Shelf Styling | Countyline Project


Ughh, the dreaded shelf styling. This can honestly be one of the most difficult parts of styling a space. It can easily turn messy or become rather unflattering if not done appropriately – especially when dealing with larger bookshelves. Shelf styling is one of our favorite things to do here at Studio Onyx, so continue reading to find out our tips and tricks to shelf styling!

1.     What is the purpose of the shelf?

This is important because it will alter how the shelf is styled. For instance, this large office bookshelf that we worked on at our Countyline remodel, did not need to be functional. The homeowner wasn’t planning on actually storing a ton of books there, so the purpose more than anything was decorative.

This completely changes what we can do with the space because we now have a ton of room for décor items as opposed to if this were a more functional bookshelf where most of the room would be given to actual books.

2.     The styling process

Everyone has their own way of styling shelves, but what worked best for us with this rather large bookshelf was starting in the middle and working our way out. Each shelf was styled completely before moving on to the next one.  

Once all of the shelves are styled, you most certainly aren’t done! Just like most things, the details matter, but so does the bigger picture. A shelf on its own may look okay but combined with all of the other shelves things may have to be changed. 

Take a step back and look at your work as a whole. This will allow you to see where things may need to be adjusted or completely changed. When we worked on this bookshelf we got everything up and styled and spent some time moving pieces around; it’s all part of the process!

3.     What to pay attention to

  • Height

Height is so important when styling. You can have a shelf styled with everything coming to the same height, but you’ll want to make sure that the shelves around it have some variation.

  • Color

Color comes into play in several different ways. First, you need to take into account what color the book shelf is. Is it dark wood? Bright white? Painted grey? This will all impact what colors you use to style with. It isn’t necessarily bad to put light items on a light bookshelf or dark items on a dark bookshelf, it’s all about finding the right balance between both.

Another way color will come into play is with the color palette of the room. This doesn’t necessarily mean paint color on the walls (though this is definitely a part of it), it also relates to the rug being used, the lighting finishes, sofa, chairs and additional accessories to name a few.

If there are specific colors going on in the room, you will want to make sure that the bookshelf works with those colors. If the room is super neutral, then have fun with the book shelf – you literally can do whatever colors and finishes you like best!

  • Depth

This pertains to how each of these items are placed on the shelf. You don’t want every shelf to have all of its items moved directly to the front, back or middle of the shelf. Just like with height, you can have one shelf where all items are styled in the middle, but then make sure the surrounding shelves have some variation.

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  • Texture

Texture may sound weird, but the biggest thing here is to make sure that you aren’t just using all ceramic pieces. There should be some diversity in the materials that are used.

At the end of the day, just remember that balance is key. Too much of a good thing, is just that, too much! Just because you love the look on one shelf doesn’t mean you should repeat the same combination of items for all of the subsequent shelves. Balance!