Shelf Etiquette: The Do’s & Don’ts

Su PaverFeb 16, '21

There is definitely a new shelf styling trend on the rise. It seems combining function with style and what is pleasing to the eye is key! Open shelving is an easy way to give your room a chic and sophisticated feel and to add personality to any room in your home. Best of all shelves make it easy to rotate your collection giving you an easy option to updating your room without breaking the bank.

Turn an empty or cluttered shelf into a carefully curated arrangement with these handy style tips.

 Shelf Styling & Etiquette

Take everything off (cheeky!)

Start by de-cluttering and taking everything off the shelf to get an overall clear picture of the space you have to work with, so you can decide what goes where. Sounds simple but much harder than you think! We can often get tunnel vision and automatically think this accessory needs to be paired with that accessory which can often results in us missing new pairings which could breathe new life into your décor.

Choose a colour scheme

Choose one colour or tonal colour scheme, shop around your house to find artwork, picture frames, vases and other accessories in a cohesive colour or style to tie the display together.  You would be surprised at how often stealing items from other rooms in your home can result in a completely new look in another. If gold is your colour of choice, try placing one gold accessory like a vase on one shelf and a second gold photo frame on another and so on.

Shelf essentials

There are seven heroes to adopt when it comes to shelf etiquette: storage boxes and baskets, objects, candles, photo frames and artwork, botanicals and plants, vases and bowls. Grab a collection of these to get you started and try to mix and match these across your shelves. Don’t worry, you don’t need to use them all, just one or two combined with functional items like towels and quaint wooden tote boxes work well, particularly in a bathroom or on a ladder shelf.


Variety is key

Ensure to mix up shapes, sizes and height of objects and accessories to add contrast, texture and interest. Place items off centre for a natural look, taller items at the ends and place larger items first and then fill in with smaller pieces. Try not to decorate with all of one thing such as photo frames or vases, remember too much of one thing isn’t good, but a little bit of all of these things is perfect.

Less is more!

Empty space is important! Resist the urge to pack in tons of accessories on every shelf. Keep a clean organised look by pairing items back but don’t fall into the trap of bare staged shelves. Add focal points and then fill in the gaps with your favourite accessories without over-doing it. White flowers in a vase or subdued tones can help if you want to fill a space without overcrowding.

Add books

You don’t need to be a book worm but adding in some books is a must. They add colour, texture, fill space on the cheap, and are also perfect for adding height to certain accessories. If you’re displaying a collection of books, display them together. Alternate by standing and horizontally stacking books on the shelf. Add an accessory on top of stacked horizontal books for added interest.

 Styling books on shelves

Add a little greenery

Nothing adds a little life into a room like a bit of flora. Don’t be afraid to incorporate greenery, botanicals inspired prints or of using both real and faux plants. Just a few plants can wake up an entire space, add texture and a pop of colour. Look for plants with visual appeal such as an edgy succulent.

Display items important to you

It may sound obvious but the most important thing is to display items you love and pieces that are important to you. You don’t need to fill up a shelf with family heirlooms especially if they don’t match your style or the look you’re going for but incorporating some of your favourite pieces such as family holiday photos (fun memories), treasures from your travels, or trophies of your accomplishments will not only make your shelves look good but also meaningful. Remember home is where we tell stories through the things we choose to surround ourselves with.

Hide your things in plain sight

Who says storage needs to be hidden? A storage box or two creates a tidy look and can complement your style. Baskets, clear plastic storage boxes, canvas squares, lidded boxes are all great functional and decorative accessories to add storage to any shelf.


Leaning art, photographs & mirrors

In a world where picture are usually hung up on the wall, leaning your artwork is an elegant way to break the rules and practical for small spaces. So put your spirit level away and simply lean your favourite painting, mirror or photo against the wall. Leaning also helps create layers, so you can begin to overlap accessories for that much needed texture and interest.

Above all else always remember style is personal and all about elevating your own unique style without compromising functionality or liveability. Your home is meant to be 'lived' in and reflect your personal style whether that is shabby chic, retro, minimalist or traditional. Work with the furniture and décor you already have and love, make the most of every inch of space by introducing a few new hero pieces to tie it all together with these helpful and handy tips.