Simple Shelf Styling Tips

This week I got inspired to restyle my breakfast room banquette and shelves, but since we are in quarantine, I didn’t have the option to buy anything new. My solution was to shop my house and use items I already had to add some spring color to my breakfast nook. As I was rearranging the pieces on my shelves to get them “just right” I realized there is a basic formula that creates symmetry and balance on shelves, so I thought I would share some simple shelf styling tips with you today.


One of the easiest ways to make shelves look thoughtfully styled is to be intentional in the colors displayed. Regardless of the items you are featuring, using a palette of three to four colors helps to bring the look together.

For my breakfast room shelves, I chose to use white, gray and light blue to blend with the pillows on the banquette.


Choosing different size items and grouping them in varying numbers on each shelf helps to create an overall sense of symmetry. Larger pitchers mixed with smaller vases stacked on different sized books all add interest and balance.


Another way to add balance to shelves is to repeat objects on different shelves. For example, I used three blue and white ceramic vases, three sets of white books, two matching plants and two gray pitchers on these five shelves.

This is a simple way to easily add balance to open shelves.


As you place objects, put like items diagonal to one another on different shelves to create balance. In addition, try not to line objects up vertically to help create the illusion of fullness on the shelves without overcrowding.

This simple technique makes it easy to create beautifully styled shelves in just minutes.


No “rule” substitutes for your own eye when it comes to styling shelves. Once you have placed all of your objects on the shelves, stand back and take a look.

Are the colors balanced? Do the shelves look “heavy” on one side or the other? Is there symmetry in the size and type of objects? Trust your eye and make adjustments that are ultimately pleasing to the overall look.

I hope these simple shelf styling tips help you to create balance and symmetry on your open shelves or glass-front cabinets. You can see how I styled my kitchen cabinets using these same principals by clicking HERE.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a beautiful day!

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  1. Karen,
    Such a soothing color palette!
    I love the cohesiveness between the styling in the shelves
    and the decor of the breakfast nook!
    Truly inspiring!

  2. Great article on styling shelves! You really simplified what other stylists make so complicated. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for the timely blog. You added one idea on bookshelf decor that I haven’t heard before but is so important—the diagonal piece. Yes, that makes it cohesive! Love your understated but beautiful color palette. Great job!!

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