How To Style Open Shelves

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If you are afraid of open shelving and are not sure how you can possibly style an open shelf, I am here to tell you that you no longer need to be afraid!

I LOVE open shelving and I was intimidated by it at first too. I almost didn’t put any up in our home because I thought there was no way I could fill them up and make them look attractive.

But after playing around with them and styling them, I have grown to love them and I literally put them up anywhere in my home where there is enough wall space!

If you’re new to shelf styling, then take a look at all my tips and tricks I have outlined for you here!

Decide on a Theme to Use

So first things first, you need to decide on where to place your open shelves and what kind of theme you want going on with them.

For example, in the kitchen, do you want to display vintage dishes or your collection of cookbooks? And in the office, do you want to show off your vintage books? Also, what do you want to showcase in the living room if you have open shelving in there too?

Go through and brainstorm ideas on what you want and that will make it easier to come up with ideas on how to style them. In my dining room, I have open shelves and I like to display my vintage kitchen-related pieces such as my antique coffee grinder, old food tins, ironstone plates, and much more.

Then in my office, I like to display my vintage books as well as old office-related items such as an old postal stamp and flash cards.

In my living room I also like to show off some more of my vintage books too and my old antique camera I have as well. 

Here are my open shelves in the kitchen and as you can see, I kept most items on the shelf kitchen related.

Place Larger Items First

After you have come up with an idea of what you want displayed on an open shelf, then start by placing the larger items first. This will help fill the space and show you how much room you have left for smaller items.

Also, try to balance out your larger pieces as well. Don’t just put all of your big pieces on one side. Even it out on both sides and fill the remainder of the space with smaller items.

Group Items in Threes

I always try to group things in threes. I feel like it is more attractive to your eye when you see a grouping in an odd number.

It is also easier to arrange and you can style the items by varying widths and heights. It doesn’t look good to have pieces placed side by side that are all the same height. Switch things up and make it interesting to look at. 

Here’s a picture of how I styled my open shelves in the living room. I used a combination of new and vintage items. And that hand-painted bouquet on the top shelf is actually a picture of my bouquet from our wedding! I love displaying sentimental pieces as well.

Use Greenery

I love to use greenery on my open shelves. I think it helps to break things up and it is so easy to add in as a little filler here and there.

If you have a small space you need to fill, then just place a faux plant there and see how you like it. I also love to get faux greenery at the Target Dollar Spot because you can find some great, inexpensive items there.

Step Back and Take a Picture

This is the best advice I can give you because this truly has helped me so much when styling open shelves. After I play around with them and I think I like it, then I will step back and take a picture and examine it.

I feel like it’s much easier to see items that need to be rearranged and moved if you are looking at an image versus that looking at it in real life. Sometimes you don’t notice that things are off as easily as you would in a picture. So try that out and then rearrange it again one more time!

Don’t Give Up

This is also important because I know it can be easy to get frustrated about things not turning out the way you want them too. If you have already tried taking a picture and moving things around and you still haven’t come up with anything that you like yet, then take a break!

Don’t get mad at yourself, just take some time off from it and when you come back to it, it will be much easier to see and assess with fresh eyes! 

Here are the open shelves in our office. I used vintage books here too as well as some greenery to fill the space.

I hope all these tips have encouraged you to try open shelving in your own home. I promise, after practice, you will come to love them as much as I do!

Let me know if you have a shelf styling question and I would love to help you out the best I can. Have a great day my friends!

Mornings on Macedonia
Mornings on Macedonia
I love Jesus, coffee, and home decor! I have a passion for all things rusty and chippy and I love to go thrifting and antique hunting for the perfect vintage pieces for our home. I also love to cook and bake as well as read in my spare time! Follow along with me for all my latest DIY projects and ideas!

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  1. I love this post! We are going to have quite a few open shelves in our house once our extension is complete, and this has given me loads of inspo! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I love open shelves! I think I like the vintage look the most and the idea that all my books and treasures are on display! They really add character to the room!

  3. I love open shelves, they bring so much more character to a room when you see what’s actually in/on the shelf. Books and plants are such beautiful pieces that they shouldn’t be hidden behind closed doors (well, plants for sure not ;D)

  4. This is excellent timing as I am moving and want to create an open shelf area in this niche in my living room. I will definitely be referring back to this article, i like the idea of adding greenery to the shelving!


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