Believe it or not, shelves are a big thing in the interior world. The hashtag #shelfie has over 2.1 million posts and has loads of offspring’s like #shelfiesunday, #shelfiedecor and #shelfielove. The shelves under my stairs are still my most liked post on Instagram and any posts with a shelf or bookshelf in it does well.
Why is that? I don’t really know the answer but I think people just like “stuff” cleverly displayed together that doesn’t look like sh!t. A bit like gallery walls, I often get people messaging me saying they want to put a shelf up but don’t know where to start when it comes to styling it, so I thought I’d put a quick blog post together to give you some inspiration.
That’s right, stuff! You’ll need lots of stuff to style it up. Now, you’ve probably gone and bought a shelf or a bookcase to put, you know, books on them! But there’s still no reason that it can’t look stylish.
If you have just bought your bookcase to just put books on them, then this blog post probably isn’t for you! But if you’ve bought some shelves because you want to jazz up a corner of your room and impress your Instagram followers (we ALL want to do that, let’s face it!), then read on…
How to layer
Start with larger items first like baskets or art/prints so you can see how much space you have to play with. If you want to put some books (shock horror) on a shelf, then place them next.
Don’t feel like you have to put them all together on one shelf, they look better mixed up and in odd numbers!
Next, fill your shelves with plants which add a pop of colour and life to a shelf and if you have hanging plants, this will help determine what to put underneath them. Finally, the decorative objects can easily be slotted into the spaces that are left.
And what about a theme?
I think it all depends on the room they are in. If the room is quite neutral, then keep them neutral with monochrome art and a few plants to give the shelves a bit of life.
If you have a colour scheme running throughout the room already, add pieces onto the shelf that reflect that scheme.
My office already had lots of green and pink, plants and natural elements like wood and rattan in the room so I decided to keep my shelves similar. I get asked a lot of questions about colour and what to put in a gallery wall or shelves and I think you just have to go with what you love.
If you already have a collection of items ready to go, lay them out and I think 9 times out of 10, you will already see a theme running through them, so stick with it.
A colourful retro feel in the kitchen. Image credit: @nest_number_9
Now, what do I put on them?
I’d start with baskets or boxes or anything to keep your “not worthy for insta” stuff hidden away! We have large baskets at the bottom of our hallway bookcase which hold all our shoes, scarves, gloves and whatever else the kids decide to throw in (think Lego pieces, discarded apply cores. Yes, my kids are total grotbags) and they are the best addition to our house ever. Fact.
Next on the list is your art pieces. Go for different sizes and place them on different shelves. The bigger or taller art pieces should go at the top as they are great for adding height. I tend to put the smaller pieces at the bottom so they are easily seen.
Again, keep the colour theme of the art or prints the same as either the room or the items going on the shelf. Unless you’re going for full on rainbow!
What shelves were made for! I always try to add a few books on any shelf and mix it up. Stack them vertically and horizontally and instead of keeping them all together, space them out over the shelves.
You can also add height and layering by placing small items on top of your vertical books like a small candle or decorative item.
Plants are fabulous at adding life to your shelf, just like they are in your home. I think the best kind of plants to use on a shelf are succulents, cactuses and hanging plants like English Ivy, Pothos, String of Pearls and the Lipstick Plant.
There are so many plant pots to choose from these days, they can also add colour and texture to your shelf.
Typography is hugely popular in the home and I think it is also a great way to add interest to your shelves. Go with your favourite quote in a frame or add letters or words as a stand along piece.
Where are you going to put that huge collection of candles that are currently gathering dust in multiple drawers? Your shelves of course. Again, they can be a fabulous decorative piece in their own right, or they look great stacked on top of vertical books.
Just remember to take them off your shelves when you light them to save you burning the shelf above like I did! I wondered why the scent smelt so “woody”
Vases of stuff
I also have a few vases dotted around the shelves which have faux flowers, peacock leaves and pencils in. Again, vases are a great way to display objects and add colour and texture to your shelf.
Which leads me onto metallic homewares! I love metallic items like brass, gold, copper and silver. They bounce light back from the shelves and again add a real feature and focal point to the shelves.
You can place metallic candle holders, plant pots, vases and letters, just make sure you stick to the same elements like gold, brass, copper etc or silver and nickel.
And finally, the fun part!
Fill the left-over spaces with decorative items! Anything goes really, display all the little knick-knacks that you have collected over the years from colourful bottles, paint tester pots, animal ornaments or a favourite pot.
Play around with your styling as at first, you might think that something will not go with the rest of the items on the shelves. But when you stand back, you realise it was always meant to be there!
You’ve styled your shelfie!
As you are adding pieces to your shelves, it is always a good idea to stand back and make sure it is working for you. There really are no rules when it comes to styling, these are just guidelines to help you get on your way.
To make your shelves really work, keep to the same colour palette as the room. Or, if the room is very neutral you could add some brightly coloured items on your shelf to really make it pop!
But, most importantly, display items you love. I always get asked so many questions about how to style a room, create a gallery wall or how to use colour in general.
I think if you stick to items and colours that you truly love, you will find that the scheme will develop naturally.