3 April 2020

Built-in shelves are such a simple way to add some personality, warmth, and color into a space. We are huge fans of open shelving and love incorporating them into our projects to create a subtle, yet transformational look. They’re perfect for displaying all of your favorite family heirlooms, photos, art, and knick-knacks. As much as we enjoy the satisfying feeling of perfecting a styled shelf, the process can be a bit tricky and take some time! If you’re styling your shelves or want to change up your shelves current look, keep reading to find out some of our pro tips.

Choosing Your Accessories

When choosing accessories to style your shelves, you’ll want to try to keep them mostly neutral and tie in a color or two that compliments the color scheme of your room. Select pieces of all sizes and textures to give your shelves some variation. When we style shelves for clients, we like to use vases, bowls, picture frames, sculptures, family heirlooms, plants, and most importantly, books. Need extra storage for objects that aren’t so pretty? Add in some decorative bins or baskets at the bottom of the shelves!

Designer Tip

Shelf styling doesn’t just happen on the first try, it takes a lot of editing. When we style bookshelves for clients, we look at what accessories they already have and buy other pieces that we feel would work. We usually get more accessories than we need so that we have options to play around with, and we leave all of the tags on and save receipts. Once we try out different styles and perfect the final look, we then remove the tags from those items that we’re keeping for the shelves and return the unused decor.

Layout & Placement

Placing your accessories throughout your shelves takes a lot of trial and error. You want the overall design to look balanced and have each shelf differ from the rest. We like to use the rule of thirds for both spacing out the decor, as well as when grouping items of different sizes. When spacing out your accessories on each shelf, use the rule of thirds to section them as if there are three vertical lines going up and down the shelves. These imaginary lines will show you if a section has too much decor in comparison to others and will help you balance out the overall look. You want the shelves to feel polished, not cluttered, so don’t be afraid of having some empty space! When using the rule of thirds to group items, have one taller, one medium-sized, and one smaller piece grouped together to make it more visually appealing.

To achieve that perfect, balanced look, try to create diagonal lines across the shelves so that the eye is drawn to all the decor throughout your shelves rather than just a section of it. Be sure to have some variation with each piece that the diagonal and vertical lines are connecting. For example, have some sections with one large piece like a vase or sculpture, some with groupings of two, and some with three. To create variation with books, have some of them placed vertically with bookends or a decorative piece next to them, and have others placed horizontally stacked on top of one another with candle, picture frame, or figurine placed on top of them.

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