Open shelves. It’s a hot topic.

Open shelves. It’s a hot topic.

A topic of frustration. 
A topic of inquisition. 
A topic of resounding “HOWWWWWWW”?


Open shelves that look perfectly curated, while maintaining the elusive effortless aesthetic. Sounds like a unicorn. Well, maybe if they dusted themselves I’d agree that they are, in fact, some sort of unicorn. 

But, great-looking styled shelves in your space, aren’t some sort of magical, unattainable experience reserved for the uber-rich, the uber-stylish, or the uber-friends-with-a-designer. 

There’s a bit of a formula you can follow for creating beautifully styled shelves in any room of your home. It’s a balanced mix of aesthetic, function, varying textures, and meaningful personal effects all co-mingled together. The overall goal is to not feel “cluttery”, “messy”, or “too kitchy”….all words that clients and followers have used to describe how they DON’T want their shelving to feel. 

They’ve also shared they don’t want it to feel too “prim and proper”, “stuffy”, or “unapproachable”…..which, as I’m typing that out sounds more like a descriptor for a person than a shelf. But hey, shelves DO have their own personality so I guess it checks out. 


Let’s talk a little less about how we don’t want the shelves to feel, but more about how we DO: 








All of these are achievable, and it’s not as hard as you might think. Side note: if you’re in the camp where you want what you want, and the time in your day or space in your brain doesn’t allow you to learn this skill, you can always just book a consult and have us come do it for you. But, for the rest of you who are wanting to up-level your shelfie game, let’s break this down:


  1. First things first – and I think it goes without saying, but empty whatever is currently on your shelves, and dust the shelf off. I like to have a table nearby that I can have all “potentials” for the shelf décor sitting on to make it easy to adjust as I go. 


  1. Gather all of the items that you think will go on the shelf. Grab more than you think. Consider the room the shelf is in. Is it open shelves in a kitchen? In that case, you might grab some pottery you’ve collected, a few of your favourite cookbooks, a small plant in a pretty pot, a framed candid photo of your family, a stack of bowls you use daily (if your shelf is within reach of your working area), a candle, etc. 




You get where I’m going with this, I hope. 


When I’m curating items for a shelf, I love mixing textures. Clay bowls, mixed with books, mixed with glass candle holders, mixed with dried or green plants. 


  1. Separate your items by size: 
    Large, statement pieces. Large vases, artwork, sculptural pieces, etc. Medium pieces. Books, framed prints, plants, candles….Small fillers. Things like personal mementos, tealights, dainty candlesticks, crystals.


  1. Consider your anchor piece. This determines the overall mood of your shelf. Let’s go back to the kitchen shelf we stalked about above. You are wanting the shelf to flow with the theme of your kitchen, and the pottery you purchased does just that. So, you’ll start with the pottery as your anchor. Maybe there’s a large carafe or vase. Perfect. Now, the rest of the shelf items need to be cohesive. 

I said cohesive, not matchy-matchy. 

  1. Start to place your items. I always place the large items first. Typically the largest item will go off to one side, not the center. This is visually weights that side, and then you bring in the other medium and smaller pieces to balance everything out. 

Next, move onto the medium sized pieces. If you’ve got books to incorporate try stacking a few on top of each other, and then placing a candle, or another small item on top. It gives the smaller item a “stage” so to speak, and then starts to balance out the larger piece on the other side. You can also take several smaller/medium pieces and stack together to create visual weight – that stack of bowls we talked about earlier, for example.


Lastly, add in the smaller items. To balance everything out. They like to nestle in tucked up next to a large item. 


  1. Fix and rearrange, as needed. Hopefully, you nail it on the first try! But, you may not. So take a step back, and look at your shelf from across the room. 


Are there any big gaps? 


Spots that look empty?


Does it feel visually heavy to one side, meaning it needs to be balanced?


How do the colours feel? Do they flow with your space, or are they too loud? Not loud enough? Fighting each other? 


It’s OK if you don’t know all the technical terms around design and colour theory and styling. It really is. Your own eye will tell you if it is balanced because it will FEEL good. You won’t want to move it around, or make adjustments. It will bring a smile to your face. Like a breath of fresh Shelfie air. 




Have fun!



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