The Art of Decorating Your Shelves

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At long last, your renovation is complete! The paint has dried, your furniture has arrived, you’ve chopped your pillows, and folded your throws just-so and yet, your beautiful, new built-in shelves remain bare… What to do? Though shelving can certainly be used for storage, more often than not, we find they are more of an aesthetic element versus a functional one. In the past, you’ve probably admired photos of your favourite celebrity homes with close-ups of shelves adorned with whimsical trinkets and keepsakes, all tastefully arranged. Well, let us be the first to tell you, those shelves didn’t magically end up that way! There is without a doubt a certain art to arranging and decorating one’s shelves. When executed correctly, the results will be pleasing to the eye but also feel authentic. When helping clients to achieve this balance in their homes, we rely on five simple guidelines…

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1. Group Similar Items

To create a carefully curated look, try grouping your treasures. You can do this by grouping in colour, texture, type, shape, material etc. For example, you could place your collection of white, ceramic pottery all on one shelf and play with the different heights, widths and textures when arranging them. Or, like the client above, you might have a collection of Fornasetti candles and decide to place all three on one shelf. Placing similar things together in this manner is truly the simplest way to create an impact on your shelves.

built-in shelves

2. Embrace Asymmetry & Uneven Numbers

When arranging your items, the idea is to create a look that is chic and tidy but effortless. If you start arranging things too carefully, in even numbers and perfect symmetry, your shelves will start to look a little contrived. Odd numbers are far more visually appealing, while asymmetry draws the eye in and gets you to look at each individual item within the vignette. For example, you could create a low stack of three or five books, with a decorative accessory resting on top on one side of a shelf. On the other side, place some vases or sculptures of different heights. The result will be a subtle, visual surprise that feels balanced but not planned.

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3. Make Authentic Choices

When selecting the pieces to put on display, don’t overthink it! If, for example, you fall in love with a marble figurine, while browsing the accessories section at Elte Mkt, go for it! Not all pieces in your home have to have a rhyme or reason. Sometimes, they will simply speak to you and that is reason enough! On the the other hand, if you absolutely detest modern art, don’t display a coffee table book on modern art just because it’s the right colour. It’s these little decisions that have the power to make the difference between having your shelves look like they were staged by an acquaintance versus a reflection of your own personal taste, style and interests.


4. Create Layers

It’s just as important to consider depth as it is to consider the height of a shelf. If you have ample depth, aim to create layers. You can start with something more 2D such as a decorative plate, painting or print. This will serve as your “backdrop” and then, work your way out by layering smaller, shorter items in front. Together these pieces can create a visual story, all on one shelf.

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5. Make it Personal (but don’t go overboard)

If you wish to display photos of loved ones, by all means do… we would just encourage you not to go overboard. We understand you’re proud of your wedding photos, family, and pets but when you showcase too many of these photos, the result is… well, cheesy. Edit down to the best photos that mean the most to you and then, mix them in with the candles, books, trinkets and so forth for a more visually appealing balance.