I recently put the white frame on our Frame TV and that led to a complete decor overhaul for the living room bookshelves. Styling shelves can feel like a daunting task and I’ll be honest, I typically decorate our shelving then walk away for a few days. Then redecorate again until I get it right. I loosely follow interior design rules when it comes to my shelves, but I’m here to give you a few shelf styling tips to help you decorate!
Select a color scheme
Before you start decorating your shelves, develop a color scheme. This shouldn’t be too hard, just look around your home and pay attention to the colors you already have in the space. The color scheme can change with seasons also. However, my color scheme typically remains the same throughout the seasons.
Ground the Shelves
Start with a large, solid item on your bottom shelf. This will ground the space. We have extra long shelves, so I had to think outside of the box. A long dough bowl is great for this. Also, you can use baskets and planters to accomplish this look.
The Rule of Three
When grouping items, it’s safe to follow the rule of three. Add decor in groupings of three or in odd numbers to create a more appealing look. Like below, I grouped a picture frame, decorative object, and book. Another example, a decorative basket next to a trailing plant placed on top of books.
Mix Old with New
I’m standing firm with this advice here. In all design, I find that it is important to mix old with new. Yes, brand new decor items will look beautiful. However, the end result will lack in character. I feel like there is no personal connection to all new items and you will likely lose interest with the decor, leading to dissatisfaction over time.
In addition to what I said before, it’s important to add sentimental items to your shelves. Add personality to your shelves. A few tips for this? Add little trinkets to a bowl that your kids have brought home from school. Pick up unique items when on vacation. Find something with a fun shape when you’re out thrifting. Include special and candid photographs. Again, adding sentimental items will bring interest to your shelf styling and give the overall design character!
You have grounded the space, now it is time to add items that are eye-catching. For example, the beaded semicircle statue on our shelving. It’s an odd shape that catches your eye immediately. Also, the grapewood branch has a unique shape, elevating your eye and adding height to the room.
Connect Like Items
You have possibly heard of the triangle method, where you place items in a triangle on various shelves. I prefer a diagonal or zig-zag method. The way I do this, I place like items on different shelves at a diagonal. This will allow your eye to naturally follow along the lines, taking your eye up to the ceiling. Think of the decor items as breadcrumbs and your eyes as ants. Your eyes will traveling along the like items throughout the shelf styling, creating a more cohesive look.
Leave Empty Space
When styling your shelves, empty space is good. Embrace the empty. Leave the empty. It is important to give decor room to breathe. I’ve made the mistake of cluttering my shelves in the past. It’s really easy to do, so if it feels heavy on the eye, take a few items away and let the rest of the decor breathe.
What kind of bookshelf is complete without a book? Books are one of the most important decor items when decorating a shelf. A common problem is cluttering your shelves with books you already own. Don’t remove them though and don’t run out and buy brand new books. Group books with similar page colors together and flip them around. Then stack them and top them with a decorative object. Look for large coffee table books and remove the sleeves. Then group similar and simple spines together. Books are great for grounding a group of decor items as seen here.
Green thumb or no green thumb, adding plants to your bookshelves is important. This can be achieved by adding faux and real plants. I believe it is important to use plants of various sizes and shapes. Also, use plants with different colors of leaves. I love incorporating plants with height and then adding in trailing plants. Also, use different styles of containers. For example, you will see that I used a pedestal bowl to house the ferns. Then I used a small gold bowl for the trailing plant. Finally, I used white pots for the ficus plants.
In effort to keep your shelf styling personalized, add large picture frames or art. My favorite way in doing this is by leaning the frames behind a few decorative items. Use the book method to add height. It’s helpful to use frames that do not match and to use large mats for some frames and no mats for others. This keeps it interesting and allows your eyes to travel along the items.
Texture and Tones
You will notice that I have several different objects that are white. But each item has a different texture. Some are smooth, some are speckled, and some have texture. Also, I included different wood tones. The driftwood connects the eye with the mantel and then to the other side with the dough bowl. Don’t be scared to mix wood tones. I prefer mismatched over perfectly matching.
Keep it functional
Everything I have discussed up to this point has been purely aesthetic. But what about all of your stuff? Where to store your electronics and extra items? I recommend using baskets to store unsightly items like remote controls, toys, and etc. We are fortunate and have cabinets below our shelves that store most of our electronics. I do hide a few of the electronics in a large basket and one cord behind a frame. We also use a large basket with easy access to store blankets for the kids.
Finally, take all of this advice lightly. I know it was A LOT of information. When in doubt, make your shelf styling personalized. Include items that you actually love and you will love the end product. Do not clutter and remember to embrace space. In closing, when in doubt, keep it simple!