How To Decorate Shelves Like a Pro

20 Minutes

Recently, I had the sheer pleasure of visiting my dear friend Tina’s (@ to_mimishousewego) lake house! Wow! Her home is so beautiful and so full of love; I truly didn’t want to leave. Tina asked me how to decorate shelves inside these tall built-ins on the second floor landing of her home. She had some photos and collections that she wanted to use. However, I brought some NEW pieces from my shop,, where you can find handmade, vintage and ethically sourced home decor products, too.

I am sharing the process of how to decorate shelves, so that it might help you, too.

How To Decorate Shelves Like a Pro

Vary the height of objects!

Varying the height of objects within a shelf, or space to create visual interest. For example, consider using risers or pedestals, like the ones we have HERE, to add height to smaller items, like potted plants. Stacks of books work well, too.

The goal is to create something visually pleasing to the eyes. When you vary the height on opposite sides, your eye won’t be drawn to one particular area. Consequently, the eye will be led throughout the space.

The easiest rule of thumb I have is this: do not stack your decor on multiple shelves. If you have something tall on the right hand side of a shelf, then place the taller items on the left hand side of the next shelf. In addition, put a shelf in between that has no height variation.

Here’s an example: On the top shelf, use tall lanterns, like these handmade from the shop. However, on the right side, decorate with a smaller vignette, like a stack of books with a decorative bowl or woven basket on top. On the middle shelf, use 3 pots all the same height. Then, decorate the bottom shelf with a large object on the left hand side and a smaller vignette on the right hand side.

Use a variety of color and texture, too!

If you use wooden pieces in dark brown tones on one shelf, then alternate a color or shade of that color on the shelf below it. Specifically, do not use the same color in two areas directly on top of one another. For example, place a wooden piece on one side of one shelf. Then, repeat that color on the opposite side of another shelf. This will ensure that one side isn’t visually heavy and the eye isn’t drawn to one particular side of the shelves.

When breaking up colors, try styling a shelf with one item or a group of items right in the center. I mentioned three jugs all the same size, but you can use a set of baskets staged into one grouping in the center of the shelf.

Add Greenery to Bring Life to the Space!

Greenery, whether real or faux, will bring life to any space. Therefore, include a few potted plants or stems when decorating shelves. If you’re using muted faux florals, then stay consistent and use the same tones within that space. For example, a really bright set of green stems styled within a muted color scheme of other botanicals, will stick out like a sore thumb. You can shop our selection of greenery at From: Susie.

Five More Tips to Decorate your Shelves

Occasionally, take a step back to see what it is that your eye is drawn to. This is the best way to ensure that the shelves are visually balanced, evenly distributed and one area doesn’t stand out more than the other.

Remember to distribute the elements evenly whether it is a particular color, texture, or greenery. By repeating a certain element, you create cohesion into a styled space.

Think outside the box. For example, turn flat items, like baskets or trays, on their side like I did. Or lean artwork on a shelf to add un expected element.

In addition, include items that are important to you and bring you joy. This may include family photos, heirlooms or collections from your travels. It’s the best way to personalize your space and make a house into a home.

Group items in sets of 3’s. Odd numbers are just more appealing, and encourage the eye to look around. However, pairs of two work, too, if you love a symmetrical look.

If you need more styling ideas, read 7 Throw Blanket Styling Tips, or my Pillow Style Guide. You can always shop for products similar to my design style at Like to Know It, from these styled shelves to room designs. Lastly, I hope these tips to learn how to decorate shelves prove helpful to you! Let me know in the comments. xo!

Susie Robb Brinck
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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