How To Get A Cohesive Look When You Accessorize Decorative Shelves

Open shelves can look amazing and create interest in a space and I will share my best accessorizing tips for decorative shelves!

I know, first hand, that accessorizing decorative shelves can be tricky.  It doesn’t matter if they’re open shelves hanging on the wall or if they’re shelves in a bookcase – all that empty space can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start!  Whether you change the accessories on your shelves out for the seasons or you’re just a once-and-done kind of person, keeping these tips in mind are sure to give you the cohesive look that you crave.

YOU’LL GET A BETTER END RESULT WITH YOUR DECORATIVE SHELVES IF YOU HAVE A PLAN

Your plan can be something as fluid as just a “look” you’re after or an idea in your head.  Use Pinterest to your full advantage for inspiration if you don’t already have something in mind!  I actually have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Bookcases and Shelves that you can follow right HERE.  Or you can see the pins on all of my boards by following me HERE.

When I decorated these shelves for summer last year, my plan was inspired by some lush bushes of pretty summer daisies that I ran across.  Since my theme for these shelves was summer, I included pops of fresh and cheery blue and natural green too.

Summer decorative shelf decor in the dining room.I’m one of those who changes the accessories on some of my shelves seasonally and I generally try to keep those decorations in keeping with the rest of the decor in the room.  Whether I decorate the open shelves in a room first or after everything else in the room is done pretty much depends on how much presence the shelves have in the room.  For example, the open shelves above the sideboard in my breakfast room definitely take center stage, so they always get accessorized first, then I follow up with a centerpiece and some throw pillows on my bench to tie the room together.

Since my dining room opens into the kitchen, I brought the same color palette into that space on the vintage shelf above the sideboard.

Summer sideboard and vintage shelf vignette in blue.

STRATEGICALLY CARRY COLOR THROUGHOUT THE SHELVES

As another example, when it comes to decorating for fall, I fully embrace all of the rich, rustic colors of the season.  When coming up with my plan for these fall decorative shelves, I was inspired by some plaid chargers that I’ve had for a while.  I pulled the rustic orange color out of the plaid and repeated the same color in multiple places on the shelves.

Breakfast room decorated for fall.

Notice that the color is on each one of the shelves, but that it is spread out.  I interspersed other calmer colors to tone down the strong orange statement and keep it from becoming overpowering.

Rustic farmhouse open shelves decorated for fall with hints

 

TRY SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT

The bookcases in my office are one place that I don’t decorate seasonally, other than just a maybe adding just a small touch or two.  To make them fit in with the rest of my decor, I painted them a soft gray and then we added a barn door that slides from one side to the other.  I’m able to hide all of my ugly office supplies behind the door and slide it open whenever I need to get to them.

An antique mail sorter becomes large scale "art" in a farmhouse style home office .

Other than a way to store office supplies, these bookcases are mainly a decorative element in the room, so I didn’t overload them with books.  When you’re accessorizing decorative shelves, I recommend being careful not to make the shelves appear top heavy by placing anything too heavy in appearance on the first shelf.  Notice that the bottom shelf contains a wicker basket which is holding several larger, heavy books, but the top shelf only has a trio of plants in a basket.  Which one looks ‘heavier’ to you?  The books that I do have on display are carefully placed by size – either all the same size or taller books in the middle.  The bindings on my books were an assortment of colors and weren’t pretty, so I turned the books backward to give me more of a neutral palette.

Farmhouse style bookcases with a diy sliding door.

 

SOME SYMMETRY IS GOOD, BUT TOO MUCH IS TOO MUCH

This is strictly a matter of personal taste, but I think it makes for a much more interesting display if you create a symmetrical feel by balancing the size and visual weight of accessories instead of making sure that everything matches.  I balanced the look of the shelf in my dining room in a couple of ways – I used a group of three on each end of the shelf and made sure that both of the groupings had a similar visual width and height.

Open shelves in the dining room with a small wreath hanging on the wall.

Color can also play an important role in bringing a symmetrical look to your shelves.  For this variation of my spring decorative shelves, I made the color work for me two different ways.  First of all I made sure there was a nice balance of green on each shelf, but I also used my favorite trick of creating a “triangle” of the color on all three shelves – the green wreath above the top shelf, the green plates on each end of the bottom shelf and the green mugs and green wreath on the sideboard itself.  Even though I used color as the main symmetrical tool, I still made sure to keep the visual height and weight of the groupings on each side similar or else the whole thing would have looked off.

Open rustic industrial farmhouse shelves decorated for spring.

When it comes to accessorizing your decorative shelves, the end of the story is to not be in a hurry.  Even professionals don’t always get it right on the first, second or even third try.  Be patient with yourself and be willing to tweak until you get them looking just the way that you like.  I KNOW you can do it!


How To Get A Cohesive Look When You Accessorize Decorative Shelves poster.

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20 Comments

  1. Thank you for these very helpful hints. My shelves in our breakfast area thanks you too.

  2. Brenda Francis says:

    Oh , how i needed to read this. I am getting ready to sell my place and your hints will surely help me to depersonalize my bookshelves. Thank you!

    1. I love doing my bookcase each season and your tips were very helpful. My best tip is when I do the shelves then go sit back and access how they look and change things around till it looks right to my eye. Usually it is by eliminating something not adding!

  3. These are REALLY helpful tips. I also love to change it up seasonally. One time my husband asked me why I changed our home decor throughout the year and I said, “Well, why do you write different articles and books? Wasn’t one enough?” He looked at me with such surprise and said, “OK, now I get it.” For so many of us our home is where we express ourselves, right? ?

    1. Deb, I like that thought. The changes I make to my bookshelves reflect my happy place at the time I am moving things around. Nicely put!

  4. Happy Valentines Day, Suzy!! Thanks for such awesome tips! I pinned it so I can reference it later. I usually just eyeball the look I’m going for but sometimes I need a little inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love your choices of green and blues. Thanks for the helpful tips! I’ll keep in mind when I get ready for my spring changeover.

  6. Heather linz says:

    Great advice Will be using your blog to decorate our new house

  7. Thank you so much for sharing how you styled your shelving. I love how you have your decor around your home. Very pretty!

  8. so helpful! thanks so much for always sharing such great ideas!

  9. Adele Scheidt says:

    I love your decorating style and used your ideas in our Florida home! Keep up the good work!

  10. You do a great job styling your shelves. I love the Fall look in your breakfast room, as well as the look you did for Spring. I am inspired!

  11. I love your shelves Suzy–well, except for your backwards books, which are a pet peeve of mine–but you definitely have an artist’s eye. I love that you can explain what you did., and how we can do it too. Thank you for sharing your beautiful home, good ideas and encouragement with us. Blessings!

  12. Norma Rolader says:

    Wow!!! Great tips and really enjoyed all your decor and thank you for inspiration

  13. Thank you so much for sharing how you style your shelves. They always look great!

  14. Expert ideas from someone who has experience. I enjoy the pops of color among the neutral backgrounds of the shelves.

  15. Barb Bootsma says:

    Thanks for taking the time to teach me some very helpful tips. I look forward to each and every new item you add to your blog. Your decorating is definitely a gift.

  16. Just love your great tips with the shelves. Will be able to use this information ay my house! Thank you.

  17. Lindsay A. says:

    This is such a helpful post – I can get overwhelmed with how to arrange shelves since I don’t have such a good eye for it, but I loved reading your tips! Thank you!! 😀