Who doesn’t love going into a house and having a beautiful set of shelves styled up with interesting objects to explore. If done right, shelves like this can be the highlight of room, but it’s a fine line between an effortlessly styled display and a hot mess. I’m here to break it down for you so you can create the perfect shelf display in your home.
Let’s start with the shelves as these will be the canvas for the magic you’re about to create. If you’re working with adjustable shelves, arrange them so they are all equal height. This will give a cleaner, more striking look. If they’re old shelves a fresh coat of white paint will do wonders. A crisp white backdrop for all your treasures will really make them pop.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Start by figuring out what you are going to place on your shelves. You want to mix textures, shapes, materials, sizes to add interest. I would look to display things that have soul, things that tell a story or have meaning to you. This will create a display that you will love as it means something to you and will act as conversation starters when your guests come over. Buying products just because they are on trend will just mean you grow tired of them and will be looking to turf them in a year or two.
Look around your home, your parents’ home, your grandparents’ homes for family heirlooms you can proudly display. Or look to buy things that are unique, pre-loved, or handmade. Pieces that you really connect with and will love forever. After all, this is your home, so do you, and you’ll get the best results. Trust me.
When styling a set of shelves or a bookcase, work on all the shelves as a whole. If you just focus on one shelf at a time your display won’t be as balanced and cohesive. Looking at the shelves as a whole gives you the chance to spread out your pieces and really create a striking display. Start with the larger items first these will help to ground your shelves and act as a base for everything else you do.
Portsea family beach house, Kate Beadle interior design and Nick Condon
As with anything in interior design, balance is important. You want to make sure your display isn’t lopsided or bottom heavy. You do this by spreading similar pieces out around the shelves – working in triangles. Where you start with your larger items, don’t place them all at the top, or on the left, spread them out in a triangular pattern; One on the top shelf, one middle left and one bottom right. You do this with any items that match up in some way. For example, if you had hints of brass in your display, or if you have boxes of similar size. So, it’s not just items that are similar in size, but also, texture, material or colour. This will ensure your display is balanced and will make your eyes move through the shelves, which is the goal
Don’t display anything too small, it just looks messy and you want to be able to see every piece clearly from the other side of the room. As a general rule anything smaller than an apple is too small. Same with anything too big, you want to leave some space between your bigger pieces and the shelf above. You want items to look like they are on the shelves intentionally, not just shoved in whether they fit or not.
Shelf stying gives you an opportunity to play with scale. While larger pieces can hold their own on a shelf, placing a small piece next to a larger piece will create a dynamic impact.
You don’t want to overfill, but you don’t want your shelves to look too empty either. Use your eye to judge how full you want your shelves to be. A good rule is to leave some negative space on each shelf (but not the same spot on each shelf – again use the triangle rule)
If you’re going for a fuller look you can choose not leave an empty space. Instead fill the space with something that matches the colour of the shelves so it visually disappears into the background.
Don’t be afraid to leave negative space on the edge of a shelf either. You don’t have to fill every shelf to the very end. In fact, sometimes doing this can look too structured.
TEXTURE + MATERIAL
Without contrast in textures and materials your display will look flat. Bring it to life by mixing lots of different textures. The more the better; books, baskets, ceramics, glass, wood, metal, stone, greenery whatever you think suits the vibe you’re going for, put it in the mix. I personally think mixing old with new is another way to achieve a cool contrast that will take your shelfie to the next level. A beautiful brand new handmade vase next to a vintage camera is perfection.
A NEUTRAL BASE
Again, as with interiors as a whole, I happen to think starting with a neutral base is a fool proof plan. If most of your items are neutral and you add pops of colour your display will look less ‘showroom’ and more organic.
If you are following a colour scheme in your room be sure to continue it on your shelves, after all its still a part of your room. Remember to stick with a neutral base and add pops of your chosen scheme so you aren’t over doing it.
Don’t be shy to also add small hints of a contrasting colour to really make your pieces shine. For example, in a cooler colour scheme you might add a small hint of red, in an artwork or woven into a basket to really make the display pop.
Books are the go-to for any successful styled shelf. Pick great books that also have great spines, you know the ones, big beautiful coffee table books with the coolest fonts running down their spines. They add a cool graphic element and are an effective way to fill up space. Smaller books can be placed on the shelf vertically with bookends or held up by a horizontal stack of books. This probably goes without saying, but go for the better looking books in your shelf display. Even though your kids love reading those sci fi books keep them in the cupboard the goal here is a beautiful display, you’re not really looking for function.
Leaning artwork on a shelf is an amazing way to add colour, interest and depth to a display. Artwork is a great way to fill a space but then you can add depth by placing an item in front. Artwork allows for you to also introduce more graphic elements, or you can great a really great textural effect with an oil painting. Just make sure the artwork suits they style of the room and you’re good to go.
Nothing brings your shelf display to life quite like greenery. Indoor plants have increased in popularity over the past few years and show absolutely no signs of slowing down. There are lots of different options to choose from. If your shelves catch a lot of sunlight you could display a small cactus or succulent, or you could even place a hanging plant on the edge of a shelf and have it cascade over the side There are even plants that help purify the air in the room so you could choose something that has a use other than just looking amazing.
Since you’re styling your shelves as a whole you really need to stand back to see how it’s all going. Check everything is balanced and looking good and play around until you’re happy with the results. The beauty of shelf styling is you can change it as often as you like, so don’t get too caught up with getting it perfect on the first try.
For more ideas on perfect shelf styling accessories, check out our stunning range of decor items here. Happy styling!