Shelf Styling 101 – Three Daughters Home

Amy Lewicki
by Amy Lewicki
6 Materials

Decorating shelves can definitely be a little intimidating. Where do you start? What will look good where? What are the do’s and don’ts? Even with an eye for it, I still do a lot of trial and error before settling on a final style. (I’m also constantly moving things around to integrate new pieces!) That being said, I do have some Shelf Styling 101 “rules” that I try to follow to create a cohesive look. Hopefully these will help take some of the guesswork out!

Keep reading for some helpful tips, or read the blog post directly from my site! (You will find links to items there as well.)

Where to Start

Let’s start fresh, shall we? Always start with a blank slate! If you have an existing shelf you want to style, take everything off and set your accent pieces aside, along with some new options to freshen it up! Seeing everything laid out makes it easier to handpick items that speak to you. Also, shop your home! If you’re like me, you have a bin or two (or 3, or… 10 lol) with home decor you aren’t currently using. I always pick through these items first before buying anything new. And if you do decide to buy new pieces, I recommend buying second hand! I love finding one-of-a-kind pieces I know no one else has (and for a bargain)!

Items to Use

Here’s a list of ideas you can use as shelf filler/accent pieces for any shelf or tabletop. Try to mix in items of sentimental value amongst these to make your styled shelves personal and special to you and your family:

  • books
  • sculptures
  • framed photographs or artsmall signs
  • candles / candlesticks
  • vases / pitchers
  • greenery
  • baskets / boxes /bowls

Styling Tips

Okay; so you’ve got your collection of shelf decor and a blank slate. Now what? Here’s where the trial and error comes in. Don’t be afraid to try different pieces in multiple places before deciding on a look. Shelf styling all comes down to a gut feeling of what you feel looks right and what makes you happy. But here’s some Amy ‘Shelfie 101 Rules‘ to go by as you’re making your selections. It’s all about…


Take a look at the decor items you’ve gathered. What materials are they made of? Do you have a lot of one color? Do you have both large and smaller items to work with? Ultimately, you want a balance of materials, colors, space, and differing heights. The goal is to create a cohesive look by using like items, but arrange them so the eye jumps around rather than going from left to right (for horizontal shelves) or up and down (for vertical shelves).

For example, take a look at this same bookshelf styled a different way. Now, I know the dotted lines look a little cray cray, but stay with me. You can see I have a mixture of blacks items, light wood items, and dark wood items. I have them all spaced out so that the eye has to jump around to follow the path of like items. This is what we want!

Height & Spacing

My general rule of thumb when it comes to item height is start taller on the ends. See how I have a tall olive tree and wood candlestick on either end of the bookshelf? This draws the eye inward to see the rest of your displayed goodies.

+ PRO TIP: One of my favorite ways to give an item height is with books — And most of my books, I buy from Goodwill for next to nothing! I scan the books with the colored sticker of the day (50% off), and then search for black or neutral colored hardcovers.

As for spacing, and this is an important one, you do not need to fill every shelf space. I repeat: You do not need to fill every little nook and cranny. Adding too much decor can quickly make a shelf look cluttered. Keep it simple, and embrace a little empty space!

I hope this Shelf Styling 101 helps you when it comes time to style your next shelf! If you like this post, please visit my BLOG to see more home decor related projects!

Happy decorating!

Suggested materials:
  • Bookcase   (
  • Custom Name Sign   (
  • Farmhouse Lantern   (
See all materials
Amy Lewicki
Want more details about this and other design ideas? Check out my blog post!
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2 of 6 comments
  • Christy Christy on Nov 19, 2023

    Thanks for the tips! I have three wall shelves, arranged with the longest one on top, the second longest in the middle, and shortest one underneath that.

  • Becki Lusk Becki Lusk on May 03, 2024

    I enjoyed your tutorial and your shelves look so nice.

    Unfortunately, I was taught to decorate store windows. That was all about fill it up . This is a hard lesson to unlearn.

    It still uses the same principles it just requires more STUFf. I 😆

    I do get many compliments on my shelves, so I guess there is room for us all in the world of decorating.