Shelf Styling Tips for Any Home

Shelving is such a great way to make the most of vertical space in your home, fill those awkward gaps above furniture in rooms with high ceilings, or make the absolute most of small spaces with limited storage options.

It can also serve as an awesome focal point on larger walls or work as a statement piece of décor in bedrooms and home offices. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your shelving is not only functional but beautiful, too.

Here are some of my favourite shelf styling tips that will have your shelving looking gorgeous with minimal effort.

Colour Match

What? The easiest way for a shelving unit to look cohesive is to really think about your colour palette. Say you want to store blankets, baskets, and decorative items on the shelf—try to get blankets and baskets that coordinate with your ceramics, candles, and coffee table books, to create a feeling of total flow.

This doesn’t mean choosing one colour and only putting things that are that colour on the shelf though! The goal is colour cohesion, not matchy-matchy.

Where? I think this technique looks great on low shelving units, especially in living spaces.

Add Books

What? Obvious, right? And yet, a well-stacked bookshelf can look so great as a statement furnishing in its own right. Just make sure to play around with ways of adding your books to the shelving unit.

Some people like minimal bookshelves, with large, neutral-coloured coffee table books laid flat atop one another. However, I’ve gotta say that I’m a sucker for almost too full bookshelves, where books are arranged vertically and then stacked horizontally on top. And rainbow blocking? It’s all the rage and awesome for a statement bookshelf.  

Where? The office is an obvious spot for bookshelves, but I love adding bookshelves into living spaces or awkward corners. For small apartments, consider installing shelving above your windows and making the most of all that ceiling-level space!

Go Green

What? ‘Greenhouse shelving’ is my name for shelves that are loaded with houseplants and—if you’ve got the time to keep them well-watered and in good health—I think they look incredibly fresh and vibrant in bedrooms, living spaces, and even kitchens.

I personally enjoy free-floating wall shelving with hanging plants carefully draped across it, although circular shelving units, IKEA-style bar carts, and ladder shelves also look fantastic when stuffed full of plants.

Where? Greenhouse shelves look so cool in bedrooms. Add a painted headboard above your bed and then carefully position just a couple of natural-finish shelves on the wall, before adding trailing plants like philodendrons, ivy, or string of pearls.

This type of shelving also looks great above windows but make sure to choose plants that thrive in low light. 

Get Your Drink On

What? Style meets function with this shelf styling tip. If you’ve ever wanted to live like an episode of Mad Men, pull out all your booze bottles and arrange them on the lower shelf of a bar cart, wall unit or freestanding console table, before placing your cut glass crystal (or, let’s be real, IKEA knock-offs) on the top shelf.

Not only are you saving cupboard and counter space in your kitchen, you’re also making a statement out of your drinks collection and getting in on the mid-century style that’s so popular right now.

Don’t drink? Don’t panic! I actually think this kind of shelf styling looks amazing with coffee and tea accoutrements too—think: kettles, Italian espresso makers, caddies for your loose-leaf teas and coffee grounds! So cute.

Where? This type of shelf styling is amazing for smaller kitchens with not-so-much counter room but plenty of wall space. It also looks super cool when used with wheeled bar carts or small console tables tucked into the corner of living or dining rooms.

Add Backing Paper

What? Brighten up your shelves from behind by adding a vibrant wallpaper or a lick of paint. This is such a fun way to make your space look colourful without being too overpowering and can even work in rental properties too—just make sure to use temporary wallpaper that can be peeled off before you leave!

I especially love this tip for people who only have a few items to display on their shelves and need something to bring the whole look together.

Where? This looks fantastic in children’s bedrooms or playrooms, helping to add a splash of colour or a fun print without it dominating the area. However, you could also use it in kitchens, or on built-in alcove shelving in your living space.

Embrace Maximalism

What? Minimalism has been the aim for so long, and I think it’s time to start embracing maximalism in our living spaces…at least on a select few shelving units anyway. Go nuts with the photo frames, ceramics, candles, and tchotchkes—add everything and anything to your shelves, balancing out the look with a few books and hanging plants for balance.

Where? I think maximalism looks super cool in home offices, where things are always prone to be a little messy and over-the-top anyway. The key to this look, in my mind, is to use cabinets or standalone shelving units. Maximalism ain’t for floating shelves.


  1. Always look for balance when putting larger items of shelves. Don’t stuff them all to the left and leave the other side empty. Instead, work in a zigzag pattern.
  2. Keep valuables in glass-fronted cabinets or shelving units to protect them from kids and pets.
  3. Make the most of your vertical space, always. Put shelves above windows, buy super high units that will reach the ceiling. Look for corner shelves to fill awkward gaps. Under-stair shelving is also fantastic!
  4. Freshen up your shelves from time to time with a lick of paint. They deserve a little interior décor TLC too!
  5. Have your shelves properly installed. You don’t want them to come crashing down on you in the middle of the night, after all.
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