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How To Style Open Shelves: 3 Rules for a Timeless Look

By August 24, 2021December 7th, 2023Design Advice, Niche Homes Studio Features

I’m Kayley Danielson, Director of Design with Niche Homes. I’m here today to talk about styling open shelving, glass doors and custom cabinetry. Styling this type of cabinetry can take a little bit of finesse, but I have three rules that guarantee success and a timeless look.

  • RULE #1 VARIATION. Variation in the content and texture of the items on the shelf. 
  • RULE #2 BALANCE. Balance from shelf to shelf and across the entire built-in.
  • RULE #3 SENTIMENT. It is important to include items that are sentimental to you and your family.

Rule #1 Variation

If you carefully observe professionally styled bookcases and cabinetry, you will notice that there is variation in the types of items put on the shelf. These items may include reading books, coffee table books, plants, decorative objects, sentimental objects and photographs. Variation in content will create visual interest and give you the opportunity to reflect your family and lifestyle. Your items should include pieces in different scales, different colors, and different textures.

In addition to variation in items, you also need variation in display positions. This means some books can be stacked and others lined up. Photographs should be displayed both in portrait and landscape fashion and objects should be shown by themselves and in groupings.

Rule #2 Balance

When you’re styling your shelves, take a minute to step away and view the built-in as an overall piece. You need to have balance from shelf to shelf and across the entire built-in. Balance also includes negative space. Not every shelf needs to be overly full. Leave room for objects to shine.

Rule #3 Sentiment

I see so many styled shelves without personality or items of sentimental value. Resist the urge to buy trinkets without meaning. Instead choose book titles that are meaningful to your family and lifestyle. Choose objects that are:

  • Collected from travels.
  • Handmade from children.
  • Passed down through generations

My favorite part of these open shelves are the handmade clay objects. Each of the four children in this family completed this project in second grade. It is a sweet memory and story to tell in this home’s family room.

Timeless Open Shelves

Open shelving and glass cabinetry does take a thoughtful plan, but it doesn’t have to be perfectly curated to look beautiful and timeless. If you use the three principles that I shared with you today, variation, balance and sentiment, I can guarantee your shelves will look great.

Kayley Danielson is a Senior Designer at Niche Homes. Read more of Kayley’s design advice or follow her on Instagram. Discover her best paint colors, kitchen design trends, bathroom design trends, creating an outdoor space and more!

Niche Homes is a boutique real estate agency specializing in Salt Lake neighborhoods and enclaves. Contact us if you are interested in buying, selling or moving to Salt Lake.