Shelf Styling 201

You all seemed to really like my Shelf Styling 101 "class" a few weeks back so I decided to give you another round of decorating tips! Welcome to Shelf Styling 201!

Like I said before, decorating isn't a science. However, there are a few rules of thumb I like to stick to when styling shelves in order to achieve a balanced, cohesive, stylish look. Just like last time, I'm going to use one bookcase to demonstrate all of my tips below so you can see them working together to create my final look.

**Please don't take these tips as strict rules, decorating is an art and you have to stick with what looks good and feels right to you. A lot of these tips can be used together and others might contradict at times, it's all a balance. Just enjoy the process and don't be afraid to have fun and experiment with your space!


1. Find your color palette and stick to it!

The best way to make a space look cohesive and well thought out is by having a specific color scheme in mind and sticking to that vision. It doesn't matter if the look you're going for is all neutrals, rainbow, or anything in between. Just don't deviate from it!

Maybe you have a decor piece you REALLY want to display on your shelf, but it's outside your chosen color palette. In this case, alter your shelf so that item is no longer out of place. I had to do this on my own shelves. Red is not a color I work with often outside of the holidays, but many of the special books I wanted to feature on my shelf had vibrant red covers. To make that red belong, I added just a couple touches elsewhere of deep, scarlet. I made sure these items matched the visual vintage style of the other items on my shelf so the only thing that stood out about them was the color. These tiny hints of red made my red books seem much less out of place without me having to fully embrace red as a big, feature color in the rest of my home.


2. Turns out Geometry IS useful!

Remember when you sat in that geometry class in high school and thought "when am I EVER going to use this??"? The time has come! Don't worry, we're not going to calculate anything. But balanced shelf styling relies a lot on lines and angles to tie your design elements together. There are very polished shelves that take this tactic very seriously. I don't think my shelves fall into that pristinely styled category, but I still do use a lot of imaginary shapes as my guide when styling to ensure everything is balanced and has a spot that makes sense. This is kind of hard for me to describe, so I've included a few pictures below to demonstrate what I mean by imaginary angles and shapes.

You can see I rely on a lot of triangles, rectangles and diagonal lines/X's. My usual thought process goes something like, "Ok, I put a basket over here... let me make sure I have a basket (or something of a similar shape/size/color) over here to balance it out.".


3. Stylish Storage

It's always a plus when decor can be functional and I try to make sure the majority of my decor does serve some kind of purpose in our home. One way to create function without sacrificing style is by adding stylish storage spots on your shelves. This also helps to visually group your decor and make everything seem neat and organized. My big sources of storage on this shelf are my blue trunk and my two white wire baskets. Having baskets that aren't so transparent would give me even more storage for the not-so-pretty, everyday items around our home, but these open baskets do give me storage for little random items (tucked in unnoticeable places) that I find myself needing throughout the day like my AirPods, chapstick, etc.


4. Know who the star of the show is

Your shelf should have a focal point (or a few select pieces) that really shines. One of the first items I placed on my shelf was my pheasant bookends. I want everything on my shelf to look great, but that's the piece I want you to notice and what I want to draw the eye to. They inspired my vision for the overall look and much of my shelf was styled around them. They're some of my favorite decor pieces to work with and I wanted to show them off in a prominent place. You can see I set them at eye level, but it's not enough to just place them front and center. You need to make sure nothing on your shelf is competing with your "star" for attention. Other pieces on your shelf should compliment, but not distract from your focal point.

You can have more than just one special decor item on your shelf, but know when it's too much. If everything you put on that shelf is styled like it's the star, you will have no star.


5. Think tall

We all know the trick of hanging your curtains higher than your actual window to make your space look taller. Well the same design rule can be applied to shelf styling too! Often times you can extend your decor above your shelf as well as below your shelf. Draw the eye up by decorating the top of your bookcase or the wall above your built-in like I've done. Be really careful here not to go overboard. It can get a little dated if you junk up the top of your cabinet and it can take away from the decor on the actual shelf. Here I have a single, skinny sign that matches the width of my bookcase. It's not meant to be a focal point, it just gives me a few extra inches of height and makes my shelf and my room feel taller.

If you have a raised bookcase like mine, sometimes it's best to leave that open which will give you a clean and bright look. Other times, you can get some extra storage out of that space and extend your decor to the floor which will also give you the illusion of a taller shelf. You don't want to make this extra space come across as really "heavy" and dark so I would suggest going with a decorative chest or trunk (like I did), a couple medium-sized baskets evenly spaced, or one large basket off to one side. Whatever looks best in your space and flows with the rest of your decor without looking like it's too big or too little for the area.


6. My Book Hack

I say my book hack, but I definitely didn't invent this trick. However, it's my go-to hack when shelf styling or when working with books in general. Books are a fantastic filler when styling, but they can often clash with your decor. I'm lucky enough to have a lot of antique-style, vintage books that go with my look, but on other shelves in my home I use my ordinary paperbacks in the same way. If you want effortlessly coordinated shelves, FLIP YOUR BOOKS AROUND! No more mismatched spines, no more clashing colors, no more looking too old or too new. Now it's just textured paper, varied height, and an overall elegant look. On this particular shelf, The books I used all had gold pages. When they were all flipped, it was a little much so I do have random ones here and there flipped spine-out just to break things up. I did the same with the books in my baskets as well.


Congratulations! You've completed Shelf Styling 201! I truly love styling shelves and I hope you find these tips useful in your decorating. Once again, there isn't an official formula for decorating so try out different looks in your space, find what works, and don't be afraid to get it wrong a few times before you find a look you love!