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The Art of Decorating Built-In Shelves: Dos and Don'ts

Are you struggling to decorate your built-in shelves? You're not alone. Many people find it challenging to achieve the perfect balance of style and functionality. But fear not, because we're here to help. In this...

Decorating built-in shelves can be difficult. Read these tips to improve your home decor styling

Are you struggling to decorate your built-in shelves? You're not alone. Many people find it challenging to achieve the perfect balance of style and functionality. But fear not, because we're here to help. In this article, we'll share some tried-and-true tips and tricks to transform your shelves into stunning displays that reflect your personal style and elevate your home decor.

Start from Scratch

Our new temporary home office setup

The first step is to clear everything off your shelves. It may seem daunting, but starting with a clean slate allows you to focus on one shelf at a time without distractions. Take inventory of your accessories and assess what you have. This process also presents an opportunity to dust and clean your shelves, giving them a fresh look.

Don't Force or Rush the Process

Black books and a plant are well styled on this built-in shelf

Take your time when decorating built-in shelves. It's a creative process that requires patience and attention to detail. Avoid rushing or feeling pressured to finish quickly. Set aside dedicated time to fully immerse yourself in the task. Put on some music, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and embrace the journey. Remember, messy floors are part of the fun!

Shop Your Home for Accessories

When decorating built-in shelves, put a vase on top of books for added height

One of the best ways to decorate your built-in shelves is to "shop your home" for accessories. You'll be amazed at how many hidden treasures you already own. Look for items in other rooms that could be repurposed and displayed on your shelves. This process often sparks creativity and helps you fall in love with forgotten pieces all over again.

Don't Feel the Need to Buy Everything

Add hardcover books throughout your built-in shelves.

While it's tempting to buy new decor items for your built-ins, don't feel obligated to do so. Mixing old and new accessories adds character to your shelves. Thrift stores, estate sales, and local libraries can be treasure troves for unique and affordable pieces. Remember, it's the mix and match of items that creates an interesting and layered look.

Add Books for Depth and Visual Appeal

Real plants are always a great addition when decorating built-in shelves.

Books are a must-have for decorating built-in shelves. They add color, texture, and fill space on a budget. Whether you prefer neutral tones or vibrant hues, books are versatile decor elements. Get creative with how you arrange them. Stack them horizontally or vertically to create height variations. Don't hesitate to turn the spines inward if you prefer a more neutral look.

Don't Overspend on Books

When it comes to purchasing books for your built-ins, keep your budget in mind. Garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores are excellent sources for affordable books. Look for hardcover books at lower prices and pay attention to their spines. Remove dust jackets to see their true colors. Remember, it's not about the price or popularity of the books, but how they contribute to the overall aesthetic.

Layer frames in the back of your shelves

Embrace Greenery

You can display all kinds of objects on your built-in shelves.

Adding greenery to your built-in shelves brings life and freshness to the space. Incorporate both real and faux plants for a natural look. The combination of real and fake plants can fool your guests into thinking they're all real. If you struggle with plant care, opt for low-maintenance varieties. Don't forget to remove and water your greenery separately to avoid water damage to your shelves.

Vary Height, Texture, and Decorative Objects

Tips and tricks when it comes to decorating your built-in shelves with ease!

Creating visual interest is crucial when decorating built-in shelves. Mix and match various objects like vases, candlesticks, frames, trays, and plants. Experiment with different heights and textures to add dimension to your shelves. Group items in threes for a balanced and aesthetically pleasing arrangement. When in doubt, use books to add height to smaller items.

Avoid Matchy-Matchy Decor

2021 home goals to organize our office built-ins

Avoid a monotonous look by embracing unique and quirky pieces. Mix and match accessories that don't necessarily match but complement each other. Unconventional items add personality and make your shelves truly stand out. Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and add a touch of whimsy to your display.

Infuse Meaningful Decor

The Dos and Don’ts of Decorating Built-In Shelves

Incorporate personal items that hold sentimental value. Family heirlooms, framed photos, or cherished mementos can make your built-ins more meaningful. These special touches add a personal touch and make your shelves reflect your story. Don't feel pressured to fill every shelf with meaningful pieces, but sprinkle them throughout for a heartfelt touch.

Avoid Generic Items

The Dos and Don’ts of Decorating Built-In Shelves

While it's tempting to rely solely on mass-produced decor, try to incorporate unique and one-of-a-kind items. Shop at thrift stores, vintage shops, or local artisans to find distinctive pieces that add character to your shelves. Mixing store-bought and unique items creates a curated and personalized look.

Layer in Frames

The Dos and Don’ts of Decorating Built-In Shelves

Don't forget to include frames on your shelves. Family photos and art prints add a personal touch and bring the space to life. Mix and match different frame styles and sizes to create variation and fill the negative space on each shelf. The combination of frames with other decor items adds depth and visual appeal.

These dos and don'ts will guide you in creating beautifully styled built-in shelves. Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Embrace the process, let your creativity flow, and have fun transforming your shelves into stunning showcases of your unique style.

P.S. If you're interested in building your own built-ins, check out our blog post on how we created our home office shelves. It's packed with tips and tricks to help you achieve stunning results.