Design Lesson

How to: Style open shelves

How to: Style open shelves

How to: Style open shelves Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson

How to: Style open shelves

"Open shelving filled with a wealth of lovingly collected books and artifacts is a classic feature for the well-designed home and is a key trend for interiors right now," says design editor Christine Hanlon.

Pull your look together with Christine’s top five styling tips.
1 Mix it Mix books and magazines of varying sizes with artwork and decorative objects to create vignettes with personality.

2 Fill it Too many small items look bitsy and add clutter. Use objects with substance to fill negative space and ensure they relate to each other in terms of balance and scale. Typically, when it comes to styling shelves, more is more and bigger is better.

3 Repeat it Symmetry is important, so repeat similar items a few times. If you’ve got a stack of books in one area, try to include one or two more throughout your display.

4 Neutralize it Shelf arrangements are at their best when grounded in neutrals. If possible, use warm whites and ivories, worn woods and metals, then, if desired, scatter an accent colour throughout.

5 Flip it We rarely get it right the first time. Keep playing with the composition, shifting things around until you’re satisfied. Practice will eventually make perfect.

Paint it pretty Paint can make shelves and the items on them either stand out or blend in. Decide what you prefer and then paint accordingly. Bird’s Egg 2051-60 paint, Benjamin Moore,

Stack the shelves Experiment with horizontal and vertical stacks and repeat them along the shelves. Don’t be afraid to stack books on top of boxes and objects on top of books. Lack wall shelf, 46", IKEA,

Stylish stripes Try applying wallpaper or fabric to the back panel of a bookshelf to bring a splash of colour and pattern to a room. Blue Mountain Wallcoverings BC1581058 wallpaper, Design by Color,


Baskets are ideal for open shelving. Stash loose papers, remote controls or children’s toys in them, or use them to display decorative orbs, like coral and beaded balls. Baskets are also a way to bring natural texture into your scheme. Byholma basket, IKEA,


Books of all shapes and sizes look good on shelves, particularly when assembled in cohesive colour groups. If spines are damaged or unattractive, try wrapping them in thick, neutral paper. Large books and vintage leather-bound collections fill holes especially well. Books, Juniper Books,


Boxes – whether modern or traditional, old or new – are the perfect shelf accessory and a good way to inject colour. Find some that suit your style, then place items above or top a stack of books with a pretty box. White-and-black lacquered boxes, Angus & Company,



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Design Lesson

How to: Style open shelves