Shelf Styling

A set of beautifully styled open shelves add instant appeal to any room. As well as providing storage, open shelves are a fantastic way to bring colour, personality and life to an interior and have become increasingly popular over the years. At Bernard Interiors, we commission and source accessories from around the world to create a unique shelf scheme for every project and our team style each shelf personally to provide the perfect finishing touch. Here are our top tips for how to create the look at home:


Start with a Blank Canvas

It’s really helpful to start with completely bare shelves allowing you to focus on one shelf at a time and then making small tweaks to completed shelves if necessary. Seeing the shelves empty helps you to consider their true proportion and what will work well in the different spaces. Removing and grouping all of your existing accessories also gives you the perfect opportunity to see everything you have together – almost as if you are creating an inventory.


Narrate a Story

Open shelves should give visitors an idea of who you are as a person or family.  Unusual objects picked up on travels, treasured possessions or family photographs are perfect conversation starters and bring personality to the room.


Balance is Key

Balance is more important to consider than symmetry when styling shelves. A harmonious arrangement contains a variety of sizes, shapes and textures to create visual impact. Grouping objects in this way creates a perfectly balanced look.


Consider the Negative Space

Don’t be tempted to overfill the shelves and consider the negative space as an accessory in itself. It’s not necessary to style every single spot on each shelf. If you have one shelf heavily adorned, leave the next partially bare to aid with the overall balance.



Repetition creates cohesion throughout the scheme. This can be achieved by using the same object in two’s and three’s or by repeating the material, shape or texture on a different shelf. Stone or wooden elements work well used in this way. Colour can also be repeated – try bringing a colour already featured within the room to create flow and to complement the rest of the interior.


Less is More

It’s important to get the right balance between function and style. Shelves are perfect for storage but make sure you use the open shelves as an accent rather than as a main storage solution. Be selective about what’s on show. If you are using the shelves to store books, consider organising the books by colour and size or alternating between upright rows and stacks to ensure they still look visually appealing.


Add Greenery

Whether it’s artificial or living, greenery is perfect for bringing a pop of colour and texture to the space. Large, leafy greens will help to soften a space while smaller succulents bring a contemporary edge.


Create a Gallery

By mixing different sized pieces of artwork or photography, a set of shelves can quickly form a homemade and flexible art gallery. One of the great things about this is you don’t need to hang any of the frames as they can simply lean on the shelves. Select a mixture of different sized frames and gently overlap them to create a laidback feel.


Whether the shelves in your home are purpose built, making use of an existing alcove or part of an entertainment suite, the styling can be changed or freshened up whenever you want. Even just updating one item per shelf can make a big difference. Our top tips aren’t strictly for open shelving either, exactly the same principles can be applied to side boards, mantle pieces or console tables – anything with a straight long surface in the home!


Our style is born from our clients vision and our skills realise our clients’ business aspirations or dream lifestyle.


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Photography © Neale Smith / Kristen McCluskie