Design Recipes: Dress your shelves to impress

Cathy Hobbs
Tribune News Service

From bookshelves to china cabinets and built-in bookcases, there are opportunities to make a bold decor statement using a technique called shelf dressing.

Shelf dressing is a technique long used by home stagers and stylists to add interest and creativity to spaces that may otherwise feel bland.

Gone are the days where bookshelves are just for books, or built-in china cabinets reserved only for china and crystal. These days, many homeowners want to display decorative items that can range from books to blooms, decorative items, travel finds and treasured mementos.

When looking for ways to style bookshelves and built-ins, here are five general design rules to follow:

1. Less is more

You don’t have to have an item on every single shelf. Displaying fewer items will help your decor stand out.

2. Use florals

Florals not only add color, but texture, as well.

3. Look for interesting books

From design books to those on fashion or those with colorful covers or splines, books can be an affordable decor item for shelf dressing.

4. Mix materials

Don’t be afraid to mix materials and finishes. Mixing glass with ceramics can be interesting and appealing.

5. Go metallic

Metallics remain hot in home decor. From silver to gold and brass, feel free to mix and match different metallic finishes.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at or visit her website at