Tips for Styling Shelves


This is my very first home decor post on the blog, so before I get into how I style my shelves I want to do a quick explanation of what kind of place I'm working with. I live in a one bedroom condo that I rent with my boyfriend. We've been here for about a year at this point. Because we're renting it means we can't change much, but luckily it's got great bones to begin with!

When you're renting it's the perfect time to find your personal style through little decorative touches like shelves. Whether they're free floating or part of a piece of furniture, shelves are a great way to display your favorite items that reflect who you are. Personally, I like my space to feel neat and organized, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm a minimal person. Keeping items that I love or use often out on show helps to create that lived-in, but curated feel that I'm going for.

Create mini "scenes".

It can be daunting to think about styling an entire area, but if you break it up into smaller "scenes" the whole thing seems more doable. My fireplace mantel is a good example of a place that I've done this. The stack of books with my Diptyque candle and air plant is almost like a separate scene from the box of matches and candle to the right of it or even the diffuser and plant mister on the far right. Once you have an idea of what you want a few of these scenes to look like, it can be a good guide to help the whole thing come together.


Go for variety.

They say variety is the spice of life. Elements with varying heights, colors, and textures are all ways you can create diversity in your style. The philodendron on the left side of my mantel trails down low, but I’ve offset that with a relatively tall spindly diffuser on the right side. When you style things with this in mind it create a sense of balance without perfect symmetry.


Don't think of functionality & style as mutually exclusive.

This shelf is the first thing you see when you open our front door. We got it from Target a few years ago, and I can't imagine not having something like this as a catch-all for our everyday items like keys, sunglasses, wallets, etc. Because it has three cubbies and we're only two people, I filled the third section with a faux plant from West Elm. I was unsure about faux plants for awhile, but I would definitely recommend this one if they still sell anything similar.


Work with what you have.

Open shelving in the kitchen is obviously a major trend right now, but if you don’t have that you can still emulate the look by styling your cabinets or countertops just like you would with open shelves. Some of our cabinets have a glass front so I've set up my extensive jar collection in one of those, but I used to keep them in a closed cabinet in our old apartment. I got mine from Ikea when we first moved to California, and I’ve been loving them ever since. I keep dry staple items like rice, oats, popcorn, baking supplies, and all kinds of things in them.


Make a statement.

While the jars are practical, they also make a decor statement considering I have so many. They're quite the conversation starter when people come over. (Even if that conversation is wow you're kind of weird for having this many jars.) My point is that it's nice to have a collection of something on display. Your statement doesn't have to be jars. Choose anything you love whether it's cookbooks, shot glasses, tea, etc. Whatever you like just lean into it, and use it as a leading decor element. 


Make small tweaks to items you already have.

Spending a little extra time to find beautiful upgrades for things can be worth it. For example, our Google Home has a rose gold bottom. I like the original grey too, but this color really suits our space. Also, we got our lamp at TJ Maxx, but the yellowish shade that came with it just wasn’t working for us, so we replaced it with a whiter lamp shade. Don't be afraid to customize!

When in doubt get a plant...

This is really a tip for your whole place, but I like to have different plants all over the apartment. I got my cactus in the round pot at a craft show, and it's actually grown two little buddies! Plants bring a liveliness to a space that you just can't beat.


...or books.

I like to arrange some of mine vertically and some horizontally to create that variety I mentioned before. My books are always changing because I go to the library quite often, but having a designated space for them is key to cutting down clutter. Plus, they just look good.


If you look around your house there’s bound to be a surface or shelf somewhere that could use a little love. It's nice to rearrange things often anyway to prevent things from feeling stale. I’m always on the hunt for home inspiration from other bloggers like Kate La Vie, New Darlings, The Grand Apt, The Frugality and so many more. Let me know where you get your inspiration because I'm always looking for new sources!