Styling A Bookshelf The Easy Way

I’m always stying and decorating and rearranging things in my home. Do you do that too?  There is one thing that usually causes home decor enthusiasts like you and me a little decor trepidation… shelves!  Shelves can add so much interest and beauty to a home or they can make it look cluttered and busy. So what’s the secret to styling gorgeous shelves that enhance a room? I’m here to share my best tips for styling amazing shelves! You can do this!


Here are my new shelves…



Just one small unit in my living room!


So let’s start from the beginning. The first thing I do is shop my house for a bunch of pretty decor elements that would work together.

It’s important to compile a lot of options. I know it might be a little work gathering items or putting the ones that don’t make the cut away. But I promise you, lots of great items that work together will create a beautiful, cohesive, masterpiece!

These are just a few thing I gathered as candidates for the shelves. Yes, I bring together a lot of “things” to play with.


The best tip I share about styling shelves is to break each shelf down into two or three sections. 

See not that hard!

Think of each section as a little vignette!

When I think of each shelf as a place to hold a few vignettes it makes styling the whole unit so much easier! So I begin.  I knew I wanted to highlight the pretty inlaid box on the top shelf so I began there.



I wanted these shelves to look uncluttered and clean so I kept my little vignettes tidy. I also limited my color palette as well.


When I established each vignette I began to make a few adjustments. This is when it’s time to refine each vignette. I think of balance! 

Look closely at the images below and see how I changed each vignette just a little until I thought the shelves were just right! The images below are just a small smattering of how I arranged and rearranged each shelf.


One big tip is to help create beautiful shelves is to take pictures with your smartphone. You can often see what is working and not working in an image!

And another thing I do is to take a break and do something else for awhile. Leave the shelves and come back later. It’s amazing what you see with “new eyes”! 

I put my Daniel Kessler painting perched on the top shelf. I have to say I got some blow-back from some of you for moving this painting from over the sofa to the shelves. I love it here and it gives this area the height it needs. I’m still working on something for over the sofa. I’ll share that area of the living room soon!

 So easy… SO remember…

  • gather lots of options for your shelves from around your home
  • divide each shelf into 2 or 3 vignettes
  • create vignettes
  • “play” or tweak and change the items on the shelves until you create a balanced look
  • take pictures of your shelves 
  • when you are done leave your shelves and come back later with fresh eyes and make adjustments.
  • do your happy dance! You did it!!!!

Now it’s your turn. Pick a shelf or any horizontal surface in your home and style something beautiful! 


You might like to follow me on Pinterest and see what I’m finding to pin every day HERE.



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  1. One of the first things I noticed was the green color of the trees in the painting and their shape and the shape of the green ‘plant’ on the third shelf. It really added a connection to the arrangement. You have a special eye for things.
    Hope you know that all of your fans are praying for your healing. Blessings to you.

      1. As always you did it. Just like the song in the movie My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Wilfred Hyde-White.

  2. Lorri Rauscher says:

    Thank you again for the tips for arranging shelves. I always like looking at what you arrange with. I have to say I do like your Kessler pic in your other spot. It so interesting it needs a place just for it self. But just my opinion….you always are changing your stuff around . ?

  3. Thanks for sharing tips on how to style shelving. I always appreciate & learn from your suggestions. Sometimes I just go with my gut but it’s nice to have some rule of measure!

  4. Love your shelves & the end result. !! After Christmas , I reworked my den shelves. Some new items mixed with old. It’s amazing what you see by walking away & looking with “ new” eyes later.
    Looking forward to reading more decorating tips!!

  5. Just returned from a cruise this past weekend and after getting piles of laundry done, suitcases returned to the attic and checking my emails I turned my attention to putting away the last of my January decor and turned my mind toward Feb and March. Redid my book shelves and made a new vignette for the coffee table. It was a fun project but must say I change things around a lot and takes some time. Sitting and just looking helps me get the balance right and usually I end up with less not more. Now I need to get some fresh flowers and maybe a new houseplant.

    1. LESS not more is a great plan. I always try to remove a few things from my shelves or mantel. Oh Yes, less is more!

  6. Thank you so much for the wonderful tips on shelf styling! I struggle with how to decorate the shelves in my office and in the built-ins. I’m going to take everything off and start over after reading how you style your shelves!

  7. Jill Miglin says:

    As always, Yvonne, great advice. Can’t wait until I have a few free days in order to try this in my bookshelves that flank my living room fireplace.

  8. JC at the uncommon pearl says:

    Great advice! I love the idea of taking a photo of your arrangements to help you see the look clearer and adjust as needed. Thank you!

  9. I have 2 big shelve units in my living room that took me quite a while to style.I always shop my house to try and get the right look.

  10. It looks wonderful and ready for Spring. Very clever to add the topiary to repeat theme in gorgeous painting. As always, thank you for sharing your secrets with us. You’re the best!

  11. Yvonne, I love the 3/2/3 staging and your choices of different textures. Could the painting be too top heavy? What about 3 or 5 plates on the wall over the shelf with two things on the top shelf that are similar to the other shelves?

