How to Style Shelves

Back when we did our reader survey, many of you said that you wanted more tips & tricks on how to make every inch of your home look good. Well we heard you loud and clear, and we are so excited to share some of our favorite styling tips with you.

Now, let’s first say that we’re not professional stylists. Far from it! Instead, we like to think that with all of the time we’ve spent “tweaking” the accessories within our homes, we’ve gained some insight and knowledge along the way. So we’re not experts, but we’re definitely not beginners either.

Stylish shelves with books and pops of blue and turquoise are the perfect touch to any room.

The first thing on our styling list? Our Ikea shelves. We both have them in our homes and absolutely love them. But don’t worry if you haven’t tackled this DIY project. Our tips will apply to just about any shelves you have…including bookshelves.

Shelf decorating before and after video.Here’s how we achieved the look above in just a few steps…

Bare wood shelves from IKEA are perfect for a nook in your home that needs an update.
1. START WITH A BLANK SLATE: When hanging shelves, drill into a stud if possible. If that’s not possible with your creative vision, then be sure to use some heavy duty anchors. A shelf that doesn’t support much weight isn’t very useful, so be sure to secure those bad boys to the wall. Also, be smart when spacing the shelves. 8-12 inches should be just fine. You can stretch it to 15 though, depending on the items you plan to display. Before you get to styling though, remove absolutely everything and start with a blank slate. Layer shelves with frames in the background. 2. LAYER IT UP: When it comes to styling, it’s all about creating depth. Layering mirrors, frames, and art is always a good idea. Sometimes it’s easier to add these pieces at the end, but you can start with them like we did here. Just think outside the box when it comes to your frames, because 4×6 photos can get a little monotonous. Here are some fun options…

  • Mirrors
  • Monogrammed Art (Like our thumbtack art)
  • Frame Free Prints
  • Frame Watercolor Pictures
  • Record Albums (like the Chicago album in the photo)

Add books to your shelf in small groupings. 3. BOOKS: You guys obviously know that we love styling just about everything with books. I mean they’re just pretty darn fabulous when it comes to adding height, texture, and color to a space. Here are some things to remember though…

  • Hardcover books are best, the thicker the better!
  • Ditch the book jacket
  • Collect hardcover books in certain colors (we love white, navy, yellow, and blue…shocking, I know!)
  • Check out the title. We usually don’t really care what the title says, but it is neat when there is a theme of books displayed together
  • Do not pay more than $2 for any one book, unless of course you want to read the book…that’s a different story. If you’re picking out books for decoration, two bucks is being generous
  • If you’re building your “library” check out estate sales, thrift shops, and even your local library for old, hardcover books on the cheap

Add in plants for a pop of green color on your shelves--use fake plants for low maintenance.

4. ADD GREENERY: Many people are against faux plants…not these two chicas. We will gladly display any small fake plant or succulent. A majority of the plants we buy are from Ikea (this one & this one), because they’re pretty great for only $5! We then find fun planters for them to add some color, style, and to make them look a little more real. So remember, greenery is a must when styling and it really helps to bring some warmth and freshness onto any shelf. Include quirky and fun accessories interspersed with books and other items. 5. FINISH OFF WITH SMALL TOUCHES: A ceramic bowl of coins, colorful coral, or an old camera all add a little somethin’ somethin’ to this display. If you love an item, then display it! This is your chance to have some fun and show off your personality. Souvenirs, collections, family mementos, everything is acceptable for this step.  We like to incorporate old & new (most of the new items found at our favorite shopping spot, HomeGoods!) But here are some things to keep in mind as you accessorize…

  • Group items in odd’s all about 3’s & 5’s
  • Keep things proportional. Large, Medium, & Small items work well together in 3’s
  • Use accessories (like the vase & corral above, both HomeGoods finds) to act as unique bookends
  • Place small accessories on top of books to give them height
  • Less is more. Don’t overcrowd your shelves. Instead let your favorite items shine in the spotlight!

Accessories can add a fun touch to any shelf in your home.

So there you have it, 5 steps to good-looking shelves. Now we must warn you, with these new styling skills you have you’re going to waste many hours tweaking every area of your home. It’s the – tweak – step back and gaze – and tweak some more – cycle. Yep join the party, people!



The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.