Styling Shelves in a Small Space

Recently my husband and I made some changes to our living room including some new shelves. Thus I was presented with the challenge of decorating the shelves, both above the TV and above the couch. Pinterest has a lot of inspiration for styling shelves, but I found a lot of them were about bookcases rather than a couple single or double shelves in the places I have them. I wanted to share some tips with you that I found while I’ve been styling my small apartment shelves.

shelf styling

Collect interesting knick-knacks. I found as I was organizing and reorganizing these shelves that my favorite spaces were the ones with the strangest shaped objects in them. Ceramic pieces that I’d made, vintage objects, and plants help liven up a could-be-boring shelf full of books.

shelf styling

Don’t overcrowd your space. This can be hard to avoid in a small space, since you obviously need storage for everything! This applies mostly to your decorative items. You can easily fill almost an entire shelf with just books and balance it out with one (maybe two) decorative objects or even one collection of objects that fit together. If you have too many different and spatially interesting items then your eye doesn’t know where to land and rest.

Play with texture. Mix up the type of things on your shelves. Paper, organic materials, fabric, wire, or glass – mix it up to keep the shelves interesting and warm.

shelf styling

Add color in unexpected ways. Whether it’s a thrift store statue you spray-painted orange or long green stems in a vase, adding color in the midst of your shelves gives life and personality to your space.

The biggest thing? Move stuff around! Try things out, arrange, rearrange, don’t be afraid to mess something up a bit before you get it right. Unless you have a magic brain that predicts the best possible arrangement on the first try (lucky you), give yourself some time to work within your space or figure out what you’d need to add.

They’re still a work in progress. I’m thinking of adding pictures to the long shelf and I want more color on the little ones (yes, my friends have said “why don’t you just turn the books around?” – I’m thinking about it), but I know if I keep these things in mind, the shelves will turn out great!

What has worked best for you and your shelves? Have a favorite one? Tell me about it!

Lydia Jane

On my shelves:


15 thoughts on “Styling Shelves in a Small Space

  1. I’m a huge fan of symmetry – even if the objects on the shelf don’t match in height/width/color, I still like there to be something anchoring them to the center, and a complimentary number of items on each side. What can I say, I’m a perfectionist 😉


    1. Symmetry is often so beautiful! I’m definitely more random when it comes to decorating, but I usually operate using the rule that decorative items look best in odd numbers, although I obviously broke that rule (and don’t care haha) with those little houses! I love how easy it is to put your own style in just a shelf!


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