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5 Simple Tips For Decorating Shelves

5 Simple Tips For Decorating Shelves
styling a bookshelf - 5 simple tips

Welcome to the Fall (or spring here in Perth, Australia) 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.  I

f 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

The Living Room To Do List

  • 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, look at the amazing progress on the other rooms.

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

styling a bookshelf

How Do I Make My Shelves Look Nice?

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

Here are some helpful ideas to serve as a guide for choosing shelf decor and arranging those items on any sort of shelf.

Decorating Shelves

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.

I have decided my colour scheme will be whites with some light green-blue items.

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.

Larger decor items are a great idea for decorating deep shelves. Make sure to also pull your decor forward to the front to the shelf so it can be easily seen.

My Less But Bigger Choices: Blue jar, 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 bookshelf
Image Credit Made By Katy

Tip 3. Vary The Height Of Your Decor

When decorating shelves you want to create an arrangement by varying the height of objects.  Include some shorter items and taller items. For example; place books horizontally as well as vertically.

For decorating the shelves in my living room I am thinking of arranging books both horizontally and vertically, as well as photo frames.  Then placing a few smaller items such as tealight candles and shells next to the larger pieces.

styling a bookshelf
Image Credit Bliss At Home

Tip 4.  Balance

Think of an old fashioned scale when decorating shelves.  If there is something large or heavy on one side, you can put something of similar weight on the other side. 

Also, arranging decor in odd numbers works too!

My balancing act will be some framed quotes via Etsy. A framed 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)

styling a bookshelf
Image Credit Love Grows Wild

Tip 5.  Personalize

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

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

I plan on personalizing my living room shelves with recent family photos, old books that belonged to my grandfather including a bible that was my great-granddads, favorite verses 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!

What Do I Put On Empty Shelves?

Style your shelves with any of these easy shelf decor ideas…

  • decorative jars, glasses, bottles, vases
  • kitchen items – plates, bowls, serving dishes, trays, cutlery
  • books
  • photos
  • framed quote
  • kids artwork
  • decorative bowls
  • baskets
  • items from nature – branches, leaves, shells, feathers, rocks etc.
  • dried flowers or other dried plants
  • indoor potted plants
  • candles and/or decorative candle holders
  • knitted, crochet, embroidered items
  • vintage or antique items
  • collections or things you love

Click here to order your set of 3 white vases

Click here to order this geometric indoor planter

Click here to order these decorative rope balls

OMG we are getting close to the finish line for this living room makeover! So excited!  Yes, only ONE MORE WEEK to the final reveal! Check out what the living room looks like now!

More Decorating Ideas


Wednesday 9th of January 2019

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! :-)


Friday 11th of January 2019

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.

Ekaterini Gaunt

Sunday 25th of November 2018

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


Tuesday 27th of November 2018

You sound like how I felt about decorating my shelves... :)

Melissa Henson

Thursday 28th of June 2018

I have had the same problem with bookshelves. Thanks for your suggestions.


Thursday 28th of June 2018

You're welcome Melissa! I love how my shelves look now that I follow these simple tips. :)


Tuesday 3rd of April 2018

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.


Wednesday 4th of April 2018

Yes I am very much a visual leaner too! I am glad you found it helpful.


Thursday 22nd of March 2018

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.


Thursday 22nd of March 2018

Hi Carolyn no strict rules here. :) I do think it is possible to combine the two - display and storage!

Comments are closed.