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How to Style a Shelf Three Ways

Aug 16, 2019

by Jackie Buddie

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Whether you’re filling empty built-ins with books and treasures or decorating a simple set of floating wood ledges, styling your shelves with a collection of handpicked objects is one of the easiest ways to showcase your signature design aesthetic at home. To help you imagine the possibilities, we’ve dressed up one triangular wooden shelf in three totally unique looks reflecting a range of personalities and tastes, from nature-loving adventurer to youthful creative and avid art enthusiast.

The trick to creating a presentation that’s chock full of character but still feels cohesive and curated? Once you’ve selected a style that speaks to you, layer in on-theme pieces in a variety of sizes, materials, and textures to build visual interest. As you choose which items to exhibit, keep in mind that each one should serve a purpose, be it functional like a vase, meaningful like a hand-cut map of a favorite place, or simply delightful to gaze upon each day, like an elegant brass equestrian statue. Ready to get decorating? Click play to watch the looks come together, then shop the shelves below.

Wild Wonder

Try this if: you own multiple watering cans, the outdoors are your happy place, or a safari sounds nice.

A shelf styled with earthy, natural accents and displayed in front of lush, green, jungle-themed wallpaper.
SHOP: Jungle wallpaper from Wall Plays, from $36; mini wood bud vases from North Tree, $18 each; vintage candlesticks from Etsy, prices vary; vintage hourglass from The Bohemisphere, $18; black wood abacus from Madame Saint Vintage, $30; hand-carved walnut bud vase from Melanie Abrantes; $78; vintage landscape painting from Etsy, prices vary.

Set against a removable wallpaper backdrop of a lush jungle canopy, this eclectic blend of vintage curiosities and vessels crafted from natural materials gives off serious globetrotter vibes. Wooden bud vases bring touches of the great outdoors inside, while an old-fashioned hourglass and black-beaded abacus lend an air of worldly sophistication to the design. A bucolic oil painting makes a picturesque final touch, adding dimension and height to an arrangement that would be as at home in a remote eco-lodge as a plant-filled urban living room.

Collegiate Cool

Try this if: you roll with a roommate (or two), your bathroom is communal, or your meals are mainly microwaveable.

A shelf styled with colorful school supplies and framed by lots of vibrant wall art.
SHOP: Cat drawing mannequin from Mighty Paper Shop, $22; small papercut map from Studio KMO, $35; mini crocheted cacti from Fuzzypod, $21; colorful notebooks from Nikki Strange, $6.25 each; fox pencil holder from Minky Moo Ceramics, $49; fiber art wall hangings from Knack and Whimsy, from $18.

If you’re looking forward to your annual return to campus (or just gaze back fondly on your college days) you’ll love this stylish shelf—a cheerful mix of fun and function that any bright-eyed coed could get behind. Practical pencil holders, colorful notebooks, and a trusty vintage clock will help all your projects stay on track, while no-maintenance crocheted cacti keep the spirit of sunny summer days alive. Spread the festive energy beyond the shelf and onto your walls with vibrant fiber art and abstract prints sure to stimulate your brain’s creative side. Then top it off with a pair of retro pennants and call it your own personal pep rally.

Modern Museum

Try this if: you can’t hide your artsy side, you’re always collecting, or you love to sit and stare.

A shelf styled with white ceramics and gold-toned accents, displayed in front of colorful floral wallpaper.
SHOP: Retro floral wallpaper from Wallooks, from $20; white paper flowers from Parker and Peony, $6.50 each; ceramic alien from barruntando, $45; porcelain origami boat from CONCEPT ceramic, from $30; organic-shaped candle holder from barruntando, $42; brass horse figurines from Brass House Shop, $186 for set of two; stained glass stars from Bello Glass, from $56.

