Style at Home: The art of the #shelfie

Katie Laughridge
Tribune News Service
Don’t be afraid to layer your shelf items.

 I have been seeing the #shelfie hashtag popping up all over social media lately. A “shelfie” is a play on the ever-popular “selfie” but focuses on a beautifully decorated shelf.

Not only do we love an impeccable vignette, we also adore perfectly styled shelves. I’ve decided to pull back the curtain — or cabinet door, if you will — and share some of our go-to tactics for creating the perfect #shelfie moment.

A surefire way to end up with a hodgepodge of stuff on your shelves is to go in without a plan. Think about the story you want to tell in your space. Is this a place for displaying sentimental keepsakes or a stylish way to show off your ginger jar collection? Or do you simply need to dress up some built-ins before your book collection takes over? Define the purpose of the space and let that guide you as you select items.

After you’ve landed on a purpose, think through how you want the shelves to fit into your space and the color palette you want to highlight. Do you want them to add texture but blend in? Consider monochromatic accents and accessories that coordinate with your space. Do you want your shelves to pop? Pull from the other colors in the room and find bold pieces. Tie your space and shelves together by adding accessories that pick up other elements in the room. For example, a woven basket would pick up the colors and textures in a sisal or jute rug.

Tie your upholstery and your built-in shelf displays together with complementing colors and textures.

Having thought through purpose, functionality and aesthetic, it’s time to find the perfect pieces.

Start by shopping your own home. You’re bound to find at least a piece or two to get yourself started. Look for a variety of shapes, sizes and textures to keep your shelves visually balanced. Accessories we often use include books (of course!), art, baskets and small trays, vessels and bowls of all kinds, floral and greenery arrangements and things like picture frames for sentimental moments. Don’t forget: Tall accents can be difficult to find but are essential to adding movement and drawing your eyes around your space.

Once you have collected all your accessories, lay them out so you can see everything with which you have to work. (I like to group by size.) Then, it’s time to start stylin’.

I like to start with my largest and tallest pieces first. Spread them throughout your shelves, making sure no two like pieces (or like-sized pieces) are directly next to each other vertically or horizontally. From there, begin to fill in each shelf, placing medium-sized pieces throughout. Stack books on their sides and top them off with an accent to add height. Push art against the back wall of the shelf to create depth or pop a smaller piece into a tabletop easel to make it jump out. Unless you want to feature repetition, try to stay away from using the same materials right next to each other — two wicker baskets of the same size might look best separated, for instance. Three wood frames would look best sprinkled throughout (unless you’re going for repetition).

Next, the finishing touches — those fantastic small items you’ve been saving for last — are ready to make their way to their new homes. Tuck small chinoiserie boxes or bud vases into areas that need a little extra detail. Grouping three smaller items on a small tray can be impactful in the right spot, too.

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget about negative space. Leaving the right spots open can help give the accents room to breathe.

Bring in items to your display that show your personality. Seasonal and whimsical items, like dog statues for canine lovers, can find a great home on your shelves.

Don’t be upset if you place your last piece and something doesn’t look quite right. Styling shelves for the perfect #shelfie takes some tweaking and adjusting. Don’t be afraid to move things around or even start from scratch for a second round of styling. Sometimes it takes starting over to find what looks right to you.

While perfectly styled shelves can be gorgeous year-round, we can’t forget about seasonal decor. Mix in seasonal accents with your existing display or swap out select pieces for items that speak to the upcoming holiday. Styled shelves are a great way to bring the holiday into your space without cluttering it up.

Ultimately, I hope you enjoy the process and the final product.

Adapted from Katie Laughridge is the owner of Kansas City interior design destination Nell Hill’s. For more information, contact Katie at