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Shelf Styling Ideas & Shelf Décor Tips To Make A Statement

When it comes to shelf decor, most of us will readily agree that how to decorate a bookshelf can be somewhat of a challenge. You might love the idea of those open, built-in floor to ceiling bookshelves but have no idea how to complete the styled look. The question you might be asking here is why even bother styling a shelf at all? It's important because the things we choose to surround ourselves with have the ability to either bring us joy or stress so being deliberate is key!

Technically there is no right or wrong way to style a shelf, however, there are ways to make a self both more effective and stylish, so why not give it a whirl. Here's our designer's guide on how to decorate a bookshelf - or any surface for that matter!

Amberinteriordesign I Netluxury

Going Back to Basics: Why Style a Shelf?

Every home, commercial office, or retail space requires will have some shelving whether it’s a small kitchen, living room, bedroom, office, or workshop, you can't avoid shelves. The items you have on these shelves can serve a greater purpose like ignite a conversation or bring back a fond memory. A pile of books can remind us to disconnect from our technology-crazed world, a framed photograph can make you reminisce and smile. A sculpture that you collected during your travels can remind you of how vast our world is, raw and tactile elements like plants can bring good energy and life into your home. So collect all your small treatures and we'll show you how to make it look beautiful on a shelf!

Shelf Styling Ideas to Get You Inspired

tlcinteriors (left) | bring life into the room by utilizing a shelf to create a vertical garden

White Dahlia Design (right) | a shelving system that incorporates both storage and display

Tips to Get You Started

These tips will not only guide you to achieve your perfect shelf, but it will also help you style any surface. Before jumping into styling you must decide on the shelving system (fixed brackets, built-in, floating, adjustable, freestanding, material such as glass metal or wood) to determine the size and weight of items. No one wants an overloaded shelf crashing down so make sure to check the weight capacity of the shelf you are using. Here are some additional prep tips you may want to start with.

Tip 1: Start with a clean slate

  • Having a blank canvas allows you to easily assess your progress. Start with de-cluttering and get rid of anything that you don't find beautiful.

Tip 2: Take a photo of your empty shelves

  • Although it's not necessary we like photos because it can be fun to see the transformation and because pictures sometimes allow you to access the shelf with fresh eyes.

Tip 4: Work with your design style

  • Define your personal style before you start, so the whole space feels like one cohesive room. If you need help discovering what your style is, find out here by taking our online Style Quiz.

Pictured: Shelf Styling Ideas for floating shelf decor and kitchen shelf decor

Choosing and Styling Your Favourite Shelf Décor

Start by buying or gathering items for the shelf, our favourites to use are books, art, photos, vases, plants, sculptural pieces, decorative boxes, baskets, or souvenirs from your travels. Budget tip? Save money by “shopping” from your own home to find shelf décor you may not be using or could be displaying somewhere else in the house. You can also gather fresh flowers and branches from your garden to bring some new life into the room!

Pictured: bookshelf styling items we love

Rustic Decor West Elm I Minimalist Decor Pottery Barn I Glam Decor West Elm I Modern Minimalist Decor The Modern Shop I Rustic Decor Pottery Barn

Organize items together that you want to use for each section of the shelf. Group items together based on varied item types but also on height or color. Then lay them out in piles so you can see the color scheme and ensure similar items are spread out. Here are some tips on how to group items together.

  1. Start with larger items and keep in mind shelf load capacity. Place heavier items on different shelves if needed to distribute the weight.

  2. Layer and group items while playing with the height and depth. Do this by creating an “A” or “L” shaped Vignette (group your objects so that from a birds-eye view, they form an “A” or “L” shape).

  3. Create contrast by playing with different elements of colour and texture. Add real plants if the environment makes sense for them. No time for real plants? Faux plants will still add that lively element when you don't have natural light or want the upkeep!

4. Incorporate personality by showcasing keepsakes and mementos such as photographs or art. Spread them out for added interest.

5. Pause. Step back and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Try not to overcrowd. There is no rule that dictates what you should or shouldn’t include on your shelves. So just have fun, and play till it feels right for you!

...and Voila!

By following these tips, you too can achieve a beautifully balanced shelf!

Extra Tips & Inspiration


  • For bookshelf styling and bookshelf decor, use heavier sculptural items to prop up books instead of the traditional bookends for a more creative and unique look!

  • Add some concealed strip lights under your floating or built-in shelves to create some ambient lighting.

  • Tell a colour story. And if you've got tons of books, try organizing them by colour in fun ways!

  • For kitchen shelf décor, make sure your most used items are easily accessible. If you are aiming for a minimalist décor aesthetic, less is more, but make sure each item is both beautiful and functional.

Contemporist I Wayfair I CB2

The most important thing is to purposely fill, store, or display your shelves with objects and items that help create a space that truly feels like your own. If you need further help deciding what décor and accessories to put on your shelves or want to integrate your design ideas into a cohesive space, feel free to contact us to discuss our design packages. Or better yet, subscribe to our newsletter to stay connected and get your weekly dose of inspiration!



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