If you’ve ever scrolled through tons of photos on Pinterest looking for ways on how to style your shelves, I’m pretty sure you didn’t come out of that search disappointed. Pinterest has LOADS of pretty shelfies.

But if you’d pinned like crazy and still don’t know how to style your shelves, then this post is for you.

I’ve been in that situation quite a number of times before I ever became an expert at this (like when I styled my home office shelves once…and then a second time), so yes, I know it’s not as intuitive as it looks. Unless you’re one of those people who have the Midas touch: one touch of their finger and their shelves turn to decor gold.

how to style your shelves bedroom
Bedroom shelves I styled with IDr. Jenn Cañada for the Furniture Source showroom in Santolan Town Plaza

So I’ve compiled these step-by-step tips, all culled after working on numerous shelves—both for myself and my clients—to give you a head start on decorating your own bookshelf, pantry shelf, office shelf, living room shelf, what-have-you-shelf.
Let’s begin, shall we?

Steps to styling your shelves at home

  1. Empty those shelves. As they always say, start with a clean slate. You won’t be able to think clearly with all the clutter right in front of you.
  2. Shop your own home for stuff you can display. I’m not here to pressure you into thinking you need to buy fancy (pricey) decorative objects just to make your guests go “ooh” and “aah” over your shelves (I’m guessing they didn’t really set out to visit you just to see eye-candy displays). You’d be surprised at how your own stuff can make for good shelf decor.But, if you have money to splurge on nice new things, that’s okay too! The beauty of shelf styling is that anything that is ever of interest to you can and may go up your shelves.
  3. Use this checklist for objects you need for your displays. Make sure you have at least 2 to 3 of each of these items, so you have the ability to switch up objects within your shelves.

    Something tall

    How to style your shelves Tall Objects

    Tall books (just make sure the books aren’t as wide as the shelf depth), vases, and candlesticks

    Something boxy

    How to style your shelves Boxy Objects

    Better if they come in different sizes

    Something round

    Illustration of round and spherical objects

    Spheres, globes, round vases or containers

    Something organic or sculptural 

    Illustration of organic and natural objects like plants and twigs

    Organic shapes include large leaves, a bunch of flowers, twigs, driftwood, branches, or potted plants. Sculptural objects include—you guessed it—sculptures (at least those that fit the shelves), figurines, or anything decorative that has a geometric or unusual shape.

    Trays, art, and/or photos
    How to style your shelves Trays and Frames

    Basically anything that can be used to prop up against the wall, or to corral groupings of objects on the shelf

    Put all your objects within reach near your shelf in question, so it’s easier for you to switch them out during the entire process.

  4. Remember the Rule of Thirds. We use it in photography, in drawing, in fashion, and yes, even in styling. It simply means that objects look better when grouped in threes—or odd-numbered arrangements.
    You first start off with groupings of 3, 5, or 7 items—but don’t go too crazy and crowd your shelves. Most of the time, three items grouped together are more than enough.That said, make sure that you maintain negative space between groupings. “Negative space” simply refers to spaces where there are no items: no decor, no artwork, no nothing. We need negative spaces in interiors to give our eyes visual rest. As the Spice Girls used to say, too much of something is bad enough. LOL!

    How to style your shelves_DSC0212

  5. And lastly, use visual triangles. The best explanation I ever found about visual triangles is from one of my favorite interior decor experts, Jackie Hernandez of School of Decorating. Watch her video here:

Hopefully, you take these tips to heart and eventually develop your own style for, well, styling those shelves. I’m all for making our homes look neat and tidy and presentable, but I’m not about to pressure you into thinking that there is only one way of styling shelves. Want to make your shelves go viral on Pinterest or Instagram? By all means, go. Itching to display your entire collection of books, books, books? G.

I mean, hey, if it “sparks joy”, right? Only you have the power to make yourself feel happy (wink, wink).

Featured image by Toto Labrador. Graphics by Camyl Besinga.