks. I’ll then show you some examples of shelf-styling at its best and provide some ideas for items to incorporate into your design.

General Rules
  1. Less is more. Don’t overload your shelves. Pair down and purge as you don’t want your shelves looking cluttered. Grouping items and leaving space on either side keeps your look clean and organized.
  2. Use a combination of items. Books, bookends, accessories, picture frames and plants are all good items to use. Try to display items that reflect your style and interests. Over the years, I have found that you can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their shelves!
  3. Throw out symmetry. Symmetry is boring and unimaginative. Instead, trust your instincts and introduce a bit of randomness. This will help give you that desired designer-look in the end!
Tips & Tricks

Grouping Books: Use a  combination of vertical and horizontal stacking. The horizontal stacks can be used as risers for chotzkies. Another trick is to put your most attractive books at eye level and store away your unattractive ones in storage baskets or boxes. You can also group books by color, by subject or randomly.

horizontal books 2

Paper-Backing:  I’m certainly not talking about soft-cover books here! Adding a fun-patterned paper on the back panel of your shelves can immediately liven them up and add interest. Your shelves become a work of art. You can use adhesive wallpaper or contact paper. If you are doing this, be careful that your accessories don’t compete too much with the paper.

paper backing 1


paper backing 3


paper backing 2


paper backing 4


paper backing 5

Keepsakes:  Remember, you don’t have to run out and buy all new accessories for your shelves. Use items around the house that mean something to you and deserve to be displayed! On my own bookcase at home, we’ve displayed grandparent keepsakes including rosary beads and a jade elephant figurine. Several family photos also adorn the shelves. These sentimental objects are reminders everyday of how special family is.

Chotzkies:  Unexpected items or “chotzkies” can draw interest and catch our eye. A good rule to remember is if you’re shopping and see something that catches your eye, most likely it will do the same for someone else. If within your budget, I suggest purchasing it, regardless of its style and finding a way to incorporate it!

If you already have items around the house that you would like to use, think about painting them in either an accent or metallic color so they become more neutral and complimentary.

Here is an example of transforming items you may have had or found while scavenging at a thrift shop or garage sale.

bunny before

bunny after 2

bunny after 1


painted vases

Bookends:  Bookends can serve multiple purposes. Not only are they functional by keeping your books in place, they can be fabulous accessories too! Bookends these days are so much fun and can be a great way to add color and whimsy to your shelves.




Storage Baskets & Boxes:  Use storage baskets or boxes to break up spaces and add function to your shelf. You can store ragged books, DVD/Blu-Rays, toys, remotes or anything else you may want to hide while adding uniformity and organization. Below are examples of unique ways to incorporate baskets and boxes.

ikea boxes

storage baskets- IKEA

shelf example 5

storage boxes


Here are some examples of Shelf Styling at it’s BEST!

All of these examples use multiple colors, different book orientation and a mixture of complimentary accessories.

book shelf
book shelf too
Shelf example 4
shelf example 3
Here are some fun accessory ideas to incorporate into your shelving. 
Eiffel Tower
orange boxes

2 thoughts on “Shelf Styling

  1. Mona says:

    If your not the creative type (like me!) by nature, these tips are such a “stress” reliever as I would never have thought of some of these examples as ways to enhance my shelving at home! I also love the idea of the decorative backing for shelves as most of the time, shelves are boring, so once again, thank you! looking forward to your next blog!

    • That is great feedback Mona! I am always happy to hear my posts have helped someone see that they too can achieve great design! I appreciate your comments!

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