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How to Style Your Shelves

If you’re an avid social media user with a passion for interiors, you’re probably well aware that there are millions of pages and posts dedicated to styling your house.
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Pinterest and Instagram are brimming with images of stylishly arranged shelves and display cabinets, but how can you achieve this look in your own home?

Here, we’ve rounded up some tips for creating beautiful shelves and displays. So if your shelving units are housing old video players or dust-collecting bric-a-brac, check out our ideas for upping your shelf game.

The shelf setup

Before you style them, are you happy with how your shelves are placed? Instead of one or two perched on a wall, consider staggering them at various heights to use the full space and keep eyes moving up and down.

If you have a lot of empty wall space that’s not being used, consider introducing a tall bookcase or display cabinet to make the most of the area.

Once you’ve got your shelves and cabinets in place, it’s time to start styling them up…

Add some artwork

Artwork is a great way to add a personal touch to your room, and you can use your shelving to introduce some to your décor. Artwork adds depth and layers by utilising the whole width of the shelves.

This is a great tactic for rented properties where you’re restricted as to what you can hang on walls. Prop some artwork or framed prints up, and you’ll bring a unique twist to your shelving.

Light it up

Shelves and units don’t just have to be about books and ornaments; they’re also a great way to cast some light.

Bookcases in particular are a great way to work some additional lighting into your room. A small lamp housed in a section of its own can bring some atmospheric lighting, while the shadows it casts bring a sense of drama and excitement to the room.

Balance it out

To bring some balance to your displays, place objects of similar sizes at opposite sides. Another great tip is to use an odd number of items in the display; rules of composition mean things just look better this way, as the human eye tends to naturally be drawn to the centre. Try three, five or seven items on a shelf, with a hero piece in the centre.

The beauty of books

In this digital age of ebooks and Kindles, displaying books on a bookcase is becoming something of a lost art. But stylishly arranged books can bring a vintage feel and look impressive when stacked on display.

Mix up the placement to keep it dramatic and appealing; lay some books on their sides whilst others are stood up. Place decorative objects like vases and bowls between them for added texture and interest.

Many book enthusiasts prefer to arrange their tomes in alphabetical order, but you could try arranging them by colour for a visually appealing alternative.

Style it out

For a really interesting take, don’t be restricted by a single colour or style. Try accessories of different shades and colour combinations, and introduce ornaments of different shapes to incorporate texture.

You can also choose decorative pieces of different styles; who says you can’t combine Scandi sculptures and vintage accessories?

Don’t forget the dead space

If you have a couple of floating shelves on the wall, they may look great alone, but can become lost in the grand scheme of things. Particularly in bigger rooms, the impact of the display can be dampened by expanses of empty wall around it.

Use space above shelves to add an extra dimension and extend your style around the room; adding wall art or canvases can bring an additional element to your design.

But embrace the negative space

Whilst it’s good to use the space you’ve been afforded to create a look that delivers a powerful style statement, it’s also worth considering some negative space.

You don’t want to overdo it and produce a display that looks cluttered, so leave some sections of your bookcase empty. It’ll give the eyes a rest and allow the other pieces to stand out more.

Move with the seasons

To keep things looking fresh and relevant, consider changing your display as the seasons come and go. Incorporate new colours based on the time of year; go for oranges and yellows in autumn, greens and blues in summer or spring, and whites and cool greys in winter.

Keep a selection of ornaments in different colours, and each season you can add a new piece to keep it current and on trend.

Repeat for impact

Repetition is a tactic used by many interior designers to add drama and impact. Where a single item might look a little lost and lonely on its own, grouping similar items can create a more powerful look.

Group similar ornaments together, or try it with glassware in a display cabinet.

It’s probably never finished

They beauty of shelves and bookcases is that they are so easy to edit and change. If you want to transform a room’s décor, the thought of stripping wallpaper and painting is a daunting one. But sometimes it’s the little things that have the biggest impact. Just tinkering with your shelving displays can completely alter a room’s aesthetic.

Another thing to remember is that your shelves will probably never be totally complete. Don’t get too hung up on the ‘perfect’ look; to most visitors it’ll look great. Over time, you’ll gradually add new items to your display and make it your own.


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