Shelf decorating is like making soup. You can have all the ingredients but it all depends on what you do with them. As in any recipe, you can improvise and create wonders if you know the rules and how to break them. Here I cover the basics of shelf styling.
1. Use a Visual Triangle for Shelf Décorating
When I was in interior design college they showed us the rule of the triangle for shelf styling. Somehow, the magical number “three” is something that humans are willingly accepting as harmonious. From the three little bears’ fairy tale to the spiritual mind-body-spirit we find comfort in the numerology of the three.
As far as styling the shelves the Rule of the Three goes like this:
When styling a shelf place a larger object next to two other objects that are smaller in size to create a visual triangle. Your eye travels from one object to another effortlessly. Here I will show you how I used the rule of the triangle in my own design work.
Above is a display in my house. I collected some things and inherited others, some I got in Arizona and the Mexican flea market, and the books are from my college interior design days. Of course, I could not resist popping my granddaughters’ photos. I united the objects by color, common theme (somewhat), and texture. All the objects on each shelf form visual triangles. Textured white porcelain is dominant here. A Frida Kahlo figurine on the upper shelf has a touch of red that is present in the stack of books. Also, I placed my favorite hand-made beige tall vase inherited from my grandfather in the highest opening on the left.
2. Create Collections With a Common Theme
An etagere displays a collection of objects inspired by a “Chinese” theme. I remember that the client wanted a mostly Italian great room. Then I thought of bringing in some unexpected objects. I told her literally that she just went to China and brought in some souvenirs. She raised her eyebrows. “I’ve never been to China.” However, after I styled the etagere she loved it.
3. Arrange the Décor with Color and Texture in Mind
I chose the above collection for my client’s wall unit. After we built the wall unit she wanted something pretty and earthy but not glitzy for the display. I arranged the objects by texture, form, and size. Earthy objects with tons of interest are like toys that you want to touch and play with.
Large cactuses are bulky enough to be on the upper shelf. A white asymmetrical object is next to them making the display look lighter. A metal, lacy spider web of the book ends on the second shelf in juxtaposition to a shiny planter. The two identical heads of HIM and HER are pretty and fun. Their outline is harmonious with the spider web of the bookends. A tall light blue vase is textural and its earthy color works with the color of the other elements.
4. Display Elements Against a Contrast Background
I am proud to showcase one of the photos from my award-winning project. I received a bronze award from the American Society of Interior Designers for a dear client in Ridgewood, New Jersey.
We built and decorated everything here including a custom wall unit.
I remember sourcing the material for the wall unit back wall. I wanted it to blend with the marble of the fireplace that we built. Also, I wanted the decorative objects to pop against the light background.
Tip: Select a light background for dark objects, but if the objects are light, choose a darker background.
5. Show Off Unexpected and Fun Objects
You might have noticed that I like to introduce fun, playful decor with all my projects. You can follow my lead and create some conversation pieces in your space.
The exquisite hand-made iron ladybug accent lands next to the books.
Most of the shelves are rectangular, right? So, by using odd shapes for the photo frames you will create more interest. What I mean by that is that a space around the objects, called negative space, helps to identify the forms of the objects you display.
For example, show off your travel collection for a while, and then change it to a family gallery. Store your treasures in indexed boxes so that when the time comes for them to shine you can easily find what you are looking for.
6. Use Asymmetric Forms for Photo Frames
Also, I believe that your favorite things need a space to breathe. I’d rather see you changing your displays than crowding too many things all at once.
I hope you found this article helpful. Of course, I will be thrilled to see your comments here!
Have fun styling shelves with your favorite things!
Shop My Favorite Accents for Shelf Styling:
Shop My Favorite Photo Frames
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