THE BLOG

9 Ways to Make Your Shelf Display Look Great

03/12/2015 10:41 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2015

Jessica Viscarde, Houzz Contributor

So you have things in your home that you love and want to show off, but you aren't quite sure how to display them, or how to get that professional touch stylists and designers seem to get. Well, here's how to get that perfect vignette when styling your shelves and bookcases. What's a vignette, you ask? It's a fancy word for an arrangement or grouping of objects. Just a warning though, it can become addictive -- you will find yourself changing things up every other weekend.

1. Tell your story. The most important thing to remember when styling things like bookcases or shelves is that it should tell your story and be filled with things you love.

If you stick to choosing things you love, a certain theme should start to appear -- even if your style is eclectic. This theme makes your styled shelves or vignettes look well thought out and visually strong. Themes to consider are colors, patterns and objects within the same genre, such as travel or vintage.

2. Vary the heights of objects. To add a stylist touch to your vignette, you should aim to make it look effortless. You can achieve this by varying the heights of the objects you work with. Think about an imaginary triangle when arranging your favorite things. Smaller items should form the base of the triangle, as in this image, while your tallest item will form the peak, in this case the tall yellow flowers in the vase.

If a vignette looks flat or a little drab, it is often the taller objects that have been forgotten. Vases of flowers, picture frames, mirrors, table lamps and any vertically shaped item will help you get that height.

3. Work with varying textures. Just like your interior space, make sure you mix up the textures when you are styling a shelf. If you work with only the same textures, you'll get a flat, dull-looking interior or vignette.

Opt for something shiny and reflective, a touch of wood, something soft and plush perhaps, something rustic or raw. Then you will start to have an interesting-looking shelf.

4. Not just books. Your bookcases and shelves are not just for books. They're the best place to show off your personal items, especially curios and unusual keepsakes.

Referring back to Tip 1, a great way of referencing "your story" is to group particular genres of books with relating ornaments and objects.

5. Work with negative space. You don't need to fill every nook with things. Empty space allows the eye to rest and focus on the important things you want to show off. It also allows your arrangements to "breathe" and not look so cluttered. Vignettes are all about thoughtful placements of objects.

6. Odd numbers. Odd numbers of objects simply look better, thanks to rules of composition and a few photography tricks. The human eye tends to wander to the center of a group, so having an odd number helps create a visually pleasing composition and forms a sense of balance, as something is in the middle and either side of it. Try pairings of three, five and seven and see what a difference it makes.

7. Keep it interesting. Don't be afraid to mix styles and themes and you won't have an impersonal "cookie-cutter" display home that looks the same as your neighbors'.You want personality, so dust off those trinkets from your travels, or Grandma's vintage tea cup and saucer. They should be out and on display.

Change up your objects too. Place them in a new room or on a different shelf and use the things you already own. It will be like you are living in a new home. Everything doesn't have to be on display all at once; put some things away and change them seasonally or whenever you feel the need.

8. Use the vertical wall space. If you are styling a shelf, console, bookcase or the like, work with the wall space behind it. This will help you get the height and vertical lines happening. Try affixing mirrors or artwork to the wall behind the vignette or grouping of objects. If you can't attach them to the wall, just lean them against it. Make sure you have something with ample height in relation to the objects. You are aiming for proportion.

9. Same, same but different. So you collect bottles, or glassware, or have a lot of the same item -- that's OK. Repetition is a little designer trick we like to use to get an overall effect and add impact. Style your objects together in groupings. Just remember the other tricks and tips when arranging them. So vary the heights, mix the textures and colors, or put all the same colors together or mix them up. These objects will look a lot more visually powerful than each of them standing on their lonesome.

You will soon discover your own personal decorating style and just go with that. There really are no rules, just guidelines. It is your home, after all, and your shelf, so style it up.

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