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Shelf Styling Tips from Interior Designers: Essential Accessories

Have you ever stared at a blank shelf and thought to yourself, “Where do I start?” Well, you’re not alone. Shelf styling is a common design challenge that can stop anyone in their design tracks. 

Have no fear. Shelves are blank slates, so get creative! Use your favorite decorations, from family photos to antiques, and maybe mix in a few new pieces you picked up to complement them. The options are endless, and there’s no single right way to do it.

But, if you’re looking at that blank slate and feeling a bit stuck, let our interior design team guide you. Today, we’re sharing some essential home decor items we use to make shelves look beautiful and organized. We’ve picked three options for each category, but you might already have some of these around your home! 

Essential Items for Shelf Styling

Essential 1: Books

A natural choice on a shelf: books. They’re great because they come in many colors, patterns, and sizes. And, of course, we all have books collecting dust that now have a home. We love color blocking our shelves by combining books of similar colors or even creating a rainbow effect by organizing them in a cascade of colors.

Books can be used as the centerpiece of a styled shelf or as fillers to take up space. You can stand them up as in a library or stack them to create height. Finish off the stack with your favorite trinket. Try filling half of a shelf with books, a bookend, and completing the vignette with a decorative vase.

Here a few book and bookend options we love:

Lava Resin Stone Bookends

We particularly love the lava resin stone bookend from Crate + Barrel because it adds contrasting horizontal lines to the vertical book grouping.


Vanity Fair 100 Years Book


Essential 2: Greenery

We’ve talked about the importance of green touches to add life to home decor. That applies to shelf styling too. It’s an essential element, whether faux or natural is your choice.
If you’re worried about keeping a real one alive, try one of these options. A single stem in a bud vase provides a small hint of green, while a hanging mini bush adds depth and interest by cascading down to break up the shelf’s horizontal line.

Want something fun and colorful? Try faux flowers, like this goldenrod plant from Target. We’d set this atop some books to draw even more attention to it.

Take a peek at some of our faves:

Faux Eucalyptus Stem


Hanging Mini Eucalyptus Bush


Medium Artificial Goldenrod Arrangement


Essential 3: Vases & Bowls

Where to put all these natural touches, flowers, and plants? Vases! Bowls! Any vessel!

Because vases range in size, material, and color, you can always find a good option to match your style and the rest of the decor. But they’re not one-trick ponies meant to be filled with greenery and that’s it. No way!

They can add plenty of visual interest on their own, especially if they have a fun texture, structure, color, or pattern. We love a colored glass vase for a subtle pop of color.

Don’t forget about bowls either. These low-slung vases are perfect on their own or filled with moss balls.

Our picks below do double duty; place greenery in them or use them as standalone decorative accents because of their beauty and design.

Simonton White Textured Table Vase


Double Dutch Vase

Reve Marble Fluted Bowl

Willow Oval Wood Bowl

Essential 4: Decorative Boxes

Decorative and functional at the same time, decorative boxes are a shelf styling must-have. Not only can you store (or display) little trinkets in these boxes, but when you choose the right one, the design will add a little something extra to your shelf vignette. 

Need help choosing? Here are three of our favorites:

Small Wallace Counter Display Box

Saco Box

Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
Chelsea White Concrete Box

Essential 5: Frames & Personal Photos

Personal touches are what make a house a home, so adding your favorite photos of family, friends, and moments is a design must! The simplest way to do this is by selecting a stylish frame that matches your decor. Frames can break up the horizontal lines of a shelf and infuse a homey touch. 

Check out three of our go-to picture frames.

Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
Wood Picture Frame


Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
White 11×14 Picture Frame

Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
White Marble Picture Frame

Essential 6: Objects

Objects give personality to a shelf. They can tell the story of your home, your travels, your family, and more. They also break up the straight lines of boxes, books, frames, and more.

If you have meaningful objects available, use them! If you need new options, try these:

Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
Via Large Travertine Know

Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
Links Marble Chain

Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
Ocilla Handle with Care Hands Holder


Shelf Styling Essential Accessories
Decorative Wooden Bead Garland


Shelf styling is all about mixing and matching until getting a shelf look you love. Now that you know the essential items for shelf styling, you’re ready to go from words to action. We’ve got you covered; our next post is all about shelf styling basics. Stay tuned!

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