Tips for Decorating Shelves for the Holidays

Changing up our shelves is one of the quickest and easiest ways that we welcome in each of the seasons. It’s not that we have new decor for each season (our small homes have absolutely NO room to store this seasonal decor) but we do add a few touches or at least rearrange the shelves whenever we can. Just a simple rearrangement makes them feel new to us, even if nothing on them is actually new to our home. family-room-christmas-built-ins-wide

Typically we will “shop our homes” and add existing items from other rooms to these shelves and you’d be surprised how different they start to feel, even without spending any money. Please tell us we’re not the only crazy people that do this. Actually maybe we are… our husbands sure seem to think so!

Either way, here are our budget-friendly tips on decorating shelves for the holidays. Hopefully some of these simple tips will inspire you to refresh your home without spending a ton of money!

Casey’s Tipsbuilt-ins-christmas-tv

Instead of completely removing absolutely everything on our built-ins, I decided to remove a couple items and then inject a few festive touches to all of the shelves. present-books-decor-christmas

The cheapest and easiest way to do that?! Wrapped presents! I used some of the “gifts” (actually just cardboard boxes…) from our Christmas Card Photo Shoot and placed them on our shelves to inject some holiday color! shelves-christmas-decor

This is such a great idea if you plan to change your color scheme up each year since it’s super budget-friendly!


I also added some greenery amongst my shelves. I always love to have some green plants (even if they’re fake) on our built-ins, and swapping out some of those plants for evergreen (these little cute pots are from Michaels) is the perfect way to add a bit of holiday. built-ins-christmas-card-displaychristmas-santa-decor

A few new accessories (like this adorable santa!) filled out the rest of our shelves and really added some holiday spirit. couch-christmas-shelves

Bridget’s Tips

And just like Casey, my go-to decor for the built-ins this holiday season were a few “fake” wrapped gifts. I upcycled a few Amazon boxes that were delivered earlier in the season and even wrapped a few books that were previously on the built-ins. This way each gift was a different size and depth, which made it feel a bit less cookie-cutter.


Plus, wrapping the gifts helped me keep the general color-scheme and neutral feel without spending money on new items. Since I’m still honing my “Christmas style” (<– if that’s even a thing), I don’t want to buy a lot of new decor just to realize I don’t love it next season. #rookiemistake
bookshelf-present-gold-rubbonI’ve also found that putting less stuff on my built-ins is better for me. Take this shelf for example, all that’s on it is a ONE gift. No books, no other accessories, just the one gift.

A few years ago, I would have never kept a shelf this simple but now that I’ve lived with these shelves for four years, I’ve found that they start to feel too cluttered when I overdo them. The simpler and less clutter, the better.
wreath-holiday-built-insI also try to use as much of my regular decor as I can throughout the holidays. I take out the items that are obviously more spring-y or summer-y, but I’m not afraid to mix Christmas in with anything that is neutral or fake plants/succulents that I keep up all year round.

As long as I love these pieces and they’re relatively neutral, I think they can still work for the holidays… especially if you put them in a new spot on the built-ins and pair them with a simple ornament or tiny holiday accessory. Magically this new spot (and new partner) makes the whole look feel new!  christmas-built-in-basket

Both of us also try to incorporate baskets into our decor. We LOVE them because they offer secret storage, can add texture to the look, and can cut down on feeling like your shelves look cluttered. To make these baskets feel a bit more holiday, we simply keep everything that’s already in them there, but then add a bit of greenery, leftover ribbon, or beaded garland on top. It’s SO easy and so darn affordable.
christmas-builtin-giftsAnd last but certainly not least, it’s important that we have fun and mix it up! Unlike Casey, I actually take everything OFF of my built-ins when the new season comes around and try to reorganize the items. The shelves that I really love, I try to keep somewhat consistent but for those other shelves that are just “okay”, I re-work them and add items I have in other parts of the home to make them feel new to me. You would be surprised how much more I start to love an old item when I pair it with something that complements it more. All of a sudden that old item that was always just “okay-ish” is now the shelf’s MVP.built-ins-christmas-decor-holiday-present

Key Takeaways to Decorate your Holiday Shelves

  • Use presents
  • Add greenery
  • Buy a few items you L-O-V-E
  • Keep your favorite neutral items up
  • Add holiday embellishments to baskets
  • Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment!



The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.