Transform a Room With These Five Steps To Style a Shelf

Did you know that you can easily transform a room with these five steps to style a shelf? You’ve gone on numerous Pottery Barn runs. You’ve combed the aisles of Target and Home Goods. And you’ve ‘Added to Cart’ more times than you can count. But there comes a point where you have to pause and ask yourself, Now what do I do with all the decorative pieces I just had to have and purchased?! While you probably did not need them all, the good news is that there is a solution for you to take your collection out from storage and put it out on display to style a shelf!

Open shelves are the perfect way to bring personality, style, and visual interest to any area of your home. No matter the size of your shelving space or the room in which your shelves live, styling bookcases or open shelves are a simple and easy way to tell your style story and refresh any space – no major renovation, paint job, or furniture purchase is needed!

Whether you are starting with a blank slate or simply want to re-style an existing shelf, follow these five steps to transform and refresh any room. With the right techniques and a detailed eye, you can use open shelves or bookcases to add a sophisticated and chic feel to any space in your home. Let’s get styling!

Five Steps To Style a Shelf

  1. Choose a Consistent Color Palette

Like any interior design project, having a clear and consistent color palette when styling shelves is key. Whether you are drawn to earthy and neutral tones or have a preference for the bold and bright, select pieces that you are naturally drawn to and fit with your personal aesthetic. No matter your personal style, incorporating neutrals in shades of white, beige, or grey help create balance and can be more easily repurposed. Not to mention, they add a layer of sophistication and timelessness to any space. When it comes to using metallics, tones of gold, silver, copper, or rose gold compliment most color palettes and can (and should!) be mixed and matched. It is also important to seek consistency by selecting hues and pieces that fit with the rest of the room’s style and decor.

2. Start with the Essentials

Staring up at your empty shelves can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not quite sure where or how to begin. When in doubt, start with the following four essential pieces: books, candles, plants, and vases. When using these four items as your foundation, it becomes easier to build on them as you decorate. Select books that reflect your interests and personality, are consistent with your color scheme, and fit the room in which they’ll live. Plants, such as greenery or florals not only bring life to the space, but also add texture and color for brightness. Candles will soften your space and vases in various shapes and sizes are the perfect addition to add dimension and interest. Remember, your shelving space will ultimately dictate how much you can add and what you should include.

 3. Incorporate a Variety of Items (That You Love)

With the four pieces mentioned above, you now have a good foundation upon which you can further build. Now what? Take a look around and incorporate pieces that you have and love. Styling open shelves or bookcases is an opportunity to share your story, reveal parts of your personality, recollect special experiences, or simply display pieces that you admire for an effortless look. Consider incorporating any of the following items to fill your shelves: bowls, plates, sculptures, beaded garlands, jars or canisters, bookends, paperweights, framed artwork, or photographs. Items such as decorative boxes, trays, or baskets are versatile options that can be used for both storage and decor. 

4. Create Visual Balance that Piques Interest

Visual balance is key to decorating shelves that create visual interest. Objects should vary in height and size for greater impact. By using both short and tall pieces, lighter and heavier items, as well as smaller and larger ones, you can create a layered look that is well-balanced and attractive. Adding dimension and creating visual balance can also be achieved by stacking items, varying their placement throughout the shelves, leaning pieces such as artwork, as well as positioning items both vertically and horizontally. Symmetry and proportion are also important considerations. As a general rule for achieving symmetry, follow the “Rule of Three” in design, which suggests that items arranged in odd numbers are more visually appealing and memorable.

5. Start Editing: Rearrange What You’ve Already Arranged

Your shelves are full and just when you think you’re done, the final and probably most crucial step comes in: It’s time to edit! Once everything has been placed and you take a step back to look at your shelves or bookcase, trust your eye – you’ll know once they have been styled just right. If something looks off, simply move it. If one section appears too bare, add items to fill the space. Similarly, if one area appears too cluttered, subtract or remove items. Consider whether the items placed are too top- or bottom-heavy. Editing involves arranging, rearranging, adding, and many times, subtracting items. Everything has a place, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a place there’s place for everything on your shelves. There is something to be said about the phrase, less is more, so keep that in mind when you are styling!

Designing and styling shelves doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor. Be creative, incorporate different styles with which you resonate, and consider functionality. One of the best parts about open shelves or bookcases is that they can be updated anytime. It’s easy to rotate your collection and update your decor with the changing seasons, holidays, and when you simply need a refresh. Or… when you find yourself back in Target, Home Goods, or favorite home decor store and find another piece you absolutely must have. Life is short, buy the vase!

Written by Unnati Umarvadia who you can follow over at @sincerelyunnati on Instagram.  Unnati is passionate about all things style, whether fashion or home-related. She began her IG page as a creative outlet during the height of the pandemic to offset the daily to-do’s of working from home, writing her doctoral dissertation, and navigating life as a new mom. There, you’ll find everything from home décor ideas to organization tips, lifestyle, motherhood, and everything in between.



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