My very favorite part of any room makeover is the styling phase. For one, it means that the project is almost finished (hooray!), but it’s also an opportunity for me to put all of those personal finishing touches in place. I generally save all of our really special room accents for the styling phase—things like framed photos, things we’ve brought back with us from our travels, family heirlooms, pieces of handmade art, etc.—so it’s especially gratifying to layer these pieces into any room makeover I happen to be working on. Keep scrolling for all of my best tips and tricks for styling your own shelves (specifically floating shelves), including my formula for a fool-proof design that works every time.
The tricky thing about floating shelves in comparison to, say, full surround built-in shelves or cabinets that have sides to them is that you have to make sure to incorporate bookends. Floating shelves have only a back to them (i.e. the wall itself), so upright books have nothing to lean against on either side. I don’t really love the look of bulky bookends, so I tend to use other decorative accents to hold my books in place. I use heavy ceramic vases, potted plants, or even stacks of horizontally placed books to steady my upright hardbacks and novels. I also really like using these clear bookends because you can slip them invisibly underneath the last few books in the row, and you’d never really know there was a bookend there.
Wanna know my foolproof formula for good floating shelf styling? It’s so easy, and I use this process for each and every shelf or tabletop that I style in our home, whether it’s a mod floating shelf, or not! Here’s what I do: I vary object heights (I try not to put equally sized objects right next to each other), group things in odd numbers (usually one or three, although there are exceptions, of course), include a plant, and fill open awkward spaces with leaning art. I was just about to say that it really is that simple, but maybe that sequence sounds overwhelming! If it does, just take it one single step at a time.
For example, if you’re working on styling two stacked floating shelves, like the ones you see pictured below in our kitchen, start with just one type of thing—maybe books. You can see how I placed one horizontal stack of books to the right of the bottom shelf, and another stack toward the left on the top shelf. Then, it felt natural to pop a little something on top of the books to give those groupings some extra height. From there, I just layered things in where it felt empty. It really does help to start with just one type of item (like books), and then build on your styling from there. This helps the process feel less daunting, and I think you’ll find that you move through things intuitively (not to mention with more confidence!) once you get that first grouping in place.
It’s worth mentioning that I do my best to use at least a few functional items in my styling so that it’s not purely decorative. A recipe card box that we use often when baking went on one book stack, and my everyday watering can went on top of the other books stack. Oh, and did you notice that both book stacks are done in groupings of three? There’s just something very organic looking about odd-numbered groupings.
One thing about floating shelves that I don’t actually love is how stark and straight they are. There’s generally nothing soft about these flat thin shelves, and I find myself wishing I could add some architectural detail to make them a little less harsh visually. One of my favorite ways to add organic appeal to floating shelves is with plants that have vining leaves. Imagine how those floating shelves in the photo below would look if I didn’t have that vining plant on the bottom shelf. They would look nice, but also pretty rigid. That one long trailing vine that breaks the plane of the bottom shelf to hang down in front of the wall gives your eye something to look at and follow, helping with the visual flow and makes the overall shelf styling look more relaxed and lived in.
If this topic is of interest to you, I wanted to remind you that I actually focused an entire chapter of my eBook on how to style your home! There are tons of extra tidbits in that section of my book, including my 4-step process, advice for learning to accept the mistakes that inevitably happen during the process (I never get it right on the first try!), how I use my phone camera to perfect the last details, ways to be more sustainable with your styling, and even how to work around practical-but-ugly stuff (think: cords, thermostats, etc.). Click here to purchase a digital copy of “Your DIY Guide To Home Decorating,” and make sure you use the discount code “DGDTEAM” for 10% off! Happy styling, my friends.
*I earn a small percentage from purchases made using the affiliate links above. Affiliate links are not sponsored. Rest assured that I never recommend products we wouldn’t use or don’t already love ourselves.