Styling a shelf can be a lot of fun with practice! Here are 5 tips that I use for my living room shelf decor to create beautiful vignettes.

shelves close up with books, pictures, and figurines

Shelf decor: 5 tips on how to style shelves

After giving your shelves a good cleaning, you ready to jump in and start styling!

Use books in shelf decor.

I know that may seem obvious, but peruse these design and decor pages and you’ll see a common occurrence: books are rarely stored on shelves. That’s a shame in my opinion. Feel free to show off those books, especially those you loved reading the most. If you have hardcovers, you can choose to show off the pretty art of the book jacket, or you can show off the simplicity of the hardcover. In addition, displaying cool paperbacks is okay, too!

The books work together because they are in the same color palette.

Actually store stuff on the shelves.

Secondly, it seems like so many shelves are only used for decorative purposes for some reason. Why is that? I love a good figurine (as I have many), but I need storage. It frustrates me that so many beautiful spaces don’t ever store anything. So if I can’t store my stuff on shelves, in furniture, on tables, where am I supposed to put it? It leads to us moving things out the way just to take a pretty picture and put all of our unattractive stuff right back after we upload them onto Instagram. Honestly, I don’t want to live like that.

Moreover, I do agree that you should tuck away the ugly stuff. Advertisements and labels add visual clutter to a space and take away the serenity of a room. However, I refuse to pretend like I live life without these things. Therefore, I purposely plan for hiding places for all the ugly stuff.

Gotta have storage!

For example, this basket is my catch-all container. Spare scented candles and oils, as well as some book covers live here.

Additionally, these file boxes and magazine files help to hide more books I adore, magazines that I keep as keepsakes, and items I use for work. All of these items are of all different colors, so it’s great to hide them yet still have them a reach away.

Leverage the rule of thirds.

In art and design, the rule of thirds, in part, states that items grouped in threes are more pleasing to the eye. Thus, I usually group items in either thirds or odd numbers like 5 and 7.

Mirror elements.

This tip is my absolute favorite! You need to mirror what you did on the left of shelves on the right of the shelves as well. For instance, if I have a wooden object on the left of the display, I put another wooden object on the right. Also, I try not to put items of the same color side-by-side. Mirroring elements in shelf decor adds variety and balance without being too matchy matchy.

Gold shelves hold lots of shelf decor.
Mirror elements in shelf decor. For example, the black frames are mirrored on each side of the shelves.

Only use things you love in your shelf decor.

Again, we sometimes get caught up in trying to achieve a specific look we saw in someone else’s space. The thing is, if you love your items, you’ll take care of them and make them work. Nothing on my shelves are things I don’t love. Every item has a story!

For example, I absolutely love my ceramic figurines of soda cans I got from Target some 8 years ago. I like whimsical objects; it’s my thing. Sure, ceramic soda cans aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, these are objects I love and think look interesting! So, I include them.

And yes — I would have placed three if I found 3 figurines at the store but I only found two. 🙁


Remember, you should not be too serious when you style your shelf or shelves. These are just guidelines, not hard and fast rules! In the end, changing your shelf styling is the easiest way to make a huge change in decor in a home. It’s simple, fun, and easily changeable if you realize you don’t like something or just need a simple switch up. The best part? This is free! You most likely have the components to a lovely shelf styling laying around your home right now.



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