How to Easily Decorate Amazingly Beautiful Shelves

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How to Easily Decorate Amazingly Beautiful Shelves

You can learn the simple, basic principles to decorating a room. You can check off your list the things you need, how to coordinate accessories and such….But, what about those shelves?

You’ve seen them, images of gorgeous rooms and in the background – built-in shelves, free standing shelves or floating shelves. And they’re decorated beautifully – they’re the added element that can make or break a room’s decor.

Shelves can easily look cluttered and unbalanced. So, how can you make your shelves praise worthy and amazingly beautiful? Shelves that make you smile when you pass through the room.

Here’s what I’ve found that helped me and can help you.

If you’ve read A Delightsome Life for some time, you may have picked up that I like things in order. I believe there’s beauty in order and in patterns. Well, as in nature and in so many things, there’s a formula to order and there’s a formula to beautiful shelf styling.

Start with a clean slate. Clear out and clean your shelves. Then, this is very important – measure the height and depth of your shelves. This will help you narrow down your accessory selections. It could be so disappointing to find a beautiful piece you think will work wonderfully on your shelf to find that it doesn’t fit!

Decide on a Color Scheme. I’ve shared the 60-30-10 principle in color selection for the room when decorating our guest bedroom. The accent color that you want to flow through the room should be the main color on your shelves.

Actually, you can have two or three complementary colors – or representatives of the main colors in your room. For example, if your color scheme is white, pink and green, you can have some of each on your shelves.

examples of things I love to collect: Milk Glass, old books, Cloches, bottles, busts, candles

Gather All Your Potential Accessories. Shop your house, collect items or create DIY decor to put on your shelf.

You’ll want to gather things like: 

  • Books – of course!
  • Framed Pictures
  • Pitchers
  • Glassware
  • bowls
  • cloches
  • candles
  • faux or real plants
  • Collectibles – things that mean something to you
  • boxes
  • baskets
  • faux fruit
  • balls – glass, moss, wood
  • natural elements like wood, antlers or shells
  • Something unusual or unexpected…


When you’ve gathered your potential decor items, group like items by color, texture, size etc… If you really like white pitchers (like I do) when you group your items you may find you may want more – to create a balanced look.

Before you begin to place things on the shelves, take a look at your bookshelf or built-in. Do you want to make a statement by painting the back wall a different shade – or add wallpaper etc…Your selection and color of items will help you make this decision.

TIP (you can make a temporary statement by painting or wallpapering foam board measured for the space that you fit into the background. If you don’t like it – you can easily change it)

Now the Principle: The Rule of Three in Design

A while back, I shared how you can use the Golden Ratio to decorate tabletops. It’s wonderful how this pattern occurs in nature and how beautifully it works in home decor.

Three Really is the magic number...Remember School House Rock (I apologize if that song gets stuck in your mind!) Apparently, there’s good reason that groupings of three work in so many areas of our lives.

The rule of threes state that things arranged in odd numbers are more appealing, effective and memorable than even-numbered groupings.Click To Tweet

Odd number groupings work well – 5, 7, 9…But three, is the smallest number that can be put together to form a clear pattern.

It’s just how our brains work! Visually, viewing three things causes our eyes to move around to ‘see’ what’s there…that also leads to the second principle that will make your shelves sing.

The Rule of the Triangle

Simply put, when displaying your decor arrange them in such a way that you create a virtual triangle. You group like items together to ‘draw the eye’.

All of this fascinates me, especially when I try it out and ‘see’ how it does work and it does make sense in design. Using these two main principles will give your shelves eye-catching and pause moments for you and for your visitors.

Alright. You have your shelves cleared. You have your decor items gathered. You have your items grouped. You have in mind the rule of three and the triangle rule…NOW then, where do you start creating your masterpiece?

In my mind I start always and in everything – top to bottom – left to right. When cleaning, painting and just works for me.

Start from the top shelf. If you have more space like I do, you can place your tallest items there. And check it out. I’ve created a triangle to begin with – the DIY wreath, the Bust and the grouping of white pitchers and burlap covered books! Yay!

I am going to want to use the White pitchers to begin my downward view triangle. (actually if you look at the items differently – I have layered triangles – the white pitchers and milk glass objects and the books).

Your triangles can be layered – small, medium and large….you should step back and visually follow the lines with your eyes as you’re selecting and setting your decor items.

Stack, Stand and Lean

As you can see – I don’t have all of my books stacked upright as if they were on a library shelf. You can do the same. Stand, lean or lay your books – then you can use some of them to place smaller decor items on….


Placing bigger items behind smaller or medium sized things give added texture and interest to your shelves.

personality – items that mean something to me…tray from Brazil, family photos and a collection of old door knobs

Add Personality

So that these shelves are distinctly yours, add photos or memorabilia that mean something to you. These can be things that cause conversation you can share with others.

Add Life – or the Illusion Thereof

Plants, dried flowers or faux plants add the sense of life to your shelves. They can also be that third element, unexpected element, in a grouping.

Most Importantly

When planning and preparing to decorate your shelves – only put items that you LOVE. You may see examples of beautiful decor and of beautiful shelves and want to emulate them – buy  the same object or type of objects…that’s o.k. only and if you really love it. If it fits your room’s decor and it’s you.


How to Easily Decorate Amazingly Beautiful Shelves

Now, once you’ve worked your way down the shelves, you’ve grouped your items; you’ve created your visual triangles. Step back…evaluate. Tweak and live with it for a few days. If then, when you pass your shelves and they make you smile and you find the arrangement appealing. So will others. You’ve done it! Following these simple principles and guidelines you too can confidently and easily decorate amazingly beautiful shelves!


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