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  • Writer's pictureBianca Sarmazian

Styling your Shelves and Surfaces

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Use These Tips to Demystify the Process of Styling Your Home "Shelfies"!

With all of a sudden so much time spent at home, our unfinished spaces now seem glaringly obvious. I've rearranged things a few times myself. While we know that there are way more important things to think about right now, there's also something to be said for feeling complete and content in your space.

If you've been contemplating a change, or need some ideas for the the shelves or surfaces around you, take a deep breath, grab a second cup of coffee (or glass of wine), and read on!

Step 1: Identify Your Home's Overall Theme

This theme doesn't have to be very detailed; more like a general idea of how you'd like it to look and feel. Some descriptors might be; Modern, Rustic, Elegant, Classical, Bright, Open, Cozy, Bohemian, Eclectic, Sparkly Natural, Neutral, Farmhouse, Colourful... you get the idea. My home's theme is natural, timeless and inviting.

When you're starting to gather (or narrow down) objects for your shelves or surfaces, think about your theme. Ask yourself if each object fits the vibe of your house, if it makes you happy or "sparks joy", or if it's properties alone (size, colour, weight, etc) make it a contender! I promise that when you keep your theme in mind, the decision making process is much easier. It lets you source with a purpose, instead of considering everything you see.

Step 2: Look for Balance

To me, balance is the most important part of styling. Once you start pulling objects to place, you should be looking for balance in materials, visual weight - can include value, size - and colour. I also think about balance in terms of shine and texture.

When I start a shelf, I first remove everything from it and start with the key pieces that have the most visual weight. Often that is a large vase or artwork. Dark colours have more visual weight than light ones. Things that are solid are "heavier" than wispy, airy pieces. In the image below, I started with the round mirror on the bottom left, and balanced it with the large white vase bottom right. Pro tip: larger items usually look best near the bottom of groupings. I tend to use glass a lot because it is versatile - while pieces may be large, they can be less bossy and weighty because of their transparency. They are a good filler and add subtle sparkle.

When balancing, I often like to think and place in diagonals. Once one item is placed, I look to balance across and diagonal from it with a similarly weighted item. Take a look above, and notice how the warm wood and terracotta colours are spread out and carry your eye all around the shelves. Which brings us to... colours!

Step 3: Choosing a Colour Story

Just like choosing a theme, you also should have a loose colour scheme in mind. I went with a neutral scheme in the above photo. Yes, there are pops of warm tones, and of course greenery. But I consider all of these neutral, except maybe that bit of yellow that is quite bothering me now that I look at it more in the full picture. Ha!

If the shelves you are styling are a focal point in your space, then you can go bold! Think colour, large prints and contrast. If you have an open floor plan like mine, it's often better to use a neutral scheme, as your eye has a lot to take in already with all the spaces blending together.

Books are a great way to add in colour if you don't have a ton of pieces within a certain scheme but want to add more.They are great stacked horizontally in groups, or vertically. I often will use them as handy risers if I need height to balance other objects.

Step 4: Layering and Grouping

Placing some items in front of (or on top of ) other items creates depth and interest. It also keeps your grouping from looking boring or like a retail shelf!

Grouping items in 3's and sometimes 2's can be aesthetically pleasing.

Pro tip: If you have stacks of things on your shelf or in your vignette, they usually read as one item. Ie, a stack of books or plates, or a few mugs stacked in each other.

Step 5: Have Fun with It!

Make sure you include pieces with some personality! My great room shelves have a print with a regal looking Victorian ostrich (found on a trip to the Beach in Toronto with my bestie), an evil eye art piece, and a flower pot with a face on it. There are momentos from the past - a sculpture I bought my now-husband early in our relationship, a piece of driftwood that my late grandfather sanded and smoothed for me, and some favourite family photos. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a quick trip to Homesense, I bet if you shop your house first, the majority could come together organically that way.

Don't be afraid to steal or swap out items from other rooms. You'd be surprised what the kitchen can offer up in terms of decor! Cake stands, candy dishes, chargers, vintage flatware or serving pieces make fabulous decor. So can rustic cutting boards, bowls and glassware. Old passed-down silver can add character and a bit of old world charm. I especially love using antique finds like cameras, canisters and books to tell your personal story.

While we must stay home (if we are able to), some days are definitely more productive than others! When you do have one of those creative, motivated days or evenings, why not give your space a little facelift in order to raise your sprits!?

I hope this post helps give you the courage to start shopping your home and playing around with ways to make your home the best it's been!

Thanks for reading,

xo B

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