How To Style Open Shelving Like a Pro

Intentional Living

Interior Design: Cortney Bishop | Photography: Katie Charlotte 1. Be Mindful of Your Backdrop Before you even begin to think about styling your shelves, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of your backdrop. Displaying items on a shelf works best when you have a backdrop that pairs well with the items you’ll be showcasing. A clean, […]

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Interior Design: Cortney Bishop | Photography: Katie Charlotte

1. Be Mindful of Your Backdrop

Before you even begin to think about styling your shelves, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of your backdrop. Displaying items on a shelf works best when you have a backdrop that pairs well with the items you’ll be showcasing. A clean, fresh canvas works great for pulling in items of various texture and color. This isn’t to say that a beautiful wallpaper pattern or swash of color isn’t a good choice—if your wall is a bit busier, you’ll want to approach styling differently by using more neutral decor items.

2. Clear Your Canvas

You know that feeling of chaos you get when you work at a cluttered desk? And when you clean it all off it feels like a fresh breath of air? That’s exactly why you need to clear out those shelves before attempting to style or re-style them. Clearing everything out is like pressing a reset button on your styling sense. Get everything into a nice little pile, including any new items you want to add.

3. Beauty in Balance

Whether you’re starting completely from scratch or doing a total revamp, try to aim for a good balance of large, bulky or tall items like vases or pots, medium sized items and and smaller trinkets and treasures. Include items of various shape, texture and color, too.

Interior Design: Lindsey Brooke | Photography: Amy Bartlam

4. Start Big

When you’ve pulled together all of the items you want to work with, it’s time to style those beauties! Start by placing your larger, bulky items where they feel most appropriate. These typically work great on outer edges to help weigh your shelves. If you place one large item on the left side of your top shelf, try placing another to the far right on the next shelf down. Play around and see what works best.

5. Perfect Pairings

Next, work with your medium sized items to create pairings that balance out your bigger pieces. Grouping items in 2-3 pieces works really well. Pair items together of various height, shape, pattern and color. When working with books, there’s really no hard and fast rule—3-4 stacked works, but depending on size you could also do 1-2 books topped with a smaller item. Play around!

6. The Finishing Touches

Time to pull in those trinkets and treasures like styling beads, small candles, etc. Think of this like the jewelry for your shelving! Try to layer these types of pieces with or on the other vignettes you’ve created, rather than placing them in awkward piles by themselves. Bowls are great for displaying smaller items as well.

You may not actually use all of your items and that’s totally OK! Forcing items just because you want to include them can end up making things feel a bit cluttered.

We can’t wait to see how you style your shelves—make sure to use the hashtag #howihaven on your posts so we can see, and for a chance to be re-shared in our stories!


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