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How To Style Shelves: 10 Design Secrets, Tips & Tricks

Shelves are a simple and easy way to adds character and depth to a space & give your room an eclectic feel. They also offer a chance to display & be surrounded by curios that you have collected over the years, be it something beautiful, functional or meaningful. Some simple tips while styling shelves will take your shelfie game from drab to fab:

Begin With A Clean Slate

This applies to styling or designing anything and everything: begin with a clean slate so that you can think clearly. Sometimes our mind gets stuck on same thoughts and ideas on seeing the same things repeatedly. This step would also give you a chance to declutter & get rid of irrelevant or old things.

Think About The Colour Palette

The look of your shelves will appear cohesive when a colour story runs throughout. Not everything has to be the same colour, but choosing two or three shades and repeating them will give your shelves a pulled-together look. Introducing neutral colours or textures (like wood, wicker, metal etc.) and repeating them will tie together the whole look and is also a great idea to create textural interest.

Style With Books

It might seem obvious, but bookshelves look great with books on them. However, this doesn’t mean they need to be packed to the brim with all your books. You may also use books as little risers or platforms for interesting objects. If you have lots of books, stack them horizontally in some places and vertically in some, to break things up. You may also create a colour blocked look with the books.

Add Greenery

Nothing adds a little life to any space like a bit of greenery. Just a few plants or flowers can bring interest to your shelves, adding texture and a pop of colour to your room. Look for plants with a visual appeal like fresh cut blooms, edgy succulents or ones with interesting foliage, but match the scale of the plant with the space in which it is going to be placed. Fresh flowers also add a lovely aroma besides looking beautiful, which is an added advantage.

Display Sculptural Objects

Make a statement with objects like metallic orbs, small trophies, lanterns, etc. that have unusual shapes and unique silhouettes. Some objects may look great when placed alone, and others may  look better being a part of a larger vignette.

Incorporate Art & frames

While art prints or photo frames may not look like obvious choices for styling shelves, but they are an interesting option. Art prints or pictures aren’t the only things to be framed, there are endless options like dried flowers, an interesting hand-made textured paper, fabrics with interesting weaves or embroidery and so on.

Layer Your Collections

Items make more of an impact in a group. Place something large at the back of the bookcase-shelf like mirrors and frames and then layer and group smaller items in front. Make sure that the objects have different heights for a better visual impact. Add something that draws your eye vertically upwards, grouped with something that is horizontal. Groups of three or odd numbers work great in vignettes. To know in detail about how to create beautiful vignettes, read this post. 

Pay Attention To Balance

Balance and visual weight play a big part in shelf styling. Make sure your shelves are not so crowded that they begin to look like a commercial library or an antique shop, but also make sure that they are not too sparse, or your decor will get lost in empty space. Try mixing old and new, hard and soft, round and square items to create interesting compositions.

Ensure Functionality With Aesthetics

The purpose of shelves and book cases is not to just look pretty, but also to serve a function. Make sure that practical ease is taken care of, while styling them. For example, if plants are kept in the top shelf, it may be difficult to water them. So, things like plants or books etc. that may need to be reached often, should be within reach. Also think of hiding functional and usable stuff like batteries, keys, head phones etc. in pretty bowls, baskets or boxes so that they are organized but don’t look like an eye sore.

Edit, Edit, Edit

As most interior designers & stylists will tell you; the most important step in shelf styling is to stand back and edit. Look at your shelf and ask yourself — does it have too many things, or too less? Does it look balanced? Does it represent the style that you had in mind? Keep moving and re-arranging things till you reach a stage where the entire composition pleases your eye. Enjoy the newness in your room every time you style your shelves, not to mention the feeling of satisfaction that you’ll get by renewing the decor of your room without buying anything new or spending any money. 


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