Struggling with how to decorate an empty shelf in your home? Shelf styling is all about being creative and displaying items that you love, and it is also a wonderful way to refresh your decor season to season or update for new colors in your home decor.

Here are a few rules which can help you in your shelf styling:
1 | Arrange in triangles.

Objects are pleasing to the eye when they are arranged in triangles, and the eye loves to work in odd numbers. Triangles are the perfect tool for accomplishing this.  In the photo above you can see how the objects are grouped into triangle, and using triangles helped to cluster the items into  groups of three on each shelf, or at least an odd number as I did above. Also when you're arranging your items in clusters try to use a variety of heights and mixing vertical and horizontal items - you want to avoid putting items of the same height together unless they are a pair (i.e. a pair of candle sticks).

One of the perks of the triangle rule is that it allows you to play with empty space, so don’t be afraid of negative space. If you can’t fill a whole bookcase or shelf, it will keep the shelves from looking less cluttered.

With larger shelves in particular, you’ll want to consider the height of your styling objects. 

2 | Layers for Depth

You can also add more dimension by layering some things in deeper than others. Adding layers can be achieved in many ways. The simplest way is to use picture frames and art. Lean frames against the back of your shelf and then style your triangles of objects in front. Don’t be afraid to layer frames on top of frames. Other layering objects could include baskets, trays and other fairly flat objects that can lean or hang against the wall.

3 | Ground small objects

A mistake that many people make when styling is using lots of smaller objects. This can make your shelf look cluttered and messy instead of perfectly curated.  Trays and books are my go-to grounders. When you have a group of small items, they can look a little lost on a big shelf. Use a big tray or a stack of books as the base of your arrangements. This adds one more point of interest to your shelf and can really help pull everything together.   

4 | Add height with Books

One general rule is to have at least one object per shelf that is taller than half the height of the shelf. That height will make empty space disappear, and help your overall design feel intentional and full. Our go-to taller objects are typically art prints and plants.


Blue Heron with Palms, Mini Coastal Print , Abstract Art Print, Vase , Magnolia Candle

5 | Repeat of colors

 A steady rhythm of color spread throughout your shelving will look cohesive. Take a look at the photo above. The dark blue and light blue are connected through a triangle pattern from shelf to shelf providing a lovely palette of blues. So rather than lumping all of the blues together, it provides a consistency throughout all the shelves. Like with most things related to interior design, it is important to have a clear and consistent color palette when styling shelves. 

Changing up your shelf styling doesn't mean you have to keep buying new objects and decorative pieces, you can simply remove some items or organizing them in a fresh, new way to make your shelf feel re-energized.


Hallie Henderson