Styling Display Shelves

I am constantly being asked by clients, friends, and subscribers how I style different kinds of shelves. The process can seem daunting. Maybe you don’t know where to start or what theme you are going for. I’m going to show you how I style shelves to make them chic and full of character and function.

The first thing I usually set up on shelves are eye-catching coffee table books. I usually place them face down, spine facing outwards. By placing them horizontally it builds a base on which you can stack other decorative items.

When I have an idea of items I want to use for decorating, I typically start by putting the larger items on the top, since this will be a place that you don’t access all the time. In this particular house, I chose these beautiful baskets, which are an ode to this farmhouse-style home. Sticking with natural materials like wicker really adds beauty and personality to these stark white shelves. These baskets are from Living Spaces, but similar items can be found just about anywhere. 

As I move from the top shelves down, I start by working from the middle out. I love starting with my favorite pieces and playing around with them to create a balance of color, height, and texture. I didn’t want too much black on these particular shelves so I started with a black vase as a centerpiece. By having the vase centered I was able to map out where I wanted the other darker decor to go. That way I could spread the black pieces out so that  they becomes a visual pop within all the other pieces. Grouping pieces into groups of two is a great way to fill a shelf without mixing too many textures. 

Depending on the feel of the home, you may want to decide on how many colors you’re using to decorate. In this particular house’s case, we chose to use a very small amount of gold items. We chose to incorporate this one gold vase because it was a wedding present, and it fits seamlessly into the feel of the shelves. 

It’s important to not group all the same items together. As always, we come back to the word balance. Avoid putting tall items on one side, or short on items on the other. The key is to keep every shelf unique and different. If you take that philosophy to heart, you will absolutely be able to decorate like the pros. 

In terms of color and balance in this modern farmhouse, I encourage you to add some natural greenery. This can be from your own yard or even store-bought. I love bringing the outside inside and you can never go wrong by adding plants and so on to your shelves, or even to any other parts of your home. 

The last tip I have as we head down to the bottom shelves is to avoid clutter. I talk a lot about balance and your eye and whether a novice designer or professional will be able to tell when a shelf feels too full. Play around with the design, perhaps leave a shelf empty. As I get to the lowest of the shelves I typically only place one item on each of them. 

Don’t be afraid to be creative, add your personality to your shelves, and play around with your pieces. Keeping my tricks in the back of your mind will help you create a gorgeous display that will have your guests wanting to redo their own shelves. 

All the items that I’ve used for today’s decorating are from Living Spaces, CB2, and Crate & Barrel and are linked in my shop. 

Brutalist Vase
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Links Marble Chain
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Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating
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Merriman Black Vase
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Full Moon Clay Vase
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Multi-Face Vase
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Urban Candle
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Teresa’s Collections Ceramic Modern Vase Set of 2
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Atmosphere: The Seven Elements of Great Design
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Black Round Bud Vase w/ Etched White Design
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Owl Statue
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Henro Company Match Striker
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Paris Deco Book
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Teak Bookends Set of 2
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Awaglass Hand-Blown Sand Timer
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Bronze Links Object
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