How to: Style your shelving

Open shelving is a simple and easy way to give your room a chic and eclectic feel, while surrounding yourself with the things that tell your individual story. Curated collections give a layered, sophisticated feel to your space while letting guests see your most treasured pieces through your eyes. We find that open shelving is becoming more popular with our clients, whether it be in the living room, kitchen or bedroom.

Styling and decor can be difficult to get right and its these finishing touches that make a space, so we have compiled a quick guide to help you achieve Insta worthy shelves (#shelfie).

1. Clear the clutter!

This is an important step when starting any interior project, and shelf styling is no exception. This is the best way to see what you have and what you may need to complete the look. Begin by clearing off the surface(s) you are looking to style. This then gives you the perfect blank canvas to get started.

2. Keep your colour scheme in mind

A colour scheme is important in every sense of Interior Design. When it comes to styling shelves, I would use three to four colours max. This consists of two neutral tones, along with either one or two colour pops. For example, a chrome or brass, paired with a white or grey and a colour (or two) that complements the rest of the room scheme. A simple black & white monochromatic design can look really striking with gold elements in a neutral room, whereas timber paired with seagrass baskets & greenery can accentuate a natural feel.

3. Three is the magic number

When it comes to Interior styling, three really is the magic number. It is a rule used by designers, stylists and graphic designers alike. Grouping items in odd numbers creates the perfect balance and harmony, plus they are more visually appealing and memorable than even-numbered groupings. This rule of three can be also seen in the work triangle of a kitchen and when it comes to choosing patterns, colours & textures in a living room or bedroom.

4. Mix it up

Alternating heights, shapes and materials will make the overall look much more interesting and eye-catching. Avoid using items that are the same or similar in size as this can make a shelf look blocky and uninteresting. We find that stacking books is a great way to increase the height of some smaller items, such as a candle holder or decorative paperweight. This then paired with a glass vase or wooden frame adds a visual interest by mixing up height and materials.

5. Balancing Act

The best way to create balance across your shelving is to start with placing the largest items first. This allows you to clearly see what spacing will work and where to place smaller pieces. It also avoids any overcrowding, which may occur if you don’t have a defined item to ground a grouping. Consider balance when styling open shelving in alcoves either side of a fireplace. The two areas should link & harmonise in some way, so not to feel disjointed.

6. Functional Style

Give your shelves a double function by incorporating storage, along with looking stylish. Our clients love when we suggest using decorative storage boxes or woven baskets on the bottom shelf. This is a handy addition for homing awkward shaped or unsightly items. It also helps to anchor the overall look of the shelving unit by adding weight to the bottom. We find this is most popular in living room and kids room settings.

7. Layer up

Remember items on a shelf don’t have to be lined up in a row to be seen. Make sure to use all parts of your shelf, including the back wall. Leaning a piece of artwork or a cool print at the back of a shelf display adds a 3D effect. Another way to give each shelf a visual layer is to wallpaper or paint the back wall, this creates a statement backdrop to allow the accessories really pop.

Hopefully these tips give you a better idea of how to style those cluttered or empty shelves. If you would like some further help with styling any area of your home then get in touch! We have experience in styling for editorial photo shoots, along with staging homes for sale or Airbnb rental, drop us a line at to receive a quote.