Shelf Styling Tips: Create Magazine-Worthy Shelves!

Fun fact about me: I LOVE styling shelves. I could style and restyle shelves all day! I love how versatile they are- you can style them for seasons, moods, decor themes, parties, and so many other ways. You can totally change up the look of a room by restyling the shelves. Fun and colorful, neutral, minimalist, bohemian, modern, rustic... there are so many different ways to style them that can completely change your design aesthetic. Below, I'll share a few tips for ways that I style shelves no matter what look I'm going for!

1) Decide your design goals. Are you going for minimalist? Prepare to only use a few things per shelf. Bohemian? Get those plants ready! Modern? You're thinking clean edges, metallics, and crisp white and black items. Styling kitchen shelves? Think kitchen items: cups, bowls, cutting boards, serving platters (but don't be afraid to add in non-kitchen items if you have room!)

2) Choose larger items you want to feature and place them on the shelves. The number of large items depends on how many shelves you have. One item per shelf is a good rule of thumb, but if you're going for a minimalist look, subtract 2-3 from the number of shelves. 

My favorite larger items to use: 

  • Picture frames
  • Books
  • Baskets
  • Plants
  • Vases
  • "Larger items" can also include more than one item used together! E.g. a stack of books, a cluster of tall candles, a group of cutting boards, etc. 

3) Choose a smaller item or two to feature alongside the larger item. Groups of 3 are always recommended but sometimes two things are just fine- this will be up to you to step back and decide!


  • Candles
  • Plants (especially succulents)
  • Smaller picture frames
  • Clocks
  • Vases
  • "Trinkets"- decorative spheres, gemstones, etc. 

4) Style and re-style until you're content- this involves lots of stepping back and looking at the shelf as a whole! 


  • don't be afraid to NOT use all of your items- OR, shop for a few new things to complete the look!
  • Think "height balance"- always balance out taller items with 1-2 shorter ones clustered with them. If you have a tall item on the left side of one shelf, put a tall item on the right side of the shelf above or below it. 
  • Think "small groups"- for example, put 3 items of varying height on one side of the shelf and 2 items of varying height on the other side of that same shelf. You could also stack 3 books horizontally and put a small item or two on top of them.
  • Shelves are a great place to put fake plants! My fave fake plants are air plants and succulents (I've found realistic lookalikes at Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and Target!)
  • Swapping out either photos OR frames can change a look easily!
  • Play around with organizing books by spine color OR by turning the spines around and showing off the pages. Shop antique stores and Goodwill for cheap books!!

Here are a few examples of how I've changed up the different shelves in our house for the seasons & holidays! Notice that there are a few items that I like to keep in the same spot despite the season, and there are some items that I move around the house! 

Hope these tips helped you! Post your freshly styled shelves on Instagram and tag me @ourfiftiesfixerupper so I can see! :) Happy styling!