Close-up of dish on open shelf

How to Style your Open Shelving

Top tips and tricks for adding a touch of style to a clean space with open shelf styling.

Table of Contents

Why Open Shelving has become Extremely Popular & Styling Tips

Open shelving has become the most popular design trend for a fantastic storage solution in recent years.

And it’s all because open shelving is a great way to display your decorative pieces and everyday items in clusters to visually appeal, with enhanced functionality.

5 Tips for Styling Your Open Shelving

Arranging the shelves may have become the design challenge that you were unprepared for.

Fear not! It’s just all about creating balance and harmony, but most of all, it’s about displaying your cherished items in the most flattering, stylish way. So that you are constantly drawn to the photos, art, accessories that you love.

The best part about open shelves is that they allow you to rotate your favorite piece easily, providing you with a quick way to update your home or change your décor to meet the season.

Whether it’s Japandi accessories or family Photographs, displaying your favorite treasures on open shelves can bring individuality and elegance to any room in your home instantly.

Here are 5 of my favorite styling tips that will assist you in creating a perfectly styled shelf.

First Things First

Remove everything off the shelves and from the nearby surrounding space. This will allow you some movement room to place and organize your objects without tripping and falling over.

Trust me, don’t miss this step. I found it extremely hard to move around all the piles of books and photographs. I am so lucky that I didn’t fall and break anything!


Clearing the shelves, and giving it a quick dust, is important as you need to see the space you have to work with. Plus, it is unlikely that you will put the items back in the same place to see potential clusters in other areas.


Before you do anything style-wise, think about whether the decor quality is to a high standard. If the wall behind needs a lick of paint, I’d suggest doing this before you start to organize.

Wallpaper behind

Or perhaps you fancy a bit of added color or texture behind your shelves. Wallpapering behind open shelving is a great way to add depth to the shelves with color or a textured wallpaper. Either will work brilliantly. But I would pick the coloring from the items you want displayed otherwise there could be some unwanted color clashes.

Paint your Shelves

Perhaps, to spruce up your space, even more, you could think about Painting your Shelves?

Painted shelves could add that special touch to your room’s color pallet or an unexpected splash of color in a neutral area. Alternatively, go monochromatic and paint your bookshelf the same color as the walls to achieve a seamless, blended effect.

Adding color to the shelves by painting them is also a unique way to draw attention to the goods exhibited on your shelves, ensuring that none of your styling hard work goes unnoticed.

While there are plenty of cool shelves available in basic blacks, whites, and wood tones, don’t be afraid to try something a little bolder.

Evaluate The Space you have to work with

Before selecting items for your bookshelves, you must examine your available space. This means looking at the room as a whole. Is your room on the smaller side, or do you have tall ceilings?

Tall Ceilings will give you a little lee-way in how much you can place, whereas if you have a smallish room, you will want to avoid placing too much on the shelves. Too much stuff in one room will darken it and make it feel claustrophobic.

Is your room a fresh, bright white? If you keep the shelf decor colorful yet simple in a white space it will help keep your room feeling fresh and airy.

However, if you’re displaying a lot of colorful items or decorating shelves in a room with a bright paint color, make sure to include some neutrals to balance out the palette.

Prioritize Balance

When it comes to styling, keep in mind that it is all about intuition.

There is no recipe for success as everyone’s space and decor is unique. And if it wasn’t then everyone would have displays of exactly the same thing. Which isn’t what open shelving is all about. It’s all about displaying your personality; putting the kids pictures in frames, baskets to hide all the loose ends that we want hidden.

The best way to start is to reduce the number of items that you have currently on the shelves. Try to pick items that work harmoniously together with lots of different heights.

This can be vases, photo frames, ornaments and of course greenery. Greenery is a great way to add texture.

Take a look at our Indoor Plant Suggestions from Bloomscape.

Create Visual Interest Through Height

When arranging items on your shelves, make sure that the heights of the objects vary. You will achieve a greater visual impact and draw the eye to your other items.

For example, a Tall Vase, a photo frame and a small succulent will look great together in a cluster of three.

