How to Style Shelves in 4 Easy Steps


Remember a few months weeks ago I posted about these DIY open shelves?  A lot of you told me you loved the idea of simple open shelving and it’s something you’ve wanted to do in your home for a while.  BINGO! I love it.  Keep sending me photos of your open shelves, I love to see them!

Don't forget to PIN this for later!


I think the most asked question I get about them is related to styling them.  It’s great to have open shelves, but what if you don’t know how to fill them up!?

Let’s be honest, it’s REALLY HARD to style open shelves.

For a few reasons: 1. I wanted to use things I already own. 2. There’s a lot of space to fill. 3. There is a rhyme and reason to it, and it’s hard to find! 4. I had to realize that the shelves will never be ‘perfectly’ styled, and THAT’S OK.  This is my house and and only I have to love it.

So, as I was styling my shelves I came up with a short process to help you style yours too.  My style is kind of a mixture of antique / farmhouse / industrial / and something else that I can’t quite put my finger on, but this will still apply to whatever style you have!

I personally believe there are many ways to style your home, and there is not a right or wrong answer to any of this.  I hope you find some inspiration and feel better about styling your own open shelves!

Before you begin you have to gather all of your items in one place. It helps to have more than you think you may need, because you just never know what might work!


Place your focal point or your largest piece on the shelf first.  I find that it’s easiest to style when you have a starting spot to go from.


My shelves are vertical and not very long so I may only have one large piece per shelf.  Do you have long shelves?  Great, you may need two big pieces.


Be sure not to place your largest items in the same spot on every shelf.

For example, you don't want every shelf to have a large item on the right.  In my two photos, there's a large vase on the right and a large wooden 'thing' in the middle. (Which will soon be more to the left - keep reading you'll see it!)


Add medium sized items.


I like to continue styling from my large item.  Try different things that look good next to one another.


Try stacking things on top of each other (teapot on plates, roses on wooden thing).

Don’t feel like things have to be evenly spaced out.  I like to group things together, I think it looks nicer that way!


Now it’s time to balance everything out!


A shelf looks more visually appealing if it’s balanced.  For example, you don’t want too have many big things on the right and one small thing on the left.


And if you’re doing vertical shelving like I am, you don’t want every shelf to have the same layout.  For example, one shelf has 3 items going across and the shelf below it has one big box in the middle.



Fill in empty space.


This step is challenging.  Usually it requires a few little items to help pull things together.  For example, I liked the shelf with the flower pieces, but I just kept feeling like it was missing something.  So, I found the wood tree coasters and put them on top of that little cake stand and BAM it was perfect. Without the cake stand they were too short.  The cake stand by itself was ugly. Together they worked wonders!


And that's it!


This baker's rack is filled with antiques, sentimental items, functional items and just things I think are pretty.  What I love about open shelves is that you can change things up whenever you want.  Mix and match, that's the beauty of it all.

Items pictured:

Lantern: family antique Picture frame: Hobby lobby Design books: I randomly found these in Bryn's book bin Teapot: family antique Plates: family antique Pitcher: antique Vase: family antique Wood coasters: DIY (made from our Christmas tree) Cake stand: Amazon Canisters: Sam's Club Wood box: family antique Books: antique Lamp: family antique Clock: family antique White frame: DIY frame with family item Globe: antique Wood holder: quick antique deal Roses: dried out from special occasions

You may also like: