How to Decorate Shelves the Easy Way for a Stylish Home

Are you staring at those boring, empty shelves and wondering “how to decorate shelves” to turn them into stylish and eye-catching displays? Don’t worry, I’ve got the perfect solution for you! Decorating shelves is an easy and fun way to add loads of personality and character to any room in your home.


With just a few simple tips and tricks, you can transform those bare shelves into beautiful vignettes that showcase your unique style. Whether you want to create a cozy reading nook, a striking gallery wall, or a welcoming entryway, your shelves are the perfect blank canvas. Get ready to turn those drab shelves into decorating masterpieces!

In this step-by-step guide, I’ll walk you through the whole process, from decluttering and planning to styling and accessorizing. You’ll learn all the insider secrets from top designers to make decorating shelves a total breeze. So let’s get started on the exciting journey to shelves so gorgeous, you’ll want to show them off to everyone!

1. Declutter and Organize


The first step to decorating shelves like a pro is to declutter and organize. Clutter can make even the most stylish shelf look messy and uninviting. So grab a box or basket and let’s get started!

First up, take everything off those shelves. I mean everything – books, picture frames, knick-knacks, the whole shebang! This will give you a fresh, clean slate to work with.

Now it’s time to sort through all that stuff. Go through each item and ask yourself – “Do I really love this? Does it spark joy?” If the answer is no, toss it in the donate pile. We only want to keep the goodies that make your heart happy.

Once you’ve pared down to just your favorite things, give those shelves a good dusting. No one wants to display their treasures on dusty, grimy shelves! Use a microfiber cloth and get them spic and span.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Says William Morris, Designer

Staying organized is key for stylish shelves. Pretty boxes, baskets, and trays will be your new best friends! Use them to corral similar items together in neat little vignettes.

Pro Tip: Remove a few books from their jackets for a fresh, tidy look. The colored book bindings add great pops of color!

With a decluttered, organized set of shelves, you’re ready to start the fun part – styling! Let’s move on to choosing the perfect color palette.

2: Choose a Color Scheme


Now that you’ve decluttered and organized, it’s time to choose a gorgeous color scheme for your shelves! Color is the key to pulling everything together into one stylish, cohesive look.

The easiest way to pick a color palette is to look around your room. What colors are already there in your furniture, rug, curtains or artwork? Stick with those main colors as your base.

For example, if your living room has a cool blue sofa and warm tan accents, you could use shades of blue, tan and white for your shelf decor. Mixing in natural wood tones works perfectly too!

Once you’ve nailed down 2-3 main colors, you can add in 1-2 accent colors as pops of fun. These accent hues add energy and keep things interesting. Maybe a bright yellow for freshness or a rich plum for sophistication.

But don’t go too crazy with a rainbow of colors – that tends to look messy. A simple color palette with just a few hues allows your displayed treasures to really shine.

“Color has an incredible way of affecting our moods and emotions.”

Says Amanda Reynal, Interior Designer

To keep your palette cohesive, vary the tones and shades rather than using vastly different colors. Mixing warm and cool variations of the same color family looks super chic.

Pro Tip: Can’t decide on colors? Flip through magazines or browse Pinterest for color scheme inspiration!

With your stylish color scheme selected, you’re ready to start styling those shelves into balanced, beautiful vignettes.

3: Must-Have Decor Items For Shelves


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Frames | Vases | Candle Holder | Bowl | Faux Greenery | Sculpture | Baskets | Bookends | Decorative Objects

To create those envy-inducing shelfie displays, you’ll need an arsenal of the most popular, versatile decorative accessories. Luckily, we’ve rounded up the essentials that designers always keep on hand.

First up, you’ll definitely want a mix of books in various shapes, sizes and colors. They instantly add height, texture and pops of color. Honestly, no shelf is complete without a stylish stack of books.

Photo frames in wood, metal or colorful acrylics are another staple. Cluster a few framing your favorite family memories or art prints for an instant gallery vibe.

Vases, candlesticks holders and decorative bowls are also key for adding sculptural silhouettes. Look for interesting materials like ceramic, glass or polished concrete.

