How to Style Shelves Like a Designer

Want to learn how to style shelves like a designer?  Try these simple solutions to create beautiful spaces in your home that you can enjoy for years to come.

How to style decorative wall shelves like a pro!

Styling any kind of decorative wall shelves can be a daunting task.  Did I add to much?  Is there not enough?  Does everything coordinate and make sense? 

I have  many decorative shelves in my home including  master bedroom book shelves  laundry room shelving, dining room reclaimed wood shelves, my open shelves in the kitchen,  and my industrial style pipe shelves. It can be common to over style shelves as well as under style them.  I’m here to day to give you a few tips on how I style my shelves like an expert.

There are a few steps that I take when getting ready to style me decorative wall shelves:

  • Are there certain colors you want to maintain throughout the room?
  • Do I have any collections I want to feature such as artwork, ceramic items, baskets, books, etc.
  • Do I want to add baskets or containers for organization?
  • Can I shop my home to create the look I want or do I need to purchase a few new items?

I struggled often on how I wanted to style my decorative shelves.  There are so many different ways to style shelves and sometimes we can feel overwhelmed.

So I answered a few of my questions.

 Take my master bedroom decorative wall shelves for example.

How to style decorative  wall shelves like a professional designer. Try these easy tips to take your shelves to the next level!

I had some collections I wanted to feature, as well as some baskets.  In addition to that, I also had a color scheme.   The goal was to keep the colors neutral with whites, tans, beige, as well as black and navy. 

It was important for me to implement my collection of antiques as well as thrift store finds in this space. Texture, subject matter and color all play into this.

Design Tip!

Texture, color and subject matter of decorative objects are important elements to remember when styling shelves!

I also had a collection of white pottery and vases that I wanted to use. Heirlooms are also great items to add to your shelves. Whether they are your living room shelves or an set of office bookshelves. I would not recommend using them in a kitchen with open shelves because to the cooking element.

How to style decorative wall shelves like a boss!

So, as a general rule of thumb, I like to gather up all those things I want to include in my shelving and set it all out together on the floor.  I separate it into categories of books, baskets and wooden boxes, greenery/plants, and small accessories or fillers. 

I start styling my bookshelves by adding my books first.  I don’t fill the shelves full of books, rather, add 2 or 3 to one shelf, either standing up or stacked laying on their sides.  Adding layers of books or other design elements help to add visual interest to your bookcases. If I have, say 10 shelves to fill, I will use books in approximately half of them. 

I then add larger pieces, such as baskets and crates for storage, and antique pieces to the other shelves.

A tip to creating a create look with books is to find old books at a thrift store for 25 cents a piece and looking for those in your color palette.  You can also forgo that and do what I did to these farmhouse style books.  It was the easiest project I have ever done.

Now lets take a look at my decorative wall shelves in the kitchen.  

Last fall I decided to change up a few things in my kitchen, and turned some cabinets into open shelves.  I wrote an entire post about how and why I did it.

How to style decorative wall shelves like a professional designer. Try these easy tips to take your shelves to the next level!

I also created a post with 25 different decorative shelf brackets that would look amazing in any home.  You can’t go wrong with that post.

looking for stylish shelving options?

25 Decorative Shelf Brackets for Any Home

So, lets discuss how I styled my kitchen shelves.  

It was my desire to have them be functional and also stylish.  So, I gathered my collections, and looked them over.  I had a set of white dishes that we use everyday, and I knew I wanted to have them on the shelves.  

Another element I wanted to add was my spice collection that I created using mason jars.  Again, collections are a good way to start! 

Create decorative wall shelves like professional designers with these simple tips!

I considered the colors that I wanted to use and shopped my house and kitchen for other elements that I needed to have, including my Rae Dunn Clay mug collection.  If you are looking for Rae Dunn pottery, check out this comprehensive shopping guide that I have created.

Style Office Shelves with Ease as Well!

Have fun when styling your shelves. Add unique items and use it as a place to store pieces as well. I use my office bookshelves to store my art easel as well as pottery and smaller items. You can use both decorative items and function items. You can also add family photos combined with other elements such as a sculpture, or even souvenirs from past vacations.

Adding a stack of books, candle holders, and other decor elements creates interest. Remember that odd numbers when adding items is more visually pleasing than even numbers. Three stacks of books, three candlesticks, or three small items together rather than two items is more appealing to the eye.

Check out my industrial pipe shelves in my living room. 

They have overall been the hardest for me to style.  Trying to keep them cohesive and simple, yet stylish was quite difficult for me.

Combine different textures and heights to create beautifully designed decorative wall shelves.

I decided to really pare down these shelves.

The key is to not overfill the shelves.  You want to style them, and have them look complete.  Some of my shelves only contain one item, since it is a large item.  I arranged them next to a shelf with something opposite, like books and greenery. 

One more thing to think about is to make sure one side is not heavier than the other.  This meaning that there is a balance between large items(baskets etc)and small items.

Just remember to keep it simple.  Add one element at a time to begin, and then add the next element.  This makes it easier to keep stock of what you have and what you still need to add.  By taking these steps, you too can style your shelving like an expert.

A Few Things to Consider When Decorating Shelves

  • Add some personal touches – whether it be with heirloom items you may have from family members or items from your travels.  One thing we try to do when traveling is get a piece of driftwood from where ever we are visiting(if they have a lake or ocean nearby!)  We have pieces of driftwood from Vancouver, Washington, the Mississippi River, and Hawaii. We are heading to Iceland as we speak, and I plan to get a piece to bring back with us)
  • Less is more – Sometimes you will keep adding items and it will become too much.  If you find yourself this way, take a few items off, and keep it simple.
  • Combine Tall and short items – This will give your shelves interest and dimension.  
  • Mix materials- Mix different textures and materials such as: woven baskets, assorted metals, ceramic pieces, and floral or greenery.

How to style decorative wall shelves like a professional designer. Try these easy tips to take your shelves to the next level!

I used these principles when decorating my laundry shelves.  We added specific items that we  knew were special to the family, and also relevant to the space.  My children love to go metal detecting, and these are some of the pieces they have found in their travels.  The old rusty pitchfork was their most prized possession.

I think if you try these tips and tricks you will become a master at styling those decorative wall shelves like a pro!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  1. Thank you very much your decorating ideas are fantastic and I like the mirror and want one where you got the mirror.
    I love it those are perfect for my small NYC apartment you just inspired me with an idea for my apartment thank you so much !! I’ll tag you with picture after I am done with creating and setting it up 🙂

  2. Great post Sara! I would love for you to come over and link up this post at Thursday Favorite Things tomorrow!
    I am crazy about those spice jars in your kitchen. Is that a DIY? Love them!
    The party starts at 9:00 a.m. EST on my blog. Hope to see you there!

  3. It’s really some great decorating ideas from you. I have rented a new apartment last month and trying to decorate that properly but can’t. So I have started searching on the internet and luckily found your post. I will be quite happy if get a decorated shelf like you. Definitely, I will try my best.

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