How to Style Shelves

6 Materials
60 Minutes

Have you struggled with decorating shelves and bookcases? Let me tell you a little secret, I have! Although, over the years I have practiced and restyled more shelves and bookcases than I can count, today I’d like to share my 3 step guide for shelf decorating ideas.

As we put the finishing touches on Ellies bedroom, one of the largest areas to decorate in her bedroom are the built in shelves. These shelves not only need to be beautifully styled, but they also need to be functional.

Ellie desperately needed storage in her small bedroom. Steph felt that the solution would be a  built in desk with shelves. It turned out to be a great solution for all of her crafting and art supplies. However, we still needed it to look neat and uncluttered!

Follow along as we share our tips with our step by step ideas for decorating shelves.

If you would like to see us in action decorating the shelves, click on the link.

Step 1: Clear off the shelves

When taking on a project like this, I find it best to start with a clean slate. Begin by removing everything from the shelves. I realize this is a lot of work, however it will provide you with a clear vision as you begin to restyle.

As items are removed off the shelves, sort them into groups, such as books, photos, art, accessories and embellishments. By doing this, restyling the shelves will be so much easier.

Step 2: Add books

I like to begin with the books. After all, books are generally the main items that will go on the shelves.

Place a grouping of books on alternating sides of each shelf. As well as a grouping of books in the center of a shelf if it’s wide.

As we added books to the shelves, we wanted a cohesive color palette. With this in mind, we have all the books facing backwards.

These are books that Ellie will not be reading anytime soon.

The books on the right side have a spine that flows more with our color palette and those spines are facing out. 

However, some of Ellies books have wild and bright colors. Those books are concealed in the 2 magazine holders on the shelf, as well as in the bin on the lower shelf.

Step 3: Add Art, Mirrors and Photographs

One of our favorite shelf decorating ideas is to add art, mirrors and photos. These items add visual interest, along with a reflective quality.

Placing a few mirrors strategically, will help bring light onto the shelves.

Watch for an upcoming post on how we made the round mirror.

Step 4: Embellish with Decor

The last but not least shelf decorating idea is to embellish the shelves with decor. This is a great time to think about your color palette and sprinkle the color throughout the shelves.

Each shelf has a touch of our blush color. We used blush flowers to bring in that hue, as well as the globe. 

You’ll also want to add items of varying heights and shapes.

Adding a bit of greenery brings life to the shelves. It can be just a sprig here and there, greenery balls, or a small potted plant.

As the decor accessories are added to the shelves, you’ll want to keep them with varying heights, shapes and textures. By doing this you will create a lot of visual interest.

We used a gilded vase to store her brushes, which not only adds height, but it is also functional as well.

We added a few natural wood elements to the shelves with a beautiful box, carved initial and a vase.

You’ll also find gold pieces throughout the shelf decor. Ellie loves anything gold! The gorgeous gold and rhinestone picture holders are from  Totally Dazzled. Don’t they look beautiful on the shelf?

Some of our favorite shelf decorating idea embellishments are lanterns, candles, trinket boxes, photos, clocks, trophies, globes, etc. 

Think outside the box as well! You know that we both love to decorate with vintage items. A great shelf decorating idea would be to display a collection of family heirlooms. 

On my  built in shelves I have my grandpa’s racing trophies, an old typewriter and a small suitcase that my mom kept her treasures in as a child.

Not only do these items add visual interest, but they also have sentimental meaning to me. They are my treasures!

So as you think about shelf decorating ideas for your own home, include items that you treasure. Put them out on display for all to enjoy. Let them be a conversation starter.

The watercolor print we used on Ellie's shelves is available on our website as a FREE download, just click here.

We are thrilled with the way the shelves turned out! Let’s just hope 🤞🏻 they can stay looking that way. We have implemented storage and organization elements throughout Ellie’s room. So far, the organization techniques are working. 

Thanks for spending some time with us today. We hope you have found some inspiration and shelf decorating ideas that you can implement in your home.

What elements do you like? What would you do differently? We always welcome your comments.

Suggested materials:
  • Magazine holders   (At Home)
  • Storage box   (At Home)
  • Wooden box   (Home Goods)
See all materials
Sunny Side Design
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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