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Essential Rules for Styling a Shelf



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If you’ve ever longed for the perfectly-styled shelfies of Pinterest, but aren’t sure where to begin, read on. Staring at a blank set of shelves and a pile of books and tchotchkes can feel intimidating. But we promise that pulling it all together is quite simple - you just have to follow a few key rules. So, in today’s blog, we’re sharing our step-by-step approach to getting it exactly right. Because you absolutely deserve the shelfie of your dreams.



Rule 1: Incorporate Your Color Palette

The first thing you want to do when styling a shelf is to take stock of the color palette of your space. Is it filled with soft neutrals? Or are there a few bold pops of color thrown into the mix? Perhaps you have a bright turquoise rug or a framed print of a pastel-inspired landscape. Or maybe you have a saturated terracotta sofa or show-stopping colorful light fixture. No matter your style, you want your shelfie to reflect the same vibes. Choose your shelf items strategically by incorporating a few items or books that reflect this palette. Keeping the overall look consistent throughout the room is a must and will help your shelf feel curated.

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Rule 2: Mix Horizontal and Vertical

When it comes to arranging all of your shelf items, you want to ensure you’re mixing both horizontal and vertical pieces. Try combining a stack of stylish magazines with a sculptural bowl on top for your horizontal element. Then display a set of vintage books between bookends or place a few tall framed photos or art for your vertical addition. As long as you repeat the general horizontal/vertical contrast throughout your shelves, it will help to make things feel visually interesting and keep the eye moving.

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Rule 3: Get Personal

While it’s true that a shelf with only books can be stunning, in general we’re more likely to be drawn to bookshelves with a variety of items. Incorporating different objects and shapes - especially if they have personal significance - adds personality and ensures that your shelf is completely unique to you. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box on this one. Tchotchkes, candlesticks, figurines, art, frames, bowls, and paperweights are just a few examples of the types of objects you can include. There’s truly no limit!


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Design by Designs by D


Rule 4: Add Some Life

Just as color can transform a shelf, flowers and plants can make it come alive (quite literally). And beyond this, plants add texture and height to a shelf, so it works to make the space feel warm and inviting, and even helps to differentiate your horizontal and vertical combinations. Trailing plants are great for this, since you can get creative with arranging each vine as it grows. But if you’re not a green thumb, faux plants or simple arrangements of dried moss balls can do the trick just as well.

Design by Designs by D

Design by Designs by D


Rule 5: Balance It Out

Finally, remember that styling your shelf in a way that’s magazine-worthy means you don’t want to overstuff it. Keeping a fair amount of white space between sections or objects is necessary not only to help your objects and items stand out, but also to keep things feeling balanced. A too-packed shelf isn’t necessarily bad (and in certain settings - like an antique bookshop - it can look charming and eclectic), but in general, sticking to a “less is more” mentality is the way to go.

Design by Designs by D

Design by Designs by D


Shelfie styling is straightforward if you know what to focus on. And with this list, you really can’t go wrong. So, let yourself explore and take your time - it takes a bit of rearranging to get it just the way you want it. When in doubt, trust your gut!



By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Designs by D


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