“The most sustaining source of decoration is found in accents of your own life story.”

Says Elaine Griffin, Designer

And of course, some greenery in the form of real or faux plants and botanicals helps liven up the look in an organic way.

Finally, round out your collection with unique objects d’art like geodes, figurines, orstunning shells that add vibrant colors and worldly flair.

4. 8 Foolproof Styling Formulas


Now that you have all the essential decor items, it’s time to master easy, foolproof styling formulas! Here are 7 winning combinations:

1. Frame Print + Greenery + Sculptural Object

This formula combines art, nature, and an eye-catching sculptural piece. The framed print adds a graphic element, the tall plant brings in liveliness, and the sculptural object provides an interesting focal point.

2. Stack of Books + Decorative Bowl + Object

A classic grouping featuring books for height and color, a decorative bowl for texture and shape, and some greenery like a potted plant or clipping to freshen things up.

3. Candlesticks + Leaning Artwork + Organic Accessory

Create a warm, cozy vignette with candlesticks for ambiance, a casually leaned artwork or mirror, and an organic accent like driftwood, shells or branches.

4. Vase + Framed Photo + Decorative Box

This combo has the vase as the centering sculptural piece, surrounded by a framed personal photo for meaning and a decorative box for texture.

5. Books + decorative bookends

Create attractive bookends on your shelves by stacking books horizontally or vertically and anchoring them with decorative bookends. This adds structure and visual interest.

6. Books Standing Up+ Books Laying Down + Sculptural Object

Built around books standing up and laying down for their colors and variety of sizes, with a sculptural object as the showpiece.

7. Single stand-alone decorative object

Let an eye-catching, sculptural object like a vase, bust, or unique vessel have a spotlight all its own by displaying it front and center on a shelf. This creates a focal point.

8. Large storage baskets for storage

Incorporate large woven or patterned storage baskets onto shelves to both decorate and organize. They add warmth and texture while hiding unsightly clutter.

“Design is all about the mix – putting things together with intention to create a layered and curated look.”

Says Emily Henderson, Stylist

Pro Tip: Odd numbers are best – use 3, 5 or 7 items per grouping. And overlap items for depth!

With these shelfie styling essentials and easy formulas, you’re ready to craft picture-perfect vignettes like a total pro.

5: Create Balanced Vignettes


With your shelves decluttered and color scheme set, it’s time to dive into creating gorgeous, balanced vignettes. These styled groupings are the secret to giving your shelves that coveted, curated designer look.

The key to a pleasing vignette is using the rule of odds. Arrange decor pieces in grouped displays of 3, 5 or 7 items for natural, asymmetrical balance that feels effortless yet intentional. Odd numbers are simply more visually interesting than even groups.

When assembling your vignettes, mix in a variety of shapes, textures and heights. This adds depth and dimension to keep things dynamic. Vary tall pieces like plants and candlesticks with short bowls and sculpted objects. Combine shiny, sleek accessories with nubby, organic elements too.

To get started, gather your styling arsenal – books, plants, vases, frames, and unique objets. Then have fun playing with these foolproof designer-approved formulas above:

“Vignettes crafted with care and meaning have soul and make any room feel beautifully lived-in.”

Says Nate Berkus, Stylist

Spread your styled vignettes out across the shelves, leaving open spaces in between as breathing room. This creates a curated yet uncluttered look. Overlap and layer pieces within the groupings too for enhanced depth.

Pro Tip: Lean artwork on shelves to instantly build in height and added interest.

With thoughtfully arranged decor vignettes in place using the rule of odds, your shelves are already appearing so stylish and intentional. Next up, the final polished touch…

6: Incorporate Lighting


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Lighting is the secret weapon that can take your styled shelves from looking pretty good to absolutely stunning! The right illumination adds layers of coziness, drama and ambiance.

Start by maximizing any natural light hitting your shelves. Position mirrors nearby to bounce the light around and make the whole area feel brighter and more open. Or hang sheer curtains to let in tons of lovely filtered sunlight.

