I have been meaning to film a video breakdown of shelf styling forever, but something always comes up and I am admittedly terrible at filming video content. Eventually I promise I will get to it, but I thought it might be helpful beforehand to share some of the pieces that I find necessary in making a balanced shelf set up that looks intentional, but not too over done.
I will also preface this by saying shelves are a PROCESS. No matter how many I have tackled it takes a lot of fluffing to get the right feeling and there is no surefire formula that works for every built in or bookcase. Whenever I am restyling I like to take just about everything off the shelves to start with a clean slate. It helps me visualize better when they are empty opposed to working around some existing road blocks.
Books, Books & More Books
I have said this a lot, but for me books are the building blocks of most styling situations especially when it comes to shelves. You ALWAYS need more than you think and you almost always need them to be bigger than you think. Shelves have a way of eating up accessories so having books layered in help with height, color and texture. I prefer a less full look so I go with horizontal stacks and work accessories on top of or around them.
Bring It To Life
Adding in fresh greenery or flowers always help make shelf styling more dimensional. I love flowers, branches or even a small potted plant perched on top of books. If you don’t have a green thumb, a nice faux plant like this could work well. If you go for faux flowers I always recommend buying individual stems and cutting them down to look more realistic. Putting them in a cool ceramic vase will help conceal that they don’t have water. Having something organic really does help offset a sea of books and decorative accessories.
Add in Weight
You can get all the best accessories, but if the sizing is off they will never look right. Weightier pieces such as large books, a piece of art, or oversized decorative objects will allow the items to play off of each other better. At first glance you might think the large oversized basket and smaller Senufo stool I have on the bottom would look out of place, but they add weight to the entire shelf and bring your eye down – this allows you to read the built in as a whole opposed to going shelf by shelf.
A Touch Of Vintage
Similarly to natural elements, weaving in vintage objects can bring anything to life. Vintage pieces have a patina or a lived in look that isn’t always easy to replicate with all new pieces. Of course there are some pieces meant to look old like a marble bust which are great for shelves. Vintage or vintage looking is where a majority of texture I add in comes from – a wood stool, cool ceramic vases or oversized Moroccan basket play off of the more streamlined books nicely and create harmony.