    1. I too think the painting way too top heavy in this spot.

      1. I agree. The painting is way tooo top heavy. It takes away from the beauty of the things on the shelf. Your eye goes directly there. And then the register plate for heat/air is right behind it.
        Love the rest of it tho!

  12. Those shelves look great!
    We just moved to our dream home with a lot of built in shelves! So I am inspired! However the shelves are oak …any suggestions?

  13. thanks for the tutorial!! my shelves always look messy.

  14. Is your pretty little lamp cordless? Where did you find it?

    1. The lamp is not cordless. I taped the cord to the back of the shelves.

  15. I know you must get tired of us asking where you purchased something, but I LOVE the enamel pot with the wooden lid. Would love to have one too! Can you tell me where you purchased it? Thank you Yvonne, love your blog!

    1. Hi Barbara, I got large enamel pot at a local shop. Sorry I can’t give you a place to buy it.

  16. Your shelves are lovely and your tips are great. Yours is a shelf for mainly display. I have a smaller house and must use my shelves for both display and books. I have many gardening books and am starting a collection of decorating books as well. 🙂 I like to have my books handy when needed and that is the main reason my shelves were purchased. For those of us with smaller homes, our shelves may have to do double duty. I am toying with the idea of half books and half display on each shelf, or one shelf for display, the other for books. It would be nice to see a post that considers home owners who may have to shelve at least 50 books, plus find some room for display. I love your blog and all of your wonderful suggestions.

    1. Hi Sandy, There are tons of ideas for using shelves with books. And thanks for giving me an idea for a post. Look for one about styling books in a book shelf.

      1. Connie Fowler says:

        Great idea for a post, ladies! I purchased a tall IKEA bookshelf with doors for all of my cookbooks, which I put in my kitchen. I have easy access to them, but I also love looking at them–they lend some color to the room. I have put some of my most beloved objects in with them, and I think it looks great.

  17. The suggestion of treating each shelf as a vignette is genius! Thank you, Yvonne. What would I ever do with you?!?

  18. Thank you for sharing Yvonne! I love the tips and the styling! The visuals really help! Blessings to you!

  19. You are so the Queen of the decor blog world so who am I to say BUT I predict that one day you are going to walk in that room and say, “Oh my goodness, Yvonne, but what were you thinking when you put that picture on the top of that shelf???!!!” ?

      1. That picture look gorgeous on the top of that shelf!!!

    1. If you look just at the shelving arrangement, placing the picture on top of the shelf may seem to make it top heavy. However, when you look at the photo that shows the whole wall in the room, placing the picture on top of the shelving balances the frames that are hung on the other side of the door. In the overall look of the room, I think that the placement of the picture works.

  20. The painting placed on the shelf top looks awesome!

  21. this helps! just painted a black hutch white (interior only). now all my white accessories are lost inside. laura

  22. Yvonne
    Love the shelves!
    I noticed that each shelf alternates the number of items on it. 3items on the 1st, 2items on the second and back to 3items on the 3rd etc. This gives the look of organization and some blank spaces that are needed in décor. Very Chic! I find that standing back and taking a looks, helps immensely. Taking pics on the phone as you suggested is a great idea also. We do both.
    I am a realtor who stages homes, to help bring out the possibilities that every house has for good décor. Everyone wants the model home. Some are more tired than others, but I really enjoy the challenge of making it welcoming and Chic. I have used many of your decorating ideas with much success. So, Thank You for your wonderful Blog! XOXO Mary

  23. I really like the painting on the shelf. It looks like you could reach in and touch the trees.

  24. Jeanne Tiggleman says:

    Good morning,

    First let me say, I love your blog! It just oozes a sense of timeless style and zen ness ( not sure if that is a word)! Anyway, I thought I saw a pic once of your bedroom. It is exactly how how would like to redo mine. I have looked in past blogs and Pinterest and can’t seem to find it. I remember seeing dark hardwood floors, neutral color palette and a Highboy antique chest of drawers. I think there was a sisal rug maybe on floor. Would you be able to send me that picture?
    Thank you. Jeanne

  25. Yvonne, I am confused about something. I see the lamp in the shelving arrangement, but I don’t see the electrical cord. Does the lamp have an electrical cord? Are you plugging it in so that it can be turned on, or just using it as a prop?

    1. Hi Linda, The cord is taped across the back edge of the shelf and down the leg of the side of the shelf. Hope this helps.


    Hi Yvonne
    The large picture you moved from your sofa to the top of the bookcase looks fine but I would not of put it there since it blocks your vent. Are you not concerned with not? Love all your ideas and emails.


  27. Yvonne – love, love, love your house! Every thing goes together so beautifully. Just curious about a minor detail. What is the thing plugged in on the wall to the right of the bookcase? Looks like some kind of light? I have some really dark spots in my house and am wondering if I could use this.

  28. I have two bookcases filled with leather bound books and they occupy every bit of shelving space. How can I add some style to these shelves and keep the books?

    1. Hi Nan, I’d have to look at your bookcase to really tell you. You might want to add something in front of the books. Like a picture or a vase or a great piece of art. Hope this helps.

  29. I LOVE the painting on top of the shelf, could you tell me where it is from?