Let’s face it: decorating can be really overwhelming. When we bought our home, I was like a crazy lady going from room to room picking things here and there. One thing I’ve learned is to focus on one space at a time. If it takes months to save up for what you want to furnish the space, that’s okay – just keep your eye on the price. Our family room was “that space” and a huge overhaul for us. It’s the center of our home and where we spend the most time together as a family. We had the brick fireplace drywalled from floor to ceiling, and we installed custom built-ins and library lights. Many of you have asked me about our shelves and how I’ve styled them, or asked for help or ideas with your own. While ours are in a constant state of change (I rotate things in and out every few months), here are five tips and tricks that have worked well for me.
1. Use what you love. I think this is most important. What pieces do you own that have sentimental value to you and speak to you and your family? A family portrait of your great-grandparents, your child’s artwork, objects from your travels (we have driftwood from our honeymoon). Your home should be a direct reflection of you, and there’s no better place to showcase that than on your shelves!
2. Books and boxes are your friends! Use them to achieve various heights. Grab any books you have around your home. If you aren’t happy with the colors, you’ve got a few options: you can wrap them in a white linen (available at Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michaels, etc.) paint them (chalk paint on the spines or pages works), or turn them backward so the spines aren’t facing the room. If you don’t have books around the house that suit your decorative needs, Amazon Prime is a fantastic resource for used coffee table books at amazing prices, and thrift stores are always a great place to find books. Don’t forget to incorporate books that might have sentimental meaning (combine tips 1 and 2!) – The Chicagoan book on our shelves was our wedding guest book. In regards to boxes, McGee & Co has a great selection, but you can find them anywhere that sells home decor – West Elm , Wayfair, One Kings Lane etc. You might also want to peruse antique stores or estate sales – the gold boxes on our shelves are vintage jewelry boxes I found both for $10! Here’s a similar one I found on EtsyEtsy, they have great vintage finds!
3. Mix old and new. I have a soft spot for vintage finds. I absolutely LOVE discovering those one-of-a-kind unique finds and either repurposing them or incorporating them into our home decor. Now not everyone is a thrifter and I totally get it, but give it a try sometime – you’ll have so much fun, I promise! There are so many amazing vintage, antique, thrift stores everywhere and the old adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” rings true. Like the old bass fish I spray painted metallic silver, or the most beautiful pearl inlay brass boxes I found for $7 in Michigan one weekend (then saw the same ones at Jayson Home and Garden for $40!). If you are into horns, antlers, or geodes, I’ve had really great luck finding them for very low cost at vintage stores.
4. Bring in natural objects. Orchids are great, faux or paper flowers, terrariums (check out my DIY), antlers, coral, shells, geodes… the list could go on and on. Whether it’s strategic staging of an item au naturale or a nature-inspired project (like my butterfly display case made from taxidermied butterflies I ordered from Etsy), mixing in some natural elements adds a whole new dimension to your shelves.
5. Artwork. There are sooo many amazing artists out there, the perfect painting, photo, or sculpture is just waiting for you to discover it! Etsy has always been my go-to, but I love finding artists on Instagram – that’s how I originally found and purchased a piece from Emily Jeffords, before she was picked up by Minted and West Elm (you go girl!). There might also be artists living under your very own roof! Finn came home with the most beautiful watercolor one day from preschool and that guy went right in a frame. You don’t have to be Picasso to produce something beautiful. Photography is great too; I tend to prefer black and white when displaying with multiple objects but go with your heart.
So, there you have it – my top tips for shelf styling. It takes patience, as the perfect pieces might take a while to assemble and will come from different places. I can’t recommend antique shopping enough, as you can find some great deals and truly unique, magical pieces! For picking out newer items: Target, Home goods, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Hobby Lobby, World Market are a few of my favorite stores for affordable home decor. I’ve linked a few of my favorite pieces above and below to help get you started – if you have any questions please ask away in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer.