How to style shelves is today’s topic of choice. I’m ready to spill my best-kept secret for how to do some good shelf styling.

… Ready?!

It includes getting your mom to do it for you! Ha! Kidding. Or at least I am now since my mom can’t come here and do it for me because she usually would – and normally that is my secret weapon.

Since that’s not possible, I have had to learn how to style shelves on my own – especially because we have added a whole new shelf since she was last here, and I wasn’t very well going to leave it empty until… 2022?! When we see her next.

So below, I’ve outlined what I’ve learned and my tips and trick for how to style shelves.

Sharing how to style shelves - showing the completed version on a gold shelf that has books, plants, vases, prayer beads, and file holders.

Styling Shelves Inexpensively

First, I am all about how to style shelves on a budget.

+ I’m talking, books you own and flipping them around so that the pages are showing instead of the cover.

+ Using inexpensive items from Ikea (like the magazine holders pictured here – which will serve a purpose once I get a system – or, their in expensive pots/decor items).

+ Hunting down sale racks. Sale racks are a great place to find inexpensive home decor items. Email lists will help give you the heads up when stores are having sales. One of my favourite ones is when Anthro home stuff is on sale, the sale is typically 25-40% off, and then you take an additional 40% off the sale price. It ends up being so cost effective.

+ Always keep your eyes peeled at Home Sense. Always.

+ Something I have not gotten into as much as I could is thrifting. Always be on the lookout for something you can upcycle for really inexepsnviely (like my DIY Vase which was actually thrifted)

If you spot a good deal and don’t necessarily know where anything will go at the time of purchase, it’s okay. If it’s small enough, I would totally hang onto it in storage. One day, it will be useful, whether it be because you want to shop your house (one of the tips from my home decor refresh post) or because you bought or made a new piece of furniture where that piece you found six months ago would fit perfectly.

Sharing how to style shelves - showing the completed version on a gold shelf that has books, plants, vases, and file holders.

Pick a Colour Palette

My best trick for how to style your shelves is to pick a colour palette and stick to it. I find it much easier to make something look composed and well-styled if you’re within the same colour realm.

I went whites/creams/lighter pinks – and of course, green with the foliage and wood. Saying it out loud, it sounds like a lot; however, all of these colours fit in the same realm and are incredibly subtle, so they match together easily.

If you are going for a bright colour, try to stick with only that one colour and have those other more muted colours to balance it out.

I would like to note that my one outlier here is the metal basket – I don’t have a lighter metal one and I shoped my home for this shelfie instead of buying anything. That being said, I will certainly be keeping my eyes peeled for a lighter basket. For now, this one doesn’t offend me too much.

Sharing how to style shelves - showing the completed version on a gold shelf that has books, plants, pictures, and a globe.

The Actual Styling Tips

Now onto the good stuff.

Some inspo for items you can use to style your shelves:

+ framed or canvassed pictures or art

+ plants and planters

+ vases + flowers (dried – or real if you’re game to replace them continuously)

+ old books

+ decorative pieces like prayer beads, small knickknacks, candles, or a diffuser

Simple shelf styling tips:

+ Varying height: make sure not everything is the same height – use books to prop things up and create height variations. Large pieces of artwork/picture frames are a great way to add height as well.

+ Different textures: don’t have everything be the same texture. Plants, books, candles, wood, or metals are easy ways to incorporate various textures.

+ Groupings in odd numbers: I generally follow the rule of three – sometimes, five if you have a big enough space.

That’s it! I hope this has been helpful. Don’t be afraid to play around, and if you are buying new, you will likely have to buy/return a few times. Don’t be discouraged. It is a work in progress and will rarely be perfect on the first try.

As I mentioned, most of my decor on this shelf is decently old, but I will link some great shelf decorating options below for you.


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  • Erin

    These turned out so pretty & minimal! I love how the color scheme of all the items flows together so seamlessly. Flawless, as always!

    • Samantha

      Thank you so much! I’m super happy with these ones but may end up just redoing the whole space… why not right ?! ahah!

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