2 Simple Ways to Styling Shelves like a Pro!

Decorating is an art, not a science.  Having said that, when the art of decorating is simplified enough that it’s broken down into clear and simple methods it takes the guess work and stress out of completing the task.  Shelves of any variety are a great way to display and further enhance the design of any room, but styling shelves with contrasting possessions can be challenging.

Styling book and other types of shelving properly takes some know how, patience and creativity.  I’m a big believer that books are still an important part of creating a home and they make great accessories too.

I have what I call “working shelves” which means they hold real useful objects showcased in the most attractive and practical manner.  I don’t recommend ever covering a book jacket with coordinating paper because you can’t find the book you’re looking for that way, and who has time for that.

Over the years I’ve developed two simple methods to style shelves.  One is what I call the zig-zag method where you create height altering vignettes and place them diagonally from each other.  I recommend this method for areas where you want to create a dramatic effect.

Style shelves

The second shelf styling method and the easiest to achieve is the symmetrical arrangement.  Start by figuring out, more or less the center of the shelf.  Place larger pieces on the shelf center and create height varied vignettes on either side of center.

Style Shelves 2

Functional kitchen open shelves

Don’t worry about the so called odd-item rule, play with the vignettes until your eyes say it looks good.  Varying vignette heights is more important than the number of items.

Here’s a few samples of well thought out accessory vignettes.  Notice the varying height is up and down, kind of like a wave.


Get creative and have fun styling your shelves.

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15 thoughts on “2 Simple Ways to Styling Shelves like a Pro!

  1. Interesting! Our use of shelving is more intuitive, but still achieves what you do: a sort of overall “visual tension” that results in an aesthetic balance that pleases the eye. It relates to the rules one follows in my old profession of graphic design, where in typographic executions, one seeks this balance in terms of “color” and “texture” (for fonts: large bold-face/small italic/small Roman; for line-length: short/long/short/long).

    • A lot of people have great vision and creativity but have difficulty when it comes to execution. I try to break down decorating into bite size bits, in other words try to make an art into as much science as possible, kinda like a formula.
      Thanks for commenting.

  2. So glad I found your blog on the SITS comment challenge list! I’m in the process of looking for and then settling into my first place ever and have always struggled to pull a room together design-wise. I think your blog is going to be a huge help. Something as simple as styling a shelf can change a room so much. Thanks for sharing!

  3. You are so right, there is such an art to styling shelves. All too often they look cluttered and not thought through, or even thought about at all. Your tips are excellent. Thanks for sharing!!

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