How To Style Your Shelves

Open shelving has been luring us in for some time now and can be a wonderful opportunity to showcase your personality. However, adding that personal touch by ‘styling’ your shelves can sometimes feel pretty daunting. What should start off as an easy task can turn into hours of umming & arring over what goes where. Have you been asking yourself how do I group items together? How can I make my shelves look balanced? Well, let us help you style your shelves then! 

If you’ve been staring at some blank or cluttered shelves for some time now and are desperate to enjoy beautifully curating your shelves, this might be just the guide for you. Today, we’ll take a look at how to approach the topic of how to style your shelves, the way us designers do it. Prepare yourself for some insider tips and tricks to pull it all off like a pro. 

Our Top Tips and Tricks For Styling Your Shelves

1. Start from the bottom

Starting from the bottom work your way up, starting off with bigger, heavier and bulkier items at the bottom – a bit like you would for a Christmas tree! Then, begin stacking and layering items whilst drawing on some of these key design principles:

2. Create balance and harmony by using these principles

Odd numbers

Odd numbers appear more interesting to the eye. The rule of three is a great one to live by when styling your shelves. So, if you’re stuck, try including 3 of the same object in a row for a statement. The item must be smaller for this to work.

Bigger is better

In effort to create a sense of balance and harmony rather than clutter, opt for bigger items as much as possible. The more substantial the item in size, the more space it takes up and thus, the less other smaller stuff it needs around it. If you only have smaller items, make them look bigger by adding some art behind them in a frame that’s proportionally bigger, or stack the items on top of some magazines or books to elevate them. 


Add items in a triangle of heights – so a taller item at the back, mid-height in front and a small item at the front. This is a common styling tip one that always works – looks great with vases .

Buy things in pairs for symmetry e.g. two of the same photo frame, or two of the same vase and position them on different shelves. The eye is drawn to symmetry so this will create balance.

Texture and tactile objects

Strive to incorporate a mix of materials and textures, both tactile and visual. This will really help add depth to a space and ensure the space and shelves don’t feel flat. Use woods, stone, metal, wax, books, plants etc to create a diverse arrangement of products.   

Mix heights 

Adding items of different heights are a crucial key to getting a balanced and structure to your shelving. 

Pop of greenery

Buy fake plants for the highest shelves, so you aren’t struggling to water them on a daily basis. For the higher shelves, opt for plants that ‘trail down’ onto the shelves below e.g. ivy, pothos, succulent pearls, garlands etc.

3. Group objects

As you work your way down from the top, consider increasing the grouping of objects across the shelf as you work your way down, all the while leaving some blank space between groupings of objects e.g books stacked in a line and a trio of vases. 

The concept of Zig-zagging is a great tip for this if you want to create balance. You can do this with books, vases, stacking areas, plants etc. Basically, you want to zig-zag in pattern items of a similar type. This will enhance a feeling of balance all the way down the shelf.

4. Take a photo

When you think you’re done, step back and take a photo! This will help give you an objective perspective so you can tweak the shelves by adding something else or removing an item.

We hope you loved this post on how to your style your shelves. If you’re looking for more design inspiration and tips, try our other inspiration posts.  Or for further support and guidance, don’t hesitate to contact us. Pop us an email at contactus@topologyinteriors.com. Our experienced team of interior designers would be happy to help you create the home of your dreams within your budget. 

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