Styling Your Shelves? Don’t Panic!

Styling Your Shelves? Don’t Panic!

So you’ve purchased a gorgeous shelving unit that suits your homes perfectly. It’s finally been delivered after months of waiting, and you are so pleased with how it fills that long, empty space. You literally try to give yourself a pat on the back as you admire your decorating skills.  

Now you’re ready to fill your new piece with fabulous décor and display all of your beautiful things. You get busy adding books you’ve read or admired about the coast of Maine, décor you’ve purchased in anticipation of this moment, a vase you promise to keep full of fresh flowers from Freeport’s farmer’s market, photographs, figurines, more books and more décor, a candle, a leaning piece of art, a pottery bowl and finally, that beautiful Waterford Crystal clock your grandparents gave you for college graduation in 1994. You step back to take a look, sure that you did a magazine worthy job, and there it is – a cluttered, confusing, unbalanced mess that looks nothing like what you were going for. What went wrong?

As you have just learned, styling shelves, whether stand alone, floating or built in, is one of the most challenging decorating activities out there.  Of course, if you have specifically chosen shelving to display books or a collection of glassware, then it’s easy to put together the look. But, if you have chosen shelving as décor, creating the final look can be tricky. 

Always start with inspiration. Choose that one piece you want to display and put it right in the middle of the middle shelf and step back. Your inspiration piece should bring you joy and serve to inspire the rest of the project. 

Gather all the other items you want to display. Now for the hard part: put half of them away. Sorry! But less truly is more when it comes to styling shelving. 

Here are some more tips: 

1. Definitely include books. Mix up the way you stack them. Some should be vertical and some should be stacked. They don’t all have to have the same color covers…sure, all white looks nice but, it’s also contrived. Use books you love, everything from large coffee table books to novels.  Make it interesting! 

2. Showcase a color that ties in the room and spread it out through the shelves. For example, place a book with a primarily navy blue color to the side on one shelf and two shelves up, a centered navy blue vase tying back to the navy blue pillows on the couch.  

3. Curate family photo’s without using too many. Choose one or two that are most meaningful and use neutral frames that will let the photo itself pop, rather than the frame. 

4. Include art! Small pieces of art that can lean or be displayed on a stand, add so much character to shelving. Anything from black and white abstract to portrait art will work. Place the art strategically so it can be either the focus of the shelf it’s on or, an accent piece to support something larger. And remember, sculpture is art too!

5. Add some whimsy. Even if your style is sophisticated and conservative, don’t be afraid to add some fun.  Colorful sea glass from Peaks Island, a quirky statue, a small container made of a textured material like a woven bamboo, will pop with personality.

6. The rule of three applies but use it only once or twice. Group three things of various height on either side of one or two shelves.  Just be sure to put “heavier” things on the bottom…they look better there. 

7. Remember to leave plenty of space between items. You don’t want to fill up every shelf to the point of not being able to see between pieces to the back of the shelf or to the wall if the shelves are open, less is better!

8. Edit! Edit! Edit!  Stand back and re-arrange, remove, replace, and be patient. Take your time and your style will emerge. 

Like everything you do to make your home a place that feel comfortable and beautiful for you and your family, carefully styling your shelving with a few guidelines will result in an accent area you will fall in love with every time you walk by.  

As a long time home stager and interior decorator, I always found styling shelves challenging.  It seemed to take me too long to get the look I wanted. So, I took a step back and concentrated on creating a process based on inspiration and balance. The lesson is, be purposeful when you approach design and décor. 

As a Real Estate Agent in Southern Maine, I’m used to seeing all types of styles- Maine coastal, traditional, chic, modern, and many more. If you ever need organizing or styling advice from someone who smells inspiration from a mile away, I would love to help you.
Styling Your Shelves? Don’t Panic!
Styling Your Shelves? Don’t Panic!
Styling Your Shelves? Don’t Panic!

Work With Us

We change with you. Whether you’re upsizing, downsizing, or relocating from out of state, when you work with Lifestyle Properties you’re partnering with highly skilled agents backed by the world’s largest real estate company. Let's connect!

Follow Me on Instagram