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Simplified Decorating: How to Decorate Shelves

8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

I’ve gotta say… I had no idea how much fun it would be to do this Simplified Decorating series until I got a bunch of requests from y’all.

Sometimes it’s just good to take it back to the basics so you don’t stand there staring at a table or a shelf feeling stuck. Decorator’s block… is that a thing?

We’ve tackled how to style end tables, how to decorate kitchen countertops, how to make a bed look fluffy on the cheap, and then while I was at it in the kitchen sprucing it the other week, I styled up our shelves too.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

(Some affiliate links are provided in this post. Full disclosure here.)

I pinned and poured over all of the pretty shelf styling inspirations and realized there was a real method, a perfect balancing act to make every single piece of decor look purposeful.

So here goes.

How to Decorate Shelves 

1. First, take everything off of the shelves and start with a blank slate.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

2. Pull together items of different textures, colors, materials, shapes, and heights. Look around your home for items you probably already have.

3. Style just 1 shelf at a time or start with an item that makes a large statement as your focal point.

In my case, I wanted to style my kitchen shelves around this one piece of vintage style art in its gold frame.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

4. Space out like items.

My two white Smeg appliances look similar, so I spaced them far apart by placing them in opposite corners of my shelves.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

5. Repeat the same process by placing larger items on other places of your shelves to make them look balanced.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

6. Add books.

Books pretty much always look great on shelves. Lean them against an interesting bookend or use them as a riser to create height for any smaller items you place on top in a stack. They create a great foundation for the next step: smaller accents.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

7. Fill in between the larger decor with smaller accents.

I paid attention to like items again by spacing out the two clear glass pieces so that they look balanced.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

8. Add plants.

Without that pop of green, shelves can seem boring and lifeless. And plants just make you feel good and breathe better so yay! A perk!

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

If you have a lot of room on your shelves, it helps to use the styling triangle too.  Symmetry makes everything better.

That’s it!

See how the two gray items are balanced? The plants are balanced? The larger items are all equally spaced with the smaller accents placed in as filler? I swear the balancing act works.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

Then, once you know the rules, you can figure out how to break the rules. Because being a rebel in decorating is fun. 😉

I like incorporating things that we’ll actually use like this concrete mortar and pestle to make guacamole.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

And this cake stand to pull down whenever we have company to use as a serving piece for desserts.

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

And we definitely dive into that Magnolia Table cookbook because it is DANG good.

Here are all of our kitchen shelf sources, if you need them:

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

If you need other ideas for decor to use on shelves, these are some of my favorites to include:

Bowls

Vases

Objects

Boxes

Candle Holders

Framed Art

Plants & Flowers

How to Decorate Shelves | 8 tips for decorating shelves to make them look perfectly styled and balanced every single time to make a statement in any room.

Do you have any shelf styling tips you use? Or do you just wing it? When in doubt, go with your gut. A lot of times, it’s right.

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12 Comments

  1. It never occurred to me that this doesn’t come natural to everybody until I saw a lady lining up 3 large vases in the store floor one day. I asked her if she was setting up bowing pins. She had a really long set of bookcases and didn’t know how to decorate them. So-naturally I taught her how to make vignettes- and buy a lot more stuff.

  2. I plan to take everything off my garden window this weekend and start over with your tips! BTW…are the framed recipes your grandmas? I have one of my grandmas and it is starting to fade. Any tip to help with that issue? I can’t bare the thought of it fading away but I want to be able to display it!

  3. Hi Lauren

    Unlike other posters I haven’t had a problem with your blogs.

    I love virtually everything you do but this latest post left me wondering.

    The shelves look good but how often you use the toaster and the kettle? Do you you really use the kettle all the time? It surely can’t be used on the shelf? What about the steam the kettle generates? And what about the power supply cords? Where are they?

    Do you use the toaster often? If you do, then surely it’s not convenient in that position either.

    Sorry to appear negative but for me practicality has to come first with an appliance used frequently (such as a kettle) even if it is on the counter top and perhaps not very decorative.

    1. We just pull the items off the shelf we need to use and put it right back when we’re finished. I use the kettle to make hot cocoa or tea a lot so I heat it on the counter, pour, unplug, put it back on the shelf. No different from storing it in a cabinet or in the corner of the countertop really. Same with the toaster.

  4. use the largest/heaviest/brightest item in the middle (a bit off center so it will look more casual) and then work out from there. Most times avoid tiny objects, or at least group them together. Use mirrors behind the objects to bring in light. Cover poster board with wallpaper to use as a non-permanent backing to add pattern and/or color. Once you think you’re done remove one or two objects. Sometimes this makes the focus better! Some blank space is a good thing.

  5. Beautiful. What is the best way to print the photo and what type paper do you use to make it look vintage? Did you send it to a photo printing lab? Thank you!

    1. I just printed it from my home printer on regular card stock. It ends up looking matte that way instead of photo paper, which can make it look glossy and less like a painting.

  6. You can ignore this if you want…i found a way to get to newer posts that isn’t much of a hassle. if i click the “blog” link at the top, it still takes me to the old post, but if i scroll all the way down to “recent posts”, it is there and updated.

    I will say, i’d like it if your recent stuff was at the top, but as long as i can get there, i’m happy!

    1. Thank you, Heather! I’ve noticed that issue too, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why it won’t populate on my “blog” tab whenever I share a new post. I’ve been thinking for a while I should go back to putting my recent posts at the top of my homepage, and you just solidified that for me, so thank you for that. I’ll fix that today. It’s been driving me bonkers!

  7. Lauren,

    Starting a couple of weeks ago, whenever I go to your blog, it doesn’t show the latest post, but one from Feb 7 or 8. I have to scroll through and hunt for your latest posts. I don’t know if you made some sort of change? I actually go to the blog to read your posts, not go from instagram or a reader or anything. Not sure what changed…

    This isn’t a comment to post, btw. Just informational. I LOVE your blog, but I had this happen with another blog a couple of months ago, and I found that trying to get to her latest posts felt like such a hassle to me I have actually stopped reading her blog. I don’t want that to happen to you, but fear it might. That isn’t some sort of threat LOL I just know me.

    I just want you to know in case i’m not the only one it is happening to.

    Thanks.

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