Tips For Styling Shelves

You recognize this piece of furniture. It's in my apartment. Its first life was red. Its second is a sort of turquoise. 

Since I'm talking about styling bookshelves today, I had to show one of my own versions first. 

My way of styling is to first take everything off. (Dust while you've got the perfect opportunity.) And then I put one thing on one shelf at a time. 

I stand back and look. And then I add and stand back and look some more. Until the look is pleasing. If it seems a bit cluttered, I start deleting.

(Cozy Little House)

Obviously I like color. But since the back is turquoise, I wanted to highlight that with lots of white and lighter colors. I like to add things from now and things from the past. 

My collection of white pitchers goes well here. With a few other colors of pitchers thrown in for variety.

This shelf is probably in a nursery. Photos, books, and toys. I love how the toys are grouped in jars. It's own little vignette.

These shelves have been added to a brick wall, and the effect of the rustic shelves on the white brick wall is stunning. They went for a vintage vibe. And it's so appealing.

I can easily see myself spending lots of time in this room, with the comfy bohemian chair and the many books to entertain me.

They crammed in lots of books, which, to me, is the purpose of bookshelves. But then added decorative items for interest.

These industrial-style shelves look great with kitchen and dining elements on them. An added benefit are the rollers. I love the vintage styling. And the basketry gives added texture.

This one has a lot of interesting features. You know a bookshelf is styled well if you can't stop looking at it!

These two bookshelves don't focus as much on the books, as they focuses on little treasures. Probably mementos that mean something to them.

We all have what I call pretties and treasures. And we need a place to group them for effect, and to keep your tabletop spaces from looking cluttered. 

This photo reminds me of something I would do. Kill two birds with one stone. And I did this type of grouping in Texas. 

Have your dining space next to your bookshelves. It would keep you highly entertained as you ate your meal. And also work well in a smallish space.

This one starts out with a fantastic backing, that adds a lot of texture before one item was ever placed inside. The theme was carried onward by placing a work of art, created from what looks to be the same batch of rustic wood, on top. 

The colors are limited and of natural hues, which gives the vintage items a bit of elegant styling.

This is a great look with the old worn boards placed against a white backdrop. The items are whimsical in nature, such as the piece of rope draped in and around the decorative pretties.

Adding a plant gives texture and a bit of nature, and is always an added benefit because it draws the eye to it. I know my eye goes straight to the greenery.

So how do you style your shelves? Do you have a pattern or equation you use? 

I tend to just go with the flow.


  1. I tend to go with the flow too, Brenda. Whatever pleases me that day! I noticed on your shelf some of the same books I have. All the shelves look great. Have a wonderful day.

  2. I had an entire wall of bookshelves built in my addition. Love my vertical storage!

  3. I'm a go with the flow gal, and as I tire of certain items, off to Goodwill they go for someone else to buy and enjoy. Sometimes I just get tired of dusting all of the little items in the house so I downsize my vignettes a bit. I really don't do any shelves, but rather table top decor. Love the looks you have chosen to show us.

    1. I'm with you. I have several tables that I make little vignettes on. I only have one shelf and it is above the sofa. I treat it like a mantel. My book cases are just full of books, no room for anything else!

  4. Brenda, I just happened to pull out some of my older Country Sampler magazines today.. The first one I started looking at was the one that showed your "little blue house" and how you had it arranged.. That was the July 2014 issue.
    You sure have had the ideas for decorating in all kinds of spaces.. You had an arrangement like the one shown with a table next to your book shelves..
    I'm so glad I saved that issue.. Your color preferences have changed a bit and you've gone a bit bohemian in your styling. All of the decorating that you've done has been so creative and you've used what you have on hand..
    I enjoyed this portion of your always looking for ideas..
    I'm really hoping for cooler weather and Fall decorations.
    Thinking of you.

  5. Lots of great inspiration, Brenda! I just bring together what I like...and it just happens. If I get it too crowded, I, like you, just take a little out!

  6. I change mine up all the time with the "stuff" I have around the house. I interchange all the time. I find I get bored looking at the same things all the time. I would love to have open shelving in my kitchen. I guess I could take the doors off my kitchen cabinets. I would be satisified with just one open cabinet, with all sorts of cuteness on display.

    1. Gosh, could I have typed, 'all the time' one more time in my post? Jeepers.

  7. I love looking at other peoples bookshelves and stuff.. Makes me smile knowing I don't have to dust all that lol

  8. I change my shelves fairly often.
    I think the shelves in the baby room are so attractive because she used the 3 or 5, any uneven number, making it very pleasing to the eye. Sometimes, too much on a shelf ends up looking more like clutter and doesn't show the objects on the shelf as well. I really have to watch myself to make sure I don't end up with too much on my shelves.
    I just LOVE shelves and these you show are nice.

  9. Thank you so much for compiling all these great ideas or styling shelving. I love vignettes but haven't mastered them yet. A work in progress! Thanks again for the great inspiration!
    ~~Carolyn @ Our Gilded Abode

  10. I am terrible at this so I appreciate all your pictures, and I'll have to try what you said. Take everything off and put back on one at a time, that's what I need to do. I'm really bad at keeping things the same way too long.

  11. Love how your pretty white pieces pop on the blue! Lovely!

  12. These are great examples. I love books and I love shelves and all the cool ways you can display the things you love. When we started painting room by room recently, I realized I had multiple shelves in 4 rooms of my house---including the bedroom. Unfortunately the effect was more cluttered than interesting so other than my reference books, i.e., gardening, decorating, non-fiction and cooking, I got rid of everything. I can be brutal like that!! I had no need for all of the non-fiction books I've read, I did keep a few for sentimental reasons but there is a time when you have to let it go and let someone else enjoy them.

    I love your eye for color on your shelves-funny how the white pops like that. I saw you have Summer Rental, I just finished that a few weeks ago and want to read more of MKA's books. I love the Outer Banks but I'll probably never get there! lol!

    Jane x

  13. Great inspiration, I'll be working on my shelves right now. Thank you so much for these tips.

    Harry @ Bonifacio Global City

  14. I always love to see how others decorate their shelves. These are all great inspiration. xo Laura

  15. I need to redo my shelves-thanks for the inspiration.

  16. Lovely examples of shelving. Seeing so much inspiration is refreshing.

  17. Brenda, you are the master at this, I love looking at your decor. I've been following you for years, have been lax in commenting, but you are an inspiration. In many ways! xo Paulette

  18. The shelves in my office are a mishmash of sentimental things mixed in with books. I haven't shared a picture of them for a reason lol I do plan on painting them at some point, so I'll use this as a guide when I put the stuff back.


  19. I collect white pitchers too! And I dust and rearrange shelves and tabletops like you. Plus sometimes I don't remember how it was before I dusted. Depends on the time interval. Ha! Sheila


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