Designer Tips: Shelf Styling Like a Pro



Shelf styling is either something you love or something that trips you up all the time! In this post, I hope to share some tips that I’ve learned in styling the shelves in our home and while working for clients to help! Shelf styling is a little art and a little science, like most design work. So, here are some of the strategies that can be replicated to help you achieve a designer look!

the CASS Design Co. go-to tips
  1. Use a natural texture element like baskets. Adding in a natural element like rattan helps to give the space interest. Additionally, if you prefer a coastal look, using a lot of rattan or natural elements will help portray this vibe. Baskets are a great option as an anchor for bottom shelves. If you are styling symmetrical built-ins, anchoring with baskets on each side will help give the space a more cohesive look.
  2. Add in framed art to help convey your style. If you prefer a modern take or you like more of a vintage vibe, you can portray your preference by using framed art in that style. Framed art also gives the space height. To add interest, I like to combine leaning framed art with a small vase with either greenery or dried stems. Don’t be afraid to use family photos, too. But, make sure that you either keep the colors consistent with your other home decor, or you can always use black and white. Black and white photos look great stacked with framed art in varying sizes. Framed art for a shelf is a smaller size than for walls. So, even an expensive artist that you love probably has some smaller scale replicas for an affordable price for your shelf!
  3. Incorporate books. Books are a must for a stylish look for shelf styling! This can mean beautiful coffee table type books, or it can mean inexpensive thrift store books. One of my favorite budget extenders for shelf decor is to hit up the thrift store and load up on all the books that have white covers under the jackets. At some stores, you can load up a bag for only a dollar or two. Books can be used vertical or horizontal to add height. They look great stacked with a plant on top, or sandwiched between some stylish bookends or matching vases.
  4. Less is more. When styling a shelf, you want to see quite a bit of space in between the items. One of the biggest mistakes people make is adding too many things. Really, each shelf only needs a few elements. One of my favorite tips is to use only one item on the top shelf. This helps create a focal point to build from below the top. Even if you are using several items, you can group them together as one in order to set the stage for the other shelves below. Think about varying the different heights of each of the elements. For example if there is a taller item on the left side of a shelf, balance it with a shorter item on the right. This helps to better use the white space to your advantage for a more stylistic look!
  5. Pick a few colors in a color palette and stick with them for all the elements. To create a cohesive look, using a color palette of a few colors is a perfect guide. If you have a couple items in each of the colors in your palette, it will really tie everything together. For example if you have one item in blue, try to find one more element in that same blue color or tone to add somewhere to create a cohesive look. I like having at most 4-5 colors. These should be the same as your other home decor. For best results, sprinkle them throughout each of the shelves so that there is equal color balance throughout.


Give it a try!

Shelf styling is by no means easy. Even with lots of practice, I still fumble through it. One of the biggest things to remember is to keep trying! This might mean shuffling everyday(doesn’t that phrase make you sing!), until you get the look you desire. Plan a little before you go shopping so that you sort of have a map of your elements. I have included some of the items we have on our shelves if you think these could work in your home.


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