Statement shelves are increasingly popular, these carefully-curated collections add interest to your interior and offer a little insight into your taste.
I find the task of rearranging my shelves almost meditative and I get a huge amount of satisfaction from standing back and admiring my work once finished.
My approach is not-at-all-scientific, I rarely think about the process I just follow my instinct, grouping items together where they seem to fit - hence why it feels so wonderfully creative.
I'm aware that people are drawn to our shelves, both on Instagram and when friends come to visit - I find people pausing in front of the shelves browsing book titles, admiring the artwork and keepsake objects: it’s like a mini museum. Yet these shelves have to be hugely practical too, taking up space as they do, in the busiest room in our house.
For that reason, I thought it would be fun during this strange 'lockdown' time, to share my thoughts on what creates balanced and interesting shelves which also make a strong style statement? Watch my short video (above) and follow my tips to style shelves you’ll want to look at again and again.
Start by placing plants across the top shelves for maximum visual impact.
Plants transform rooms in a relatively inexpensive way, adding a natural element and bringing the outdoors in. Using a variety of plants adds a range of colour tones and leaf shapes. Trailing plants look particularly beautiful hanging down.
Luckily, I have lots of natural sunlight on these shelves so plants thrive here. I love plants and get great pleasure from seeing plants grow and rescuing them when they are looking a bit neglected. Taking care of them and watering them is an important part of my weekend ritual.
Tip: I start with the top shelves and work down. This helps me get the right balance. Plants fill the top shelf where there is an abundance of sunlight, whilst the bottom selves are filled with heavier items, such as books I regularly use, and plants that require less natural light. Positioning larger item first, such as plants and pictures, helps to anchor a scheme.
A touch of texture
I place all the plants in our Kenyan baskets - the green leaves look beautiful against the natural coloured weaves. The Kenyan baskets also add texture, splashes of colour and visual interest.
Tip: I stick an old saucer in the base of the basket to protect the weave against water damage.
Artwork that works for you
Choose artwork you love. Styled shelves should be personalised rather than formulaic. I love picking up old paintings & prints from flea markets and seem to be drawn to portraits of curious old men with interesting, expressive faces! I love aged artwork and prints as their colours mellow over time.
Tip: I place my pictures in the centre of the shelves but you can experiment with positions that work in your scheme. Positioning artwork at the back of the shelf creates depth and allows you to place small decorative objects in front.
I like to add great graphics which introduces colour and typography. I do this with: books with bold covers; brightly-coloured retro tins with interesting designs; drinks bottles with bright interesting labels.
Tip: A cocktail collection of interesting bottles on a tray which lifts down for mixing drinks, but also looks attractive when not in use.
Books play a central part in my shelf styling and dictate the colour palettes. I prefer an eclectic colour palette that is considered without being overly coordinated or ‘matchy’. I colour coordinate my books into tones, creating blue zones, yellow and reds zones, and I balance colour with calm and neutral tones.
Tip: Balance the weight of books in a shelving scene by mixing them up. Stack some books vertically, some horizontally, put some centrally on a shelf, or some to either side. A stack of books layered horizontally looks ‘finished’ when an object is placed on top. I often place a plant on a book stack to create varying heights.
Choose storage you want to show off. Like most of us, I dislike clutter, but with young children, I accumulate lots of it. So, I hide away the kids Lego, sunglasses, craft supplies in beautiful-lidded baskets, placed on the lower shelves which my two girls can reach for themselves.
Tip: Natural materials such as basket weave offers visual texture. You can also opt for surfaces such as glazed pottery, paper and card, or aged and distressed surfaces.
I love the soft, warm light created by candles and it gives the shelves a new character by candlelight. My absolute favourite candles are these scented candles from Tamegroute in Southern Morocco. They are incredibly beautiful, smell fantastic and make great plant pots once the candle has finished.
Tip: I designed these shelves so there was enough space to safely light candles on them. Make sure candles have sufficient space to burn safely.
Practical and beautiful
I love recipe books – almost as much as I love plants – and many of them I use every day. So, my go-to recipe books are in easy-to-access spots where they can be grabbed easily when needed.
These shelves are next to the doors to our garden… hence the large sun hat there ready to be grabbed when needed… it is also beautiful; I get great pleasure looking at it when it is not being worn.
Tip: Consider access to well-used items when staging your shelves.
Enjoy playing with height and scale. Add decorative items in collections of odd numbers e.g. 1,3,5,7,9. If you are adding metallic items keep cool tones together such as silver and chrome, and warm tones together such as gold and bronze. Don’t forget to take a few risks! Sometimes the unexpected items work the best.
Tip: Remember to leave some spaces so the eye can rest. Stand back and evaluate. If you have added too much, simply edit it back.
Create a cosy corner
The shelves provide the perfect backdrop for our reading nook – this seat is the most popular chair in our whole house. It’s a wonderful sun-trap and the kids curl up and read there, I drink my coffee there… it is also lovely on a rainy day, as the rhythmic tapping of the rain on the glass is very calming.
Tip: Placing a chair near natural light makes it convenient for reading and also looking outside. Placing a natural sheepskin over the seat and adding a soft throw makes the space cosy and inviting.
Shop the look here:
Our Kenyan baskets come in a range of colourways and weaves.
Our Mexican Palm Leaf Baskets add texture and colour as well as storage solutions.
Our Sheepskin Rugs add a touch of luxe.
Our Tamegroute Candles create a sense of calm and wellbeing.