For an affordable ambient lighting option, string up some fairy lights or LED strips along the backs of the shelves. This casts a warm, twinkling glow that makes your displays look magical at night.

You can also get creative with decorative lamps and candlesticks placed directly on the shelves themselves. An arched lamp adds height and sculptural beauty, while votives lend a romantic flicker.

If you really want your shelved treasures to sparkle, install discreet puck lights or LED track lighting to highlight specific items or sections. This spotlighting technique draws the eye right to your most prized possessions.

According to a study by Houzz, 58% of homeowners now prioritize statement lighting when decorating their spaces.

Pro Tip: Layer in different light sources at varying heights for a luxe, layered lighting look.

With the perfect lighting in place, your shelves have taken on a whole new depth and dimension! Just one element left to truly personalize the look.

7: Add Personal Touches

The final step to creating showstopper shelves? Adding personal touches that make the display 100% yours! Sprinkling in meaningful objects and mementos is what takes decorated shelves from just looking “designer” to feeling truly warm and homey.

Start by showcasing some of your favorite family photos in a mix of frames. Cluster a few different sizes and orientations together for an effortless gallery look. Those smiling faces will instantly make you feel right at home.

Another great idea is to display treasured souvenirs and knick-knacks from your travels and adventures. That seashell from your beach vacation or mini Eiffel Tower from Paris will spark happy memories every time you glance that way.

If you’re a bookworm, don’t just shelve those books – celebrate them! Create artful stacks of your most loved novels, leaving some fanned out to show off the beautiful covers. It’s like having a huggable library within reach.

“The rooms we inhabit shape our identity, our memories, our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams.”

Says Ilse Crawford, Designer

And for a crafty, creative touch, incorporate some of your own handmade items like ceramics, drawings or embroidery hoops. Seeing your personal handiwork proudly on display is so satisfying!

Pro Tip: Use bookends made from your kids’ old toys or childhood mementos for an extra nostalgic touch.

A Houzz survey found that 47% of homeowners display travel souvenirs as reminders of cherished experiences.

With those unique, personality-packed details, your shelves have truly come to life in your own signature style. Guests will instantly be able to “read” your story just by glancing around.

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Now that you’ve learned all the pro tips and tricks for decorating shelves, it’s time to dive in and transform your own bare shelves into showstopping masterpieces! Gather up your favorite accessories, decide on a stylish color palette, and start playing with those foolproof vignette formulas.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and make it personal. After all, the most gorgeous shelfies are the ones that feel like warm extensions of you and your unique story. So incorporate those sentimental treasures, travel mementos, and handmade touches that make your soul smile.

Invite a friend over for a second opinion and have fun with the process. Ask them which accessories and displays draw their eye and what subtle swaps could enhance the look even more. Then sit back, raise a glass, and admire your handiwork!

With these shelfie secrets, you’re now equipped to craft displays so eye-catching and drool-worthy, your guests may just forget what they came over for in the first place. Those bare shelves are about to blossom into sheer art you can’t wait to show off!

How To Decorate Shelves-FAQs:

How often should I rotate the items on my shelves?

For a fresh, updated look, try switching out decor items every few months, especially when changing for new seasons. Rotating pieces keeps your shelves feeling lively and intentional.

What’s the best way to dust and clean decorated shelves?

Use a microfiber duster or cloth to gently remove dust without scratching. For hard-to-reach areas, try using a makeup brush to dislodge grime. Budget weekly cleanings into your routine.

Can I mix different styles on my shelves, or should I stick to one theme?

Absolutely mix it up! Vary modern pieces with vintage finds, glam accents with natural elements. This curated, eclectic look adds beautiful layers of visual interest. Just anchor it all with a cohesive color story.

How do I decorate if my shelves are deep?

Create depth by staggering accessories from front to back rather than lining them up. Use bookends, planters, and larger scaled items towards the back. Layer smaller pieces in front.

Any tips for decorating built-in shelves flanking a fireplace?

Highlight this focal point by styling your vignettes a bit more formally with symmetry and matching accessories like candlesticks and topiaries on each side. The center can stay cozy and layered.

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