3 Tips for Styling Open Shelving

14 July

When we first toured our house it was the feel of the family room–the bright airy windows, open shelving encasing the fireplace, and double doors that lead out to the backyard that officially sold us.  We loved the family room so much that it really opened our eyes to the potential of the house.  It wasn’t until we moved in that I really realized how much open shelving the house had (and how much we needed to fill the empty space).  And I know this makes some people gasp, but we actually removed some excess shelving (in the back of the room and to open up the wall from the living room into the family room) because it was almost overwhelming.  I had really been a stickler about decluttering before the move so it was pretty comical that once we actually moved in I was on the hunt for small objects to fill the space.

After living with the below “before” situation for far too long I asked my girlfriend to help me restyle the shelves.  She has an amazing talent / eye for it!  Here’s a glimpse at the “after,” and 3 tips I learned in #shelfie styling along the way.

3 tips for restyling your book shelves Raid your grandparent’s garage. Everyone who comes over always asks where I found the various decor items on our shelves.  And honestly, 90% of the pieces were grandparent hand-me-downs from both sides of the family.  My husband’s grandparents were world travelers and we’re now lucky enough to display their adventures in our home.  It inspires me to add more exotic destinations to my bucket list.  And my grandparents are constantly asking me to raid their garage in which I always find gems!  I took a stack of old books home after one trip which added a nice touch of old meets new when paired with my growing collection of coffee table books.  We’re constantly reminded of both sets of grandparents when hanging in our family room, and I love that when people ask about the pieces I have a story to go with them.


If something hasn’t come from family I’ve purchased it on our travels, at consignment / vintage shops, or more curated home decor boutiques.  I’m often asked how I choose pieces, and I really think if you gravitate towards something and it speaks to you then bring it home!  I never choose pieces with a particular spot in mind–instead I buy what I love and they always seem to find a home.  One aspect to keep in mind though is color, so if you’re going with a certain palette then maybe that neon green bowl won’t necessarily work.


Enlist a new set of eyes. After living in our place for 6+ months, shifting around furniture and buying a few new pieces, the downstairs started to really come to together and feel somewhat finished (if you’re ever finished?).  All except the shelves!  I think shelf styling is such a unique talent.  One of which I am not a pro.  So I enlisted my talented interior design girlfriend, Kristine, to come over and rearrange.  My criteria was simple: I didn’t want to buy anything new.  To my amazement, within an hour of working her magic and raiding a few of the other rooms in our house, we had whipped those shelves into place using only items I already owned.


Leave a lot of white space. The tricky part about open shelving is that it can quickly begin to look cluttered and feel claustrophobic.  My problem is that I like an eclectic mix, and sometimes eclectic means I can get carried away with too much going on.  Kristine helped me group items together in a way that was interesting without being overwhelming.  Flipping the books gave the shelves more of a neutral palette rather than multi-colored, and since most of the items we had were in the browns, woods, and brass family it all seemed to work together perfectly.  Now I can breath again!


I’ve since added a few additions, including a new terrarium filled with air plants (to fill this void) because of course there’s always room for more greenery! And I’m happy that it’s not over stylized so I can continue to add mementos, photos, and sentimental pieces over the years.

Photography | Stephanie Russo

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