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Easy tips to style your shelves

I have been working recently with some lovely clients and chatting about styling shelves. It made me think I could share some tips and help you get styling in your own gorgeous dens. It can feel impossibly hard to get it right with a bare shelf in front of you but there are some easy guidelines to follow that will help you nail your styling like a pro. Read on for my top ten tips for you to work with.




To begin, take everything off your shelves and start afresh, it’s much easier with a blank canvas.


Then go hunting around your house and pull together items that have personal meaning and that you love as your starting point. Now let's get started!





1: Choose your artwork and photos

These are a great starting point for your shelves. Gather frames that are of differing heights. Think about how much height you have between your shelves as well and what will work on both portrait and landscape.


They can also help you to start thinking about your colour palette from the frame itself to the colours of the image/artwork. These will be the first things you add to your shelves.



2: Add your personality

You must use objects that have a meaning to you as part of your shelf mix. This is YOUR home and it needs to feed your soul too. So if it’s a photo of where you and your partner first met, a pebble from the beach on that holiday, a picture drawn by your child – get it up there!


These are the items that should be your starting point and work up from there, as these are your memories.


3: Choose a colour scheme

Think about the look of your whole room and then review your personal items chosen for the shelves. Take a look at the colour and texture of the items you have gathered in front of you. Are there commonalities?


For example, do you have lots of items that have black tones in them or lots of brightly coloured objects. Are there lots of natural materials or metals in your items? Or do you have lots of ceramics or glass vases? By seeing the similarities it will help you select the key objects for your shelves.

Are you aiming for a neutral elegant style, a modern graphic style or a boho maximalist look for example? Is your room very neutral and this is where you want to inject some colour or does it need to tone to strong colours on your walls?

Do you want the shelves to sing with colour or do you want textures and shapes to be the focal point? You can then focus on selecting a blend of neutral items and pops of colour or metals. If you aim to spread the ‘pops’ across the shelves this will bring a balance overall. Repetition is key here.

4: Group objects together

This helps create balance and stops things looking cluttered. By choosing one large object or a group of 3 smaller objects you can make it feel more pleasing to the eye.


The key is to make sure there is space in between the items/groups so that they really have chance to shine. Aim to have different groupings on each of your shelves so that it adds interest and doesn’t feel ‘samey’.


5: Create different heights

When you are selecting your groups of objects it’s great to choose items of differing heights.


From short and tall objects to stacking books and adding an object on top. You can play with the heights and ensure you get a balance across your shelves.


It's good to get the eye moving along the shelves and by adding in changing heights it will draw the eye along in a story. It’s an easy way to add interest to your shelves and create balance.






Ensure you have an eye on the symmetry here – so if you have tall items make sure they are placed throughout the shelving and not all on one side for example. A rule of thumb is to try using all similar size items on one shelf drawing the eye horizontally along and then on the next shelf add a taller object in the centre of two smaller pieces creating a pyramid.

6: Adding in textures

Another great way to add interest here. By mixing up your textures from ceramics, woods, metals, plants , glass etc you will help the light have more reflections and shadows.


So think about choosing ceramics that have a worn and weathered texture alongside something with a more glossy finish.

7: Books

An obvious one to add to shelves of course but maybe not all of your books…!


Unless you are colour coding them and making a statement (warning: this is a very enjoyable time-waster) a shelf full of books can feel a little imposing.


Try instead to select a few favourite books and stack them on top of each other or held between two decorative objects.

8: Layering objects

This is how you add depth to your styling. By leaning one picture against another or placing objects just in front of another you will give a real sense of depth and draw the eye in.

9: Plants

No shelf is complete without a plant or three! Ok so I am a plant lover but they just add such natural beauty (and health benefits) that they are a must!


Now if you’re really not green-fingered then there are some pretty amazing artificial plants out there these days which will give you the impact too.


10: Final edit

Step back (or sit on your sofa if you’ve worn yourself out!) and take a look at the shelves. Do they feel balanced? Have you got a good mix of heights, space between groupings and a mix of large and smaller objects? Do the colours balance across the shelves? Do you have a mix of shapes and textures? Yes? Then you have nailed shelfie styling! Not yet? Then try editing… it’s as Coco Chanel once said...

“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off. It is always better to be underdressed.”

Try taking away a few items and see if the space helps focus the eye on the pieces you have left. You've got this!

If you would like some support in helping fill any gaps or some more hands on support in styling your shelves then give me a shout tor@denlife.co.uk.


Credits: @SJStylingstudio, @marquisanddawe, @shabbybearcottage, @breadandjam, @betweenthepearls, @simpllifrey, @apartmenttherapy, @nurture.and.cheer, @roomfortuesday, @cowshedinteriors, @amberinteriordesign, @booksbythefoot.com, @juniperhome.com, @studiomcgee, @desertgrovehome and @loveandrenovations



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