Don’t be afraid to pair things together, you’ll be surprised at what works.

My other half has got a lot of funko pop vinyls, and these can look fabulous with a pairing of books, a candle or a plant. And the reason it works is because they add an extra element of the different heights. They’re also great for styling in kids’ bedrooms with their favorite bedtime reads.

Draw your Eye Upward

Add something that draws your eye upwards. This can be a tall, one-of-a-kind piece of art or a sleek, contemporary vase.
Just like these

Moyang Ceramic Vessel Vase

This earthen ceramic sculpture, hand-sculpted in the heart of Brooklyn, evokes the raw material essence of nature.
Jane D’Haene, a ceramic artist based in Brooklyn, NY, makes stunning contemporary ceramic sculptures influenced by traditional Korean poetry’s simple shapes.

Dixter Print III

This giclee print is a simple composition with a maze-like geometric theme made up of painterly clean lines for a one-of-a-kind feel.
This elaborate design is printed on textural Japanese kozo paper, which is made from mulberry bark fibres and is thin but sturdy. It’s framed in a warm oak wood frame and floats over contrasting white linen.


When we don’t have cabinet barriers, we make sure to group intelligently to avoid the shelves looking too uniform.
Imagine drawing a line through the center of the shelves. You don’t want to see that line. You want the objects to cross over it to break things up.
This is where groupings or clusters of items come in.
One item may not break the line enough, so grouping it with another few items can create more flow.
I’d also like to point out not to practice crossing the line on every shelf. It will look regimented. Completely undoing all your hard work. You want to create an easy flow across the shelves.

Color Groupings

You should not only repeat decorative accents to keep your open shelves from looking congested, but you should also repeat with elements of color and textures.

Always select objects that color coordinate. This is to make your design process easier for you. Placing two clashing colors next to each other will put your whole design out of whack.

Limit your color pallet to three or four color groups: white, black, wood, brass, and so on. This maintains your color scheme light, and keeping it light is important otherwise, it may feel oppressive.

Why not try painting the backs of shelves with an accent color? This is a great way to enhance your decorative pieces. Or if you are desperate for a black wall but don’t have the confidence, painting the wall black behind the shelving is an excellent opportunity. Not only will it make your room feel dramatic, but it will elevate the look of your decorative pieces.

Displaying Books & Magazines

If you are a lover of your books and magazines, you’ll soon realize that there becomes a stack of them quite quickly. But that doesn’t mean that the books have to become clutter.

Use your favorite reads as display pieces for shelving. Promote your guests what you love and remind yourself of how much you loved that book as you glance at how effortlessly it looks on your styled shelf.

You can also create a color story with your books to boost your room’s color palette. Some people do this with a rainbow array or adding that extra bit of pink that your daughter’s room needs. Alternatively, keep it simple by only using monochrome book covers.

But if you have too many books with varying colors that just won’t work together, place the book on the shelf back to front. Instead of seeing the spine, you’ll see the pages. This is great for rooms that want the natural raw feel and tones.

Try arranging your books vertically in tight groups and anchoring them with bookends for stability and extra flair.

Art & Photographs

In a world where pictures are usually hung, leaning your artwork is an elegant way to break the rules. In addition to being incredibly stylish, open-shelf art displays are efficient for small spaces.

Gone are the hours spent worrying about the uneven spacing or wondering if your painting is really straight or if it just looks straight. Simply let your favorite paintings and photos lean against the wall.

Long shelves and small family photos allow you to mix and match your items for your own in-home art exhibits. It’s a fantastic reason to dig out all of your artwork and play around with it until you find the ideal look.


Nothing adds a little life to a room like a bit of greenery. Just a few plants can wake up an entire space, adding texture to your shelves and a pop of color to your room.
Look for plants with a visual appeal like fresh-cut blooms or an edgy succulent. Fresh flowers are also a great pick, as they will fill your room with fresh flowery scents.
If you are wanting fresh flowers on display why not have a look at our picks for the best flower subscriptions?


Break up not only tones and textures but also styles.

It’s critical to allow things to breathe. Mixing statement pieces with more items needed for basic functionalities is a great way to go.

