Five Tips For Styling Shelves

Last week on Instagram I partnered up with three amazing friends and design gurus to share tips on how to style shelves. This all started from a very selfish place… one of the rooms in our new home, while gorgeous, is basically floor to ceiling built in bookshelves and I’ve been feeling quite intimidated about tackling that project. While I’ve been working on my own shelves for the last few months and have a few tips of my own, I knew Emily (@mstarrevdesign), Jessica(@ohidesignblog) and Candace (@_houseofpaige_) had much more experience and could really help all of us who are styling shelves!

1.Pick a color palette to start with.

For me, this was essential and really helped me start both styling my shelves as well as shopping for potential items to use on the shelves. Whether you are going for a blue and white theme like I am or varying neutral shades, having that common color theme will ensure things look cohesive.

Photo by Jessica of Oh, I Design

2. Start with an empty “canvas” and more props than you think you’ll need.

Jessica from Oh, I Design shared that when she is styling bookshelves, ” First I like to take everything off and lay it on the ground. Make sure to curate more decor, books, and frames than you think you’ll need”. Candace of House of Paige similarly said ” start with a clean slate, always.” From my own experience, this is definitely the way to go so you don’t focus on trying to fit everything around one item, when maybe you just need to move that item.

Candace also echo-ed Jessica’s advice to start with more items than you may end up using- “Collect a lot, like a LOT of accessories. It’s good to have options to build with.”

Photo by Candace of House of Paige

3. Place your larger items on the shelves first as your “anchors” and then layer in smaller items.

Candace starts her bookshelves with her books (novel concept 😉 ) as the anchor pieces. One of her amazing tips for using books for styling is to shop at thrift stores or other places where books may be inexpensive. She also recommended taking jacket covers off of hardback books to reveal the spine color or facing outwards to showcase just the pages if you need a more neutral look.

From Jessica– “I like to place all the largest decor pieces (bigger vases, books, etc) first as anchors, the smaller items  will be layered in next.”

Unexpected items can be your smaller items layering items as well- love the matches seen in Jessica’s shelfie above or Candace’s idea to use personal mementos like a pretty rock or shell found on the beach.

Photo by Emily of M Starr Design

4. Odd numbers and varying heights make for some of the most balanced displays.

Emily of M Starr Design shared this tip and as someone who has always believed in the power of “odds” when decorating, it really resonated with me- ” Clusters are your friends. As are odd numbers. Mix and match different height items, creating depth with shorter pieces in front of taller ones.”

5. Check out your shelf styling by taking pictures on your phone and change as needed.

Loved this amazing advice from Emily- ” View through your phone to make sure the vignettes work together”. I did this myself and it really helped and also I could take pictures of a few options when I wasn’t quite sure to help me decide on what actually did look best.

Special thanks to Emily, Jessica and Candace for sharing their tips! If you need more inspiration, check out my shelf styling board on Pinterest 🙂


xoxo, Jenna

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