Designer Tips | Fabulous Shelf Styling

You may be able to pick colors and make things match, and you may even have a decent grasp on scale, but do you know how to style?  Styling is something that many people struggle with.  What's the right compromise between "full" and "finished".  It's important for a space to look complete and lived-in but not so full of stuff that it feels cluttered.  It's also difficult for many people to grasp the concept of styling when it comes to shelves.  The reason--shelves a meant to be functional.  They hold books or "knick-knacks" and if you have the shelf space, why not fill it?  Today we're going to discuss ways to make your shelves have a function--storage and display, but also look nice.  Styling is really about the jewelry of a room.  It's the way you add that finishing touch.

Height.  Height matters A LOT when it comes to styling.  The reason being is that the height of objects is where your eye moves as it moves across the space.  If all of the objects are the same height it creates one straight, harsh line your eye skims over.  It leaves you just kind of underwhelmed.  It's expected.  But when the heights of objects vary on a display, there's a flow to the look of the room.  It's more romantic and fluid rather than being harsh and straight.  So when picking the objects that you're placing next to each other on a shelf, make sure they are a varied heights.  Make sure to include objects that actually have some height, as well.  If object heights are varied but they're still all relatively short, the shelf will look like it needs more stuff. One tall item can fill a space visually.

Get Personal.  You want your displays to tell a story and if it's in your home, the story should be about you.  Use objects that you like and that are meaningful to you.  If you are ok with abandoning the "everything has to match" mentality, you can create something really unique and special with your objects.  You can create something that looks collected rather than staged.  These sorts of simple details are what make a home feel well-loved and cozy instead of like a model home.

Group items.  Part of creating a fluid movement in a display also has to do with groupings.  Again, we're avoiding the harsh, straight line effect here too.  You're still trying to achieve a balance, though.  So group items in odd numbers.  A well-trained stylist may be able to make it look fabulous by using even numbers, but that takes a trained-eye.  You know you'll always be safe with odd numbers so start there first.

Think about the backdrop.  You may have filled your shelf, but have you accounted for all of that blank space behind the objects on the shelf?  You may have to make a judgement call on this, depending on your space, but hanging something behind objects is a good way to create height if you don't have any tall objects to place.  Consider your space, though.  A small bookshelf may not need something hung on the back of it, but if you have a single display shelf against a wall, by all means, hang something up!

Edit.  Don't be afraid to edit your styling once it's done.  And don't be afraid to leave some open space.  The eye will jump from object grouping to object grouping so a little rest in between may be necessary.  Negative space can become part of the display too, so don't be afraid to let it work for you!

Of course, we've given you some helpful tips but don't feel constrained by these rules alone.  Think outside the box!  Get creative, use your emotions!  Beautiful spaces are created in many different ways!