A sculpture next to some old stacked books or a leaning frame next to some greenery, add depth and additional texture.

Mixing modern and vintage pieces, like Chinoiserie plates, is another fantastic way to do this.

Items I think will look Great on your Shelves!

Black Marble Footed Bowl

The Black Marble Footed Bowl will add height to your display. This hefty pedestal bowl is made from black marble with swirls of cream-colored veining and is simple, stark, and oh-so-stunning.

I adore this minimalist dish as it will work in the kitchen for a vibrant display of fruits or veggies because it’s strong enough to stand on its own.

With the stylish Continuum Sculpture, you can add geometric complexity and a slight touch of brass sheen to any surface.

This sculpture is made up of two overlapping shapes, loosely inspired by the iconic Greek key motif, and is constructed of cast aluminium with an old brass finish.

I love it as it will work atop a stack of books or as a curiosity for the empty space on the shelf.

Display a lovely orchid or protect your precious mementos from the dust or the kids, on the shelf, with these Glass Domes.

You could also make a terrarium out of the Glass Dome; you’ll need a tiny Geel Plate or Round Marble Boards as a basis though.

Alternatively, do as northern gardeners do and use the Dome as a little greenhouse, perfect for starting those seedlings in the kitchen.

Link Urn

The simplicity of the Link Urn is inspired by the beauty of African pottery.

It’s made of porcelain and coated with monochrome black and white glazes, resulting in a strong geometric pattern that’s both modern and tribal.

I especially like this global-chic jar filled with earthy dried grasses or a single sculptural monstera leaf because it stands out on its own. Definitely a statement piece for your design.

Diptyque Baies Ceramic Candle

The tangy coolness of freshly harvested blackcurrant berries is combined with sweet, flowery overtones of rose blooms in the Baies Ceramic Candle. This fascinating aroma is swirled in with a plant-based black wax, custom-blended to compliment its singular scent, and is made from a mix of carefully chosen raw materials.

Not only will the ceramic jar look stunning on your shelf it will fill your rooms with a gorgeous scent with that warm glow.

Kitchen Shelving

Kitchen Shelves have been a triumph in design. Long gone are the days where people want mass cabinetry, and thank goodness for that!

Although upper cabinetry does provide a lot of hidden storage and can hide away a multitude of sins, I feel that they are completely overbearing. Making your kitchen dark and claustrophobic.

It is also a Budget-friendly kitchen storage idea. You will be saving a couple of thousand dollars by not having closed cabinetry when purchasing a new kitchen.

Or by taking down your cabinets for open shelving will give you a complete kitchen refresh that will affect your entire kitchen feel.

Popular choices for the shelving are Wood and Marble. Wood enhances the warm, rustic feel in your home, whereas Marble will give you a clean, sleek edge. Perfect for someone who likes to add a bit of color to their schemes.

How To Style Your Open Kitchen Shelving

Open kitchen shelves can be styled in various ways to match the decor of your home and lifestyle.
Styling your Kitchen Shelves has the same principles I have already covered. Just instead of books and art, you will be arranging your kitchen items. From your everyday dishes to your fancy glassware.

Check Your Shelves From A Distance

This is one of the most crucial things to remember as you go through setting up and decorating your spacious open kitchen shelves. You need to step back and see how your shelves look from a distance. It may be that it might be top-heavy in one corner and might need to place some of your favorite cookbooks to balance it out.

Top Tip!

For a bit of texture and warmth, lean a couple of wood cutting boards against the wall, or add a bowl of fruit or potted herbs for freshness.


What Do You Put On Open Kitchen Shelves?

Anything can be placed on your shelves, but putting beautiful pieces on your shelves, and placing all other essential items in drawers or lower-down cabinets, will give you much more joy.

How Deep Should Kitchen shelves be?

This depends on what you are storing on them. If you are going to put stacked dishes on your shelves, then they should be at least 6 inches deep.

How to make your open Shelving look good?

The best way to make your open shelving look good is to keep it clean and regimented. If the shelves are becoming too crowded, find homes elsewhere for some items.