You’ve purchased your new favorite shelves. Now, what to do with all that space?! No matter their size, empty spaces can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be! By following a few simple guidelines, you’ll have your shelves looking like they were styled by a pro in no time.
Before you start styling, start gathering items you already own, along with any new goodies you may have purchased for the space. Oftentimes, a few favorite photographs or pieces of art are all you need for inspiration, so choose those as your focal points and build around them. Doing that will also help you decide on a color palette. Keep your favorite items in mind, and keep it simple; two or three colors, plus lots of neutral tones for balance.
While you’re collecting items, it’s important to consider the different heights you have to work with, along with the width and depth of your unit. Start with an assortment of items that vary in size and shape, and begin to visualize their layout in relation to your shelves. One shelf may be asymmetrically balanced, one might mimic the shape of a pyramid, and a third might hold items all similar in stature. One shelf may group three to five items, while another only displays one or two larger pieces. Remember that less is more, and varying the layout of each shelf will actually create a more cohesive space.
We recommend starting with some framed photographs and artwork. These pieces usually take up a lot of space on your shelves, and they are easy to build around. If your photos and art are colorful, remember to surround them with neutral items to create balance. Including some color on each shelf is an important part of your plan, but placing neutral objects around, and between them will make the space feel more simple and relaxed.
Next up is your collection of vases, bowls, and pottery. Generally these should be in neutral shades that complement your color palette, and they should vary in shape and size. Large vases or pitchers work well as statement pieces, while smaller items can be placed on top of a stack of books to add some variety. One of our favorite things about these components is that they provide an opportunity to bring different textures to your shelves, so look for some glossy finishes, some matte pieces, or a few items that have developed a nice patina.
Whether you get them from your coffee table, bedside, or local thrift shop, books can provide a lovely, smart addition to your shelves. To add height, picture books can be stacked on top of each other, or a few antique books can be placed side-by-side. In this case, it’s all about what’s on the outside, so even books without all of their pages will work.
When you’re ready to really breathe some life into your new space, bring in some plants and/or flowers. Most shelving doesn’t receive quite enough light for actually growing these little beauties, so faux houseplants, succulents, or flowers are perfectly acceptable. Place them in bowls, pots, or vases to add some contrast. Believe us when we say that your grandmother’s plastic greenery has come a long way!
If you have additional, personal items such as sculptures or figurines, your new shelves can be a great place for displaying those. Just remember, if you want to showcase these unique pieces, use them as your starting point and surround them with neutral, understated items as you build.
We know you are ready, and you probably can not wait to get started, but we have just a few final tips before we send you on your way. It may help to start with your larger design components on the bottom shelf and work your way up. If one of your shelves starts to look crowded, before removing smaller items altogether, try moving some of them into a basket or bowl. Too many small items will give your space an unsettled, cluttered look, so do not be afraid to edit. Most of all, give your items some breathing room, trust your instincts, and enjoy!