Categories Interiors|Lifestyle

How to Style a Shelf

How to Style a Shelf

home decor bookshelf

How to Style a Shelf

There are so many spots in your space where you have the opportunity to make a house a home. The artwork in your living room, the quilt on your bed, even the china in your kitchen cabinet can have a great story and say something about you and your home. And I love filling my house with things that are both visually appealing and give character to a space. My shelves, in particular, are filled with family photos, books, artwork, pieces given to me as gifts or passed down to me over the years. I love when a bookcase or shelves feel not only personal to me but are also beautiful to look at.


Even after the invention of printing, books were still such a rare luxury that they were commonly kept in a chest or on one shelf beneath a desk.


woman decoratingshelf styling

Find the Key Pieces

Styling a shelf is easy if you have the right pieces! Before you start to plan out your shelves make sure that you’re only displaying things that you love. Get rid of anything that doesn’t deserve a front row seat in your home. I love the illustrations by Coralie Bickford-Smith that are found on Penguin’s clothbound classics, so fill my shelves with those pieces. Find what speaks to your aesthetic. Trophies from your kids’ games? Photos from your last family vacay? Cat figurines? Pick what makes you happy!

woman decorating

All About Balance

I knew nothing about styling shelves until I partnered with Arhaus. While I knew what pieces I wanted on my shelves, I wasn’t sure how to make them look amazing. As part of their designing services, they showed me everything I needed to know to use my beautiful pieces to make a statement.

I learned shelves need to be visually balanced with the right amount of height, texture and items. Filling one shelf from top to bottom with a pile of books and another with a single photo frame will look strange no matter what they’re filled with. Make sure top to bottom, right to left things are visually balanced as you decorate. Lie some books on their side, others standing up on the left, others on the right. A small stack can have something delicate like a succulent on top while a larger stack may look just right positioned with a large vase.


Twelve oak bookcases made for the diarist Samuel Pepys are considered the earliest dated domestic examples of bookshelves. They were first installed in August 1666.


bookshelf style bookshelf bookshelf hands

Color Coordinate

Shelves can be color coordinated in any pattern or shade. Some choose to highlight a different color on each shelf or make the whole bookcase one color. I love to have a beautiful array of shades with a mix-match on each shelf, punctuated with monochromatic vases and accessories to make the color pop even more. Organize books, photo frames, or accessories by color to give your shelves some dramatic flair.

bookshelf books living room decor

Change It Up

The magic of shelves is that they are totally temporary! Change them up any time you want! Change the colors with the seasons, swap out the books when you find a new favorite author, or change up photos when you get back from your latest vacation. There’s no reason to leave your shelves as-is when you can make them into tiny little treasure troves for all your family’s favorite things!


Over 675 million print books are sold in the United States every year.


mother and child mother and child hands bookshelf style home decor

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