For a presentation that’s a touch more refined, transform your shelves into a three-dimensional home gallery with a selection of sculptural pieces in a neutral palette of creams and whites. Offset by high-impact floral wallpaper (the modern, peel-and-stick kind), this polished yet playful setup will have guests musing over its many conversation pieces. Handmade clay trinket dishes and ceramic vases double as functional works of art, while one-of-a-kind candle holders and unexpected alien figurines add elegant, otherworldly appeal. For a dramatic contrast, incorporate sparkling metallic accents, like a vintage brass horse statue and a copper-trimmed glass star.

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19 comments

  • LadyInPurple

    Jennifer Tyson from LadyInPurpleBoutique said 30 days ago

    Wow, I totally love the retro floral wallpaper! Thanks for the amazing decor ideas!

  • mpk37teh

    Oksana from AmigurumiJoys said 29 days ago

    I really like crocheted cacti. They look just super))) I use one such as a needle holder. It is lovely and useful))))

  • xyzmrb5b

    Elena from BusyToysShop said 29 days ago

    Thank you for such interesting ideas and original embodiment. Now I know how to decorate a wooden shelf in the room of a teenage daughter. I think she will definitely like it.

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    Sujata from TreasuredMemoryLane said 29 days ago

    Awesome decor ideas! Thank you for the great tips.

  • africanbskets

    africanbaskets from africanbaskets said 29 days ago

    I like that plant. It is my fsbourite one, saw it around the world but never got it where I life as s house plant. I wished they sold it here.

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 28 days ago

    Cute and easy DIY decor ~

  • w48ycfat

    Anna Shpitz from PaSaKaStudio said 28 days ago

    Thank you for the great ideas!! I would totally add a little jewelry organizer to display my statement pieces 😳

  • AnyaBorisova1

    Anna Borisova from Borisovadesings said 28 days ago

    I really liked all three ways. It is very cool and fresh. Thanks!

  • lebedovych

    Linda Lebedovych from lebedovych said 28 days ago

    I need the triangle shelf. 🐱

  • kjnd3i2q

    Tatyana from MOMsBirdie said 28 days ago

    Very cute things especially mini vases. I love the style 💕

  • vz7zmfsh

    Ksenia Butakova from LantanaWatercolorArt said 27 days ago

    Great ideas! I think that one day I will definitely use them.

  • i7iyirxc

    Sofia Motorina from TutuShopRU said 27 days ago

    How nice! Thank you for the ideas, they are amazing!

  • candelo

    Morgane C. from PrintableWordsFR said 27 days ago

    so inspirational , thank you !! ♥

  • TropicalGarden

    TropicalGarden from TropicalGarden said 26 days ago

    Wow, the triangular wooden shelf is so cool! Thanks for sharing these totally different but amazing ways on how to create unique looks for personal taste.

  • epuu

    Ebru from epuu said 26 days ago

    I'm in love with the third one! The ceramic origami boat is super cute. :)

  • mendllbp

    Posh Park from PoshPark said 26 days ago

    Such an interesting idea! Congratulations on the feature!

  • suzanneartist

    Suzanne Urban from SmirkingGoddess said 26 days ago

    Thank you so much for this. I think a lot of emphasis in high-end magazines has pointed to empty interiors, mostly because of the Architect's choosing. When I worked at Xerox, I remember one person had a full-time job to monitor the size of posters that went up on bulletin boards. We in the graphics department were constantly challenging this size rule, as our work was only temporary to get employees excited about an upcoming event, or meeting, etc. It's important for people to remember that interiors are built for humans and thus a community and a lack of visual stimulation in my book doesn't serve one. What if schools lacked art on the walls? I also feel prospective buyers need to see how art and artisan works can work in their interior without looking like Grandma's overstuffed knick-knack bookshelf. Thank you for this video.

  • vika041080

    Viktorija from FolkArtBuffet said 25 days ago

    Thanks for the helpful article! An open shelf looks interesting and neat.

  • 4pey20bq

    Mary from MasloArt said 18 days ago

    This retro floral wallpaper is amazing! I would totally add a little oil paintings with flowers!

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