Shelves are often looked at as simply a means of storage for books or dishes or serving ware, but nothing could be further from the truth. If styled right, a shelf can be a canvas for beautiful vignettes, a display area for things that you love, even a work of art in it’s own right. Styling a shelf or even a bookcase can be pretty intimidating if you haven’t done it, but it’s not hard to do once you get the hang of it. Here are a few tips to get you started in clearing the clutter on your shelves and making them a conversation piece in your home!
1. Embrace Minimalism. If you want your shelves to be styled but you don’t like a lot of clutter, or you’d rather the shelves blend into the room instead of the focal point, concentrate on minimal design. Not every shelf needs to be filled up. Instead, put one or two bigger decor pieces on a shelf with perhaps a couple of beautiful books tucked in between.
For instance, on my living room shelves I placed a succulent covered with a glass cloche on top of a larger vintage book and called it a day. Further down on the shelves, I filled them with a few smaller things such as signs, a framed print, vintage books and candlesticks. Not too much, but just enough to fill the space. This way, my shelves are styled with things I love but they don’t overwhelm the space and they blend into the rest of my room.
2. Or Load Them Up. On the other hand, if you want your bookcase to stand out and be the main feature in a room, load the shelves with beautiful books and decorative elements. I would do a combination of stacked books and vertical books with a spattering of decorative pieces throughout.
You can see on this shelf in my office, I’ve loaded it with stuff I love: antique pocket novels, a vintage camera, classic novels. I’ve added a bit of greenery and I hung a couple of decorative pieces right behind the shelf so it becomes part of the vignette. Just play around with it until you love what you see!
3. Pick a Color Scheme. One of the coolest trends in bookcases right now is to arrange your books by color, essentially creating a rainbow effect on your shelves. Another way you can play with color is to keep the shelves monochromatic: only white or neutral books, only blue toned books, etc. If you want to add an accent color in your room, use your bookshelf to bring that color to life in a three dimensional way!
4. Add Layers. Instead of stacking your books vertically in neat little rows, use books (as well as other objects we’ll talk about below) in stacks and layers to create interest. Stack a small pile of books on one end of a shelf, add a few more placed vertically as you normally would, then add another pile of stacked ones. Or, like I did in my china cabinet, place your plates upright along the back of the shelf, then add your small cups and saucers in front of each plate. Creating layers in the space adds visual interest and breaks of the monotony of a boring shelf.
5. Add Texture. This is where you start adding elements to your shelves other than books (or plates and serving ware if you’re working with a china cabinet). You can add plants, art, family photos, and decorative elements to add color, interest, depth and texture to the shelves. I love adding photos and vintage finds to my shelves because these things express my style and interests. You can add them on top of the stacks of books, or use them as bookends, or place them in empty spots among the books to fill in the space. If you’re working with serving ware, you can put greenery in shallow bowls or tucked among plates and pitchers. I love to tuck pumpkins or flowers in with my china depending on the season.
6. Repeat Elements. When you’re adding layers and texture to your shelves it can be easy to do too much on one shelf and not enough on another. Try to focus on balancing your elements by trying to create a visual triangle using the same or similar elements. For example, if you put a small plant on a stack of books on the right side of the top shelf, remember to add another element of greenery on the left side of a lower shelf and then toward the middle-right of the bottom shelf. Working in groups of threes, placed in somewhat of a triangle pattern among the shelves will help you create visual balance.
7. Flip Your Books. This is a pretty popular trend in decor right now. Instead of placing your books on shelves with the spine facing out, flip them and place them with the pages facing out. I personally like this look because it’s kind of a cheater’s version of the distressed books look. This is also a great way to keep a monochromatic, neutral tone to your shelves without having to do much work. I like to use this technique when I want the focus of my shelves to be the objects among the books rather than the books themselves.
Using these tips will give you a good start in making your shelves functional and beautiful!
And because I love to share, I thought I’d give you guys this free Home Sweet Home printable that I have on my living room shelves. Just stick it in a 5X7 frame and pop it on your shelf: instant art! Just sign up below for access for my library of free stuff!
What is your favorite way to style shelves?