Thursday, October 25, 2018

Five Tips for Styling Shelves...

I still remember one evening as a young teenager when I decided to clean out my closet. I started with great optimism, envisioning a well-organized closet. (Anyone remember Elle's color-coded closet in the movie Legally Blonde? Though I may not have seen that movie yet, you get the idea of my high expectations...) I had enthusiasm and energy, figuring I'd power through it in about an hour.

Well, I became distracted looking at old pictures and yearbooks, and talked myself out of getting rid of clothes and shoes, imagining when and where I might possibly wear them... 

What I remember most about that "quick" closet makeover is sitting on my bedroom floor many hours later at midnight, in tears, and surrounded by piles of stuff (some dusty). I was so frustrated! I didn't yet recognize that my creative bent is stronger than my organizational skills. 

All that to say, I don't profess to be an expert at organizing shelves. But I do enjoy the creative process of styling shelves and have learned a few things over the years that are helpful...

1. Either clear the space, or start with your base. As they used to always say on the TV show Trading Spaces, "First, we've got to clear the space!" I've found that it's helpful to start with a blank canvas or, if there are a few key pieces that you need or want to keep on the shelves, let those be your base, or your starting point.

2. Use repetition for a cohesive feel. There's something calming about grouping items. As you can see below, I grouped breadboards, candlestick holders, dishes, silverware and bottles. Filling the vintage metal chick feeder with several white pumpkins is an example of what I mean by repetition. So while I have many different things stored in, and on top of the hutch, there are several groupings of similar items, which helps bring some order.

3. Use linens to soften the look of hard surfaces or straight lines. Folded napkins, linen towels, and even an apron help soften all the wood in this space, making it more inviting. Linens prevent this area from looking too structured and cold.

4. Bring in natural elements to keep shelves looking fresh. Plants, flowers, dried leaves and pumpkins are some possibilities. And since no two things found in nature are identical, these touches of nature will provide some of that visual movement that creates interest. 

5. If it's not working, walk away. Like that night long ago when my closet won, I just needed to go to bed and hit it fresh in the morning. And that sometimes happens with design too. There are times when the creativity flows and we get on a roll. Then there are times we feel stuck and just need a break or change of scenery to shift our perspective. We can trudge through the creative "writer's block" and try to force it, or we can come back later with fresh eyes, and it will probably take half the time!

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How about you? Are you more creative or organized? Equal parts (no fair!)?

Do you have any tips or tricks when decorating shelves?

I'd love to hear!


  1. Love it all Julie. Such great farmhouse style you have. Happy Thursday have a great Friday and wonderful weekend.

    1. That means so much to me coming from you Kris! Thank you. Hope you have a wonderful weekend too!

  2. Hi Julie,
    I hate when I get inspired to do, what I think, is a simple project and it turns out to be a fiasco. Closets are a prime example. You literally do have to start with a blank "canvas" and start fresh. I have found that I have several different metal baskets that store like things. Like winter pajamas during the warmer months or sports sweatshirts, etc. in another. Those get stored on upper shelves and out of the way. So far, I'm working on 2 years with that type of organization. So far, so good. I love your posts and look forward to them. Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy! Yes, I know what you mean! It sounds like you have found some good solutions. Baskets helped me a lot when my kids were younger too - sometimes we can get stuck organizing a bunch of stuff that really just needs to be corralled - like toys that are used often! Thank you for your kind words and encouragement! Hope you have a great week...

  3. We recently purchased a large bookshelf and it took me forever to get it the way I liked it. Then I changed it two weeks later and it has stayed for a month. I like to display all the things I love and then edit edit edit! It doesn’t take much to get a look that is just too cluttered. I have read many articles on the subject and the main pointers I have adhered to are 1.) negative space gives your eye a place to rest. 2.) group like items. 3.) use the “zigzag “ method; ie: instead of maybe three shelves in a row with the same thing, do every other shelf in a diagonal pattern. Does any of this make sense?��


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