shelf styling 101

If you follow along on IG Stories, we’ve been talking alot about shelf styling lately. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you have a larger piece to work with. Today, I am sharing some tips and tricks on what objects to use when styling and best way to make your final product look natural and organic.

If you want to style-a-long, head over to @alyssekatherine and check my Story highlight SHELF STYLING to join us! We are styling this Ikea Cabinet today.


Let’s start with objects. When styling a shelf, you’ll want a variety of different shapes and sizes to work with. I almost always use books when styling, so right off the bat I know I will need more height and round shapes to balance that out. This helps create different “levels” for a more visually appealing look. Also, for a more cohesive look, stick with a color palette. I tend to use more neutral pieces with a few pops of color. Lastly, use things you actually love! It will add more personality to the final product. Art, photos, jewelry boxes, trays, vases, planters, candles, and so on! If you like it, you can style it.

As I have mentioned, I am a big thrift shopper so many of the objects I use are vintage or second hand (will be doing a whole blog series on this too!) I’ve linked non-thrift and/or similar items for you all as well as objects that I think are versatile and easy to style with! You can shop them below.


Now that you have your objects all laid out, let’s get started! First, let’s create styling sections.
Dividing a bookshelf or console table into sections makes styling much more manageable and less daunting! Group a pair of vases in one space, books in another, etc. The cabinet I am styling today naturally does this with the window panes on the glass door.


As a baseline, I like to start off with books and magazines. They can add weight, help create space, and acts as a great foundation. Like the objects, I like to use books with a color scheme here as well – again, creates a more cohesive finish.

As far as actually styling books goes, there are a few ways you can go. Personally, I am a fan of the “three tier look” – one smaller coffee table book on top of one large coffee table, with a decorative item like a planter, bowl, candle, etc on top. You can also pile similarly sized books one on top of the other for a more clean look. You can also balance out all those horizontally lines with a few upright books and/or a bookend!

Note: Find a good secondhand bookstore near you! You will save SO much more money buying used books plus you can really found some GEMS that speak to your personality a bit more. I love French art and decor so many of my books are French inspired.


Now that you have your foundation set, you can sprinkle in larger objects. Since we started out with books, let’s add some rounder shapes and some height first – I recommend planters, vases, candles, etc. here. Make sure you are staggering the objects by height, weight, and color – making sure you are clumping all the color or height in one specific area. I like to follow a zig zag line to help juxtapose objects! You can then fill in more square shapes – like art or trays – from there.

Also, make sure to put more of your substantial items like large vases or a tall stack of books towards the bottom of the shelf to help ground it. Keep your lighter items up top for a more organic look.


Lastly, no shelf is complete with a green aspect! It makes it more homey and natural. I love using airplants because they will last long even in a dark cabinet. Plus, the shade of green is always easy to work with.


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