Ten Tips for Styling Your Shelves

They hold our books, statutes, figurines, photo frames, greenery, ceramics, art, vases and collectibles. They allow us to organize our cherished items, celebrate our most valued treasures and showcase our global finds. Shelving units are functional and decorative furniture that can be added to a room as built-ins, floating systems and even a range of modular units.

Similar to a kitchen table, shelves tend to become cluttered catchalls for our stuff. However, a small investment of time and imagination can restore your shelving units to a respectable and presentable level.

Here are some tips to styling your shelves:

  • Not every inch of every shelf needs to be covered. Allow the eye to process what is on each shelf, especially if unique or ornate artifacts are being displayed.
  • Identify areas of focus. There should be at least one focal point for each shelving system/unit that commands attention but doesn’t completely steal the show.
  • Style with balance in mind from shelf-to-shelf and side-to-side. This is in scale and scope for quantity, style, texture and color.
  • Alternate the visual weight of each shelf. For instance, one shelf can hold a few wide and/or tall items while the next shelf can hold several smaller items. The key is that the visual weight should be similar but not exact.
  • Use color. There are two approaches you can take for styling with color:
    1. Use blocks of color to create monochromatic vignettes (monochromatic means to use all of one color either the exact color or very close in tone).
    2. Use three colors to repeat throughout the shelving units. This includes metallics.
  • Arrange books in blocks of three, six or nine. You can stand some up vertically as well as stack them from a horizontal position.
  • Hide secrets in plain sight. Baskets and boxes are great decorative vessels to hide misc., magazines and other items that might appear messy as separately placed items on a shelf.
  • Stagger items to create a visual dance from shelf-to-shelf.
  • Style collectibles in groupings.
  • Add design dimension through paint, wallpaper and/or mirrors on the back of the shelves.

Shelves provide a variety of stylistic and functional options to a range of rooms for all styles. When preparing a home for sale, make sure their presentation is part of the overall plan for featuring a home’s assets.



Yvette Craddock is the founder of Yvette Craddock Designs a creative firm that specializes in distinctive interior design, immersive, luxury lifestyle experiences and cultured culinary affairs. Sign up for her newsletter and follow her design tips and inspiration posts on social media.

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