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How to Style a Shelf

Are you looking to freshen up the look of a room you love? It’s easy, even without a new paint job or changing up your furniture. At Pottery Barn, we strongly believe one creative way to revitalize a room is to re-style an existing shelf. Are you wondering where to start when decorating a shelf? This could mean changing the books around, adding or removing other objects from the bookcase itself or completely transforming the purpose of the bookcase. Check out these helpful ideas on decorating a shelf to get started on transforming your room by transforming your shelves.



If you have a large bookcase but not nearly as many books, choose a house plant or two – or more. Consider using the bookcase as a plant shelf. Depending on the type of shelf you have, you can take any approach you like here. Transform a large, empty wall shelf into a plant wall by adding plants across all of the shelves or in all of the compartments. Perhaps you don’t have a whole shelf. Or, you want to add a little bit of green to an already busy shelf. Consider adding individual potted plants to certain shelves or compartments where you’ve made space. Also, remember the top of the shelf, especially if you have a long bookshelf along the wall. You could have the main part of the shelf filled with books and all of the plants along the top.



Why not decorate with candles? It’s another non-book idea that can really add warmth to a space. Feel free to choose traditional wax candles with a scent you love. Or, go for faux flickering candles that can stay “lit” while in the shelf. Shelves of candles add both warmth and light to the room, creating a cozy atmosphere.



There are a few different approaches with displaying art on a bookcase. Do you have a large bookcase? That allows you to use an entire section to display your own crafts, smaller pieces of artwork or framed photographs. Or, take a more creative approach. Display larger pieces across the front of the case. Hang the art hooks on the ledge of the shelf, and suspend paintings in front of your books. This is artistic and sure to become a conversation piece!


Arrange Books Differently

Change things up a bit by arranging your books in a less-traditional way. You might have your books currently arranged according to subject. Organize a wall of books according to color instead. This can add a major style transformation to the room. Not only does this offer a conversation starter for visitors, but visually oriented people may find this a better way of organizing books.


Practical Space: Tea Set or Bar

If you have slightly spacious compartments in a large wall bookcase, add a practical touch. Set up a small entertainment area as either a bar or for a tea set. Do you have a vintage tea set that you haven’t quite got the right place to display? Do you have a collection of vintage beer steins that are simply too beautiful to store away in a cupboard? Why not set them up on their own shelf or compartment on the bookcase? The same goes for a set of vintage glasses or a bar set.


The Shelf Shelfie

You’re already likely familiar with the concept of the selfie. If you’re a style and design lover with a digital social presence, you may have heard of the "shelfie." This is a selfie of your shelf – how fun is that? For a shelfie, you curate a collection of books and decorative objects like artwork, favorite collections of small items or plants. But how do you style a shelf shelfie? A beautiful shelfie has items arranged in a way that you find visually balanced. It usually keeps a consistent color palette, which provides a well curated look and a perfect picture.


Bottom to Top

When decorating a living room bookshelf, whether with books, pictures, plants or otherwise, remember to have the largest and bulkiest items on the bottom shelf of the unit. Stack lighter items as you go to each higher shelf. This gives a grounded and balanced feel to both the shelf and the room. It also makes sure your unit isn’t top heavy.


From curated shelfies to glowing candles, there are so many wonderful ways to accessorize your shelves. Use these tips to get started, and your room will have a new focal point in no time.