5 Simple Tips For Decorating Shelves

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styling a bookshelf - 5 simple tips

Welcome to the Fall (or spring here in Perth, Australia) 2017 One Room Challenge.  If you are not familiar with it, this is where design bloggers completely transform a room in just six weeks, documenting the process on their blogs, and revealing a brand new room at the end.  If you are new here I’m Jane and I blog at Organised Pretty Home, which is all about the best organising and decor ideas for your family home.  Welcome! This is my FIRST TIME participating in the One Room Challenge and I am participating as an Australian blogger.   Can you believe, only 1 week left before the final reveal of my living room makeover?  Ok of all the tasks I have on my to do list for our living room makeover, this ONE THING would have to be the most daunting! That is, styling a bookshelf!  Yes, really!!

styling a bookshelf ideas for the one room challenge 2017

  • Work out how to hide away the kids’ toys in the living room so it can be a multi-functional room? I think I can do that!  See Week 2.
  • Come up with a plan to re-do an ugly MDF coffee table with pallet wood? No worries!  See Week 3.
  • Create a cosy nook for reading?  Let me at it!  See Week 4.
  • Find all the items I want on a really tight budget? Doable!  See Week 5

But pull EVERYTHING together to create a cohesive, beautiful and relaxing family living room?  Now that is daunting!

The standard is high people! I mean, check out the amazing progress on the other rooms at Calling It Home.

Also, my own expectations are high,  especially after spending so long thinking about, planning (See Week 1) and then working on this space!

styling a bookshelf

Living Room Shelves

Yes, with one week to go this is what my living room is looking like.  Styling a bookshelf?  You can see the buffet in the photo below, which has 6 deep shelves for me to SOMEHOW decorate and make look amazing!

Thankfully, after a bit of research, I came up with these helpful ideas to serve as a guide for arranging decor on any sort of shelf.

How To Decorate Beautiful Bookshelves

styling a bookshelf

Image Credit The Grace House Interiors

Tip 1. Colour Scheme

Choose a colour scheme to use for all of the shelves you are decorating.  The easiest combination is to keep everything neutral with the addition of one or two colours that tie in with your whole room.

My Colour Scheme: Whites with some light green-blue.

Bookshelf Decor Ideas – Handmade Soy Candles In These Colours:

Misty Blue 100% Soy CandleMisty Blue 100% Soy CandleRustic Mason Jar Soy CandleRustic Mason Jar Soy CandleMatte White Soy Wax Scented CandleMatte White Soy Wax Scented Candle

Tip 2.  Less Is More

It’s often said, “Edit, Edit, Edit!” when it comes to home decorating.    So go for less but bigger items.  Lots of small items can make a shelf look cluttered.

My Less But Bigger Choices: Blue jar vase, rattan candle holder, large old books, scrapbooking albums.  (I decided in the end that the photo albums were not what I wanted to have out on display and so they got stored in the cabinets underneath.)

styling a bookshelfImage Credit Made By Katy

Tip 3. Vary Your Height

Create an arrangement by varying the height of objects when styling a bookshelf.  For example; place books horizontally as well as vertically.

My Arrangements:  books both horizontally and vertically, as well as photo frames.  Then a few smaller items such as tealight candles and shells next to my larger pieces.

styling a bookshelfImage Credit Bliss At Home 

Tip 4.  Balance

Think of an old fashioned scale when styling a bookshelf.  If there is something big and heavy on one side, there needs to be something big and heavy on the other side.  Also arranging decor in odd numbers works too.

styling a bookshelfImage Credit Love Grows Wild

My Balancing Act:  A framed printed scripture verse (John 3:16 – hubby’s choice) on one side and another framed verse print on the other side of the shelves. (My choice – Psalm 106:1)

Tip 5.  Personalise

This is probably the most important idea when styling a bookshelf.  You are not decorating a shop! You are styling your home for you and the people who live in it.

Personalise your shelves with things that you and your family love, even if it doesn’t end up looking Pinterest worthy.  Some suggestions are old favourite books, family photos and greenery.

My Personal Choices: Recent family photos, old books that belonged to my grandad including a bible that was my great-granddads, our favourite bible verses printed and framed and a few indoor plants.

styling a bookshelf

Image Credit How To Nest For Less

The only thing left now is to empty off those shelves and …

GET STYLING!

Some Of My Favourite Etsy Bookshelf Decor Ideas:

Set Of Three White Bud VasesSet Of Three White Bud VasesFrench Geometric Planter PotFrench Geometric Planter PotBeach Rope Ball DecorBeach Rope Ball DecorWhite Decorative Rope BowlWhite Decorative Rope BowlTan & Brass Rope Planter PotNatural Cotton Rope Basket

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OMG we are getting close to the finish line! So excited!  Yes, only ONE MORE WEEK to the final reveal!

Now, let’s all hop over to Calling it Home to check out how the rooms of the 20 featured bloggers and other guest participants are progressing.

UPDATE – Related Post:  Week 7 – Living Room Reveal


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  1. Tip #5 personalise is what I am going to start trying to do with my entire house: Seeing your personaliised shelves gave some great ideas. I have to tell you I have no sense of creativity, color coordination or artistic talent. I have to see something and then do it. So thank you for your inspiration

  2. Seemsto me it’sa BOOKSHELF or a DISPLAY. UNIT. Bookshelves have BOOKS on them. I have bookshelves filled with BOOKS. So the people who live there have to decide if the are readers or not. Then it sould be a DISPLAY UNIT fior what-notsand collrctions.

  3. It helped me to know that there are others doing this who have to see it to do it. If I can observe what others have done and then pick the ideas that I think will work for me, well then I am ready to begin. Okay, time for morning coffee while I look at the rest of the ideas. And pray for my loved ones and my country.

  4. Thank you for the ideas,I have being going nuts how to display my ornaments and books
    And they still look crapy ,so now that I have read and looked at some of your ideas I certainly will give it a try
    Thanks Eleni

  5. Looks beautiful. Love the balance and different textures. I don’t think displaying books backwards is very practical for a family that actually reads the books in the library and needs to find what theyre looking for though. I get it looks better visually backwards however. Any tips making book shelves look good with plenty of forward facing books? At least a 60/70% book ratio? Thats an even bigger challenge! 🙂

    • That’s interesting… we have a good collection of kids books which are used regularly, as well as my own books. Those ones I have the spine facing outwards and just order them by color. There are no problems finding what we want. On my other book shelves I have some very old books (eg a family bible over 100 years old). They are mainly for display not regular use. I like them using them to decorate the shelves with.