Clearly styling your shelf shouldn’t be rocket science. It is just a shelf after all. Yet, actually when it comes to styling your home, how you position things on a shelf actually makes quite a bit of difference. Not necessarily to your own wellbeing, but certainly to your shelf’s wellbeing. Simply plonking a handful of pretty things on said shelf, with little consideration is never quite going to quite cut the mustard in the #myshelf hashtag.
I have a confession to make, I have not always cared about what my shelves look like. For many years I was very preoccupied with corporate life, to worry too much about styling a shelf. You could argue, that wasn't a bad thing.
Either way, if its of any interest to you, here are my thoughts on the shelf thing........
Clutter - It is too easy to use a shelf as a way to 'store' items that do not have a particular home. If the shelf you are looking to style is on show, then you should take the same amount of care on styling as you would on any other area in the home. It is not about whether a shelf houses every day used items, but how you display them. However, that doesn't mean that you have to clear your shelves and only have a minimal look. It's about having things on show that you love, that you have collected, that have meaning and that are beautiful (plus some useful stuff too) I love how the shelves below are pretty cluttered, but yet you can still see all the items displayed. It's fun, its colourful and there are lots of different textures. What you want to avoid is stuff like post piled high, the door keys, and all the mugs you have ever owned with slogans that only you should read.
Pieces - There are absolutely no rules on what you display on your shelf. You can use all manner of different pieces, made from different materials. However you still need to consider how they work together, considering colour, varying heights and different textures, such as ceramics, flowers (dried, fresh or faux), and artwork. Unless you were trying to create a rainbow effect, you would want to consider how the colours work together, in very much the same way that you would, if you were creating a colour scheme for a room. And obviously consider the room that the shelf is actually in. If you have copper in the room, i.e. a tap, don't put something garishly silver plated on the shelf, put something copper to connect the two spaces.
Composition- I really don't wish to make this sound more difficult than it is, but it's the same principles of composition for displaying art and photography that we would apply to styling. A good composition is all about balance, so it has enough detail, without being too cluttered and distracting. Its all about finding the balance. You are creating a story when you style the shelf, ensuring that all of the elements work together. The shelf below, shows how the picture has been framed by the objects that stand on the shelf. The foliage stretches up on the right, but does not go beyond the painting. Yet, the foliage on the left, just reaches to the tip of the painting. The two groupings of items, on the left and the right both work in unison. All the tones are beautiful pared back in natural woods and shades of grey.
Grouping - I recently has someone pop in to the shop to ask about how to fill a really large windowsill. They had been searching for a while to find a vase that was big enough to fill the space. However, we talked about the fact that although it was key to get the height right, once the initial vase had been chosen, you can then start layering in more pieces to create the depth to fill the windowsill. So choosing other items, that are always lower than the vase, but that slowly draw the eye down. A great way to group items is to use a tray type arrangement, which could be a plate, bowl, tray, mirror who with the same purpose of allowing you to place the items as an arrangement, framed on the tray.
Layering - However slim you think your shelf is, trust me you can add more. You can use the walls to become part of the frame of the shelf. You can see in my living room below, on the shelf that is above the fireplace that I have used the walls to fix a small mirror (on the left of the large one), plus a candle holder (above the bronze whippet). So it's creating more depth and more height by layering items on the shelf. Although, if I did put the mirror on the wall, I would suddenly get more room on my shelf, however I kinda like the fact the mirror is leaning on the shelf as it part of the arrangement. Depending on whether you have a shelf on its own with no restrictions above, will obviously depend on what height you can go to. Just avoid having something at great height, with a large drop down to the rest of the items on the shelf. You want to gradually come down in height.
Using something like a pallet as a shelf is a great way to be able to display items both on and under the shelf. You can see how in my kitchen, we have hung the copper pots from underneath the shelf, as well as having pieces above.