Clear Everything off the shelves. It’s always easiest to start fresh with a blank slate! And dusting is optional 😉
Add a couple tall flat items in the back that will fill vertical space, like artwork or letterboards. If you are styling kitchen shelves, then consider adding cutting boards which can be displayed vertically or horizontally.
Look at the the shape of your shelves and add an item(s) with a contrasting shape. Here’s what I mean by that: If the shelves have straight clean lines, add round items for contrast (for example, you can see I added round items like pitchers and bowls to these shelves, because both the shelves and subway tile have clean straight lines, so the curves of the pitchers and bowls add a contrasting softness.) If your shelf happens to be a curvy beast with ornate details, add an item(s) with clean lines for contrast.
Use a stack of 2-3 books stacked horizontally on their side and then place a small sculptural or organic element on top. I personally love using vintage books for this, but you can use any books you’d like. You can also turn the books so that the pages are facing outward (and the spine is toward the wall) for a slightly different look. I especially love doing this when the pages are slightly timeworn and tattered on vintage books. After your books are stacked, be sure to add a small object on top of them to add visual interest! You can see here I added a small vintage wood bowl on top of the books.
Incorporate organic elements, like greenery, branches, flowers, etc. I’m personally a huge fan of potted greenery on shelves! (If you’re looking for the best places to buy realiatic-looking faux greenery, I’ve got that info for you right here.)
Fill in the remaining gaps with items of varying heights, to keep the eye moving and give the shelves a pleasing aesthetic. For this step, I will often try to shop my home and use items I already own! But if that’s just not cutting it, my go-to places for small “filler” type items are antique stores, thrift stores, Home Goods and Target.
Lastly, step back and enjoy what you’ve created! It’s important to take time to celebrate the space you just styled! If something doesn’t feel quite right about it, move things around ever so slightly until you feel happy with the space you’ve styled.
Something I almost always do when styling shelves is to be sure to incorporate a basket or two, because it adds great texture, while also providing a stylish storage solution.
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Do you have a shelf dilemma or question? Ask me in the comments below and I’ll be sure to offer my free design advice! Or do you have a go-to styling tip for shelves that I missed here? I’d love to hear it! I read and respond to all comments here because I truly enjoy interacting with you and building a community, so let’s chat in the comments section below.