How to Decorate Shelves

Ever since we completed the renovation on the 1987 Fixer Upper, I have been amazed at how little space I have to actually decorate.  Our house in California, which is 1/3 of the size of this house, has many more spots to accessorize.  I decided it’s time to start adding some shelves and built-ins to get this place looking decorated!  The living room has a big empty wall space next to the piano that has been begging for a bookcase.  I fell in love with this one and fortunately, it was the perfect size for the space.  Sometimes shelf styling can be a little intimidating.  You see all the perfect looking shelfies over on Instagram and they can look effortlessly cool.  Well, let me be the one to debunk that myth.  Those effortlessly cool looking shelves, probably had more design time spent on them than most places in the house.  Decorating shelves is a process and so I thought for those of you that have been wondering how to decorate shelves, I would walk you through what I do and hopefully my shelf decorating tips will make the task of decorating your own shelves a little less daunting. Affiliate links are included in this post. 

How to decorate shelves

Bookshelves are a great way to add personality into any room, and they are often a big focal point of a space.  Placing things at random can create a visually confusing and cluttered mess.  Here are a few tips for how to decorate shelves that will highlight your favorite things while at the same time create a balanced and beautiful display.

How to decorate shelves

HOW TO DECORATE SHELVES

1. DECIDE ON A COLOR SCHEME

While you can mix in a large variety of textures and color into your shelves, I like to start with a few colors in mind that are going to kind of be the main color scheme to my design.  When I decided to decorate these shelves in the living room, I went with lots of blues and greens so that they tie in with the rest of the room. Think about the room that your shelves are in and what the rest of the decor looks like.  Try to tie your shelf decor into that decor too for a cohesive look.

How to decorate shelves completed

2. GATHER ALL THE THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO DISPLAY ON YOUR SHELVES

What makes good shelf decor? 

-Books

-baskets

-trays

-plants (mostly faux in our house)

-sculptural objects, pottery (like vases)

-framed pictures

-boxes (bone boxes are awesome to stack)

-lanterns

-cool bowls

-found objects and souvenirs 

You are going to need more items than you think.  Gather a pile of everything you think you might want to display so you have a lot to choose from.

How to decorate shelves

3. START BUILDING YOUR SHELVES WITH THE LARGE ITEMS FIRST

Baskets, books and larger pictures/art are good places to start.  Stack big books, laying them horizontally, add large vases etc.  These items are going to grab everyones attention first because they take up the most visual weight on your shelves.  Because of this, you also need to make sure to space these items out evenly throughout the shelves. I had several large and heavy vases that I wanted to include on these shelves.  It would not have made sense for these big, heavy items to be on anything other than a bottom shelf because they would look out of place. 

how to decorate shelves 

4. LAYER IN SMALLER PIECES ON TOP OF YOUR LARGER DECOR ITEMS

Add in smaller frames and artwork, lean some smaller books, place objects on tops of stacks of books, try to mix colors and textures here.  Start to fill in open spaces.

how to decorate shelves

5. CREATE VISUAL INTEREST WITH GROUPS OF LIKE OBJECTS

For example, I have these little bowls that I like to collect from places I visit around the world. They are little, so arranging three of them together in a group gives them more impact on these large shelves and creates some interest.  Remember, groups of threes are more visually pleasing than even numbers, so try to combine like objects in a group of three.  Sometimes that means being selective with what you choose to display, but sometimes less is more. 

how to decorate shelves

6. FINE TUNE YOUR SHELVES FOR BALANCE, HEIGHT, WEIGHT AND TEXTURE

Step back often while you decorate your shelves and take a look at item placement.  Are all the tall objects on one side of the shelves?  Are the heavy feeling pieces all grouped together on a top shelf?  Do have lots of gold pieces grouped together and several natural items elsewhere? Make sure that you have evenly distributed the pieces with cool texture and height, visual weight and impact throughout the shelves until everything feels balanced.  

Shelf styling tips

7. LAYER IN GREENERY

A few plants can do wonders for your styled shelves.  They add color, texture, height, and interest all on their own…all while making the shelves come to life.  Vary the types of greenery, the styles of pots and the size of the plants to mix in with your decor objects.

MY FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOP FOR ITEMS TO DECORATE SHELVES

McGee and Co : lots of great unique pieces 

Target : Great for frames and 

-HomeGoods : Always good for all kinds of fun decor
 
Amazon : I get all of my books here for styling 
 
Here are some of my favorite shelf styling products.  Simply click on the image for more details about the product. 

Thanks for visiting the blog!  You can find our most up to date home tour here, and all the posts on our remodel here

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Happy designing!

tammy

xoxo

Tammy

Tammy

Owner at Pink Peppermint Design
Tammy Mitchell is the founder and creative director of lifestyle blog pinkpeppermintdesign.com. Along with being a homeschooling mom of two kiddos, she is also an in-demand prop and event stylist, photographer, interior and graphic designer. Here on Pink Peppermint Design, she aims to share creative DIY projects, easy entertaining and gift ideas, inspiring interiors and events, as well as her life, with thousands of readers every month. She lives in Southern California, with her husband and two children.
How to decorate shelves

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