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How To Style Shelves On A Budget

Styling Shelves PIN

Question: What is the longest you’ve ever stared the shelves on your entertainment center (or wherever) making sure they were perfect and you had every little piece right where it should be? I don’t really want to give you my answer… but let’s just say it’s no less than 2 hours, and no more than 3 days. :o) WHAT?! Styling shelves is important! Especially in my tiny little house, the shelves on my entertainment center are a huge focal point in our living room. And it took me a long time to learn what I liked, and how to style my shelves without going out and buying a whole bunch of new stuff. (Who has money for that anyway?)

How To Style Shelves On A Budget

1. Start with clean, dusted shelves. I’m assuming if you are reading this post in preparation for styling your shelves, you’ve already gone this far. So let’s just move on.

2. The first thing I do when styling my shelves, is pull out everything I think I might want to use. Nice looking books, pictures, etc.  and put them all in one place so you can see, at a glance, what you’re working with.

3. Next, I use my favorite and biggest items and kinda space them out fairly well on different shelves. Mostly because I want to make sure that all my favorite things end up being used… and also because you don’t want a bunch of big things on the shelves in one spot and then only have little things leftover.

4. Then I start to filter in all the other things that I like to fill in any gaps. There are a few things I keep in mind when you’re styling.

  • Sentiment: To me, this one is huge. I’m not a fan of going out and buying a bunch of beautiful stuff to style your shelves, because they don’t mean anything. Obviously not everything on your shelves is going to have a story… but I want someone to be able to look at them, and get a little piece of who I am. For instance, I have “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” in a beautiful, hardback book. It might be just a book to some, but you can also look at it, and know just how much I adore Shakespeare and that I love that book. I also have a couple vintage cameras… just cute little things to style with to some, but also a token of my deep love for photography. I love to look at those things so much more than some vase I picked up at Walmart. You get me? So let your shelves say something about you.
  • Color: This is all about personal taste, and for me, it varies from house to house and room to room. Sometimes I love a lot of color, and sometimes I like a monochromatic look. In this living room, we have very dark walls (which our landlord won’t let us paint) so I’m looking for color. Something to draw your eye away from the wall and into something a little brighter.
  • Texture: I absolutely love to mix textures. I think it brings so much warmth and interest to the space. Why not have a chrome lamp and also a canvas picture? Mix it up! You’ll love it.
  • Layering: Layering will give your shelves that homey, lived in feel. Don’t be afraid to put some things in front of each other, and even stack on top. It gives a super comfortable feel to your space.
  • Random Spacing: Okay, so this one is the hardest one for me to convince others of. When I’ve helped friends and family in the past, I see a lot of wanting to evenly space out their stuff. For instance, if you have one shelf with 2 things on it (one on the left and on the right) and then on the next shelf, you might place something right in the middle… it has a tendency to continue like that all the way down and look very uniform. That’s now how I roll. I like to mix it up. To me, the super even and uniform shelves feel a little sterile and staged. I avoid it at all costs.

So are you ready for an example of how I styled my entertainment center? It’s kinda funny, because as I look at these shelves, I realize that these are different than others I’ve done in the past. Typically, I like a “less is more” type approach. But there’s something about this style house. It was built in the early 50’s, it’s little and has a lot of character… I think it’s because of the style of the home, that I’ve been playing around with more of a cozy, lived in feel. So these are much busier than I’ve ever done before. I’ll be honest, it’s fun to try new things! Plus, with the dark blue walls, the more we can draw our eyes away from the DARK, the better for me. :)

Tea Lights


Books and Blocks

Shelf Decor

Styling Shelves

Well? What are your thoughts? There’s definitely more on these shelves than in our last house. We had a much “cleaner” feel to them last time. But I’m kind of enjoying the cozy look to it. It fits our new little living room. The awesome part about this, is that I spent zero dollars. Don’t be afraid to go rummage through the different rooms in your house and switch stuff around to get a new look. Most of these items were not on my shelves at our last house. Sure, I’d love to buy some new goodies… but the point is, you don’t have to in order to get a fun, new look. Did you see the elements we mentioned in the post? What I love about Interior design, is that mine can be completely different than yours, and both can be awesome. Because interior design is all about what makes you happy, and what makes your house, a home. How would you style your shelves? Post pics on our Facebook Page so we can check it out!

Leah Sannar

Bonus Tip: Photographing your shelves… If you’re photographing your space for show and tell, a vignette (like the close ups above) can give your space a beautiful teaser of sorts. Gives people an idea of your style, from fun angles, without showing off everything at once.

Visit Leah’s profile on Pinterest.

For other awesome ideas, be sure to visit these link parties where I love to share:

Design, Dining + Diapers, The Diary of a Real Housewife, Diana Rambles, The Shabby Nest, Adventures of Mel

22 comments… add one
  • Caroline @ In Due Time August 21, 2015, 2:00 pm

    I love this! Yours look great. Thanks for the tips – clearly I have a lot of work to do!

    • Leah Sannar August 21, 2015, 2:35 pm

      Thanks Caroline! I’d love to see your finished product! Be sure to share on my FB! :)

  • Adriana August 21, 2015, 2:08 pm

    These are such great tips!!! I definitely have some shelves that need some help so thank you for this!
    xo Adriana
    Daily Dose of Design
    Adriana recently posted…How to: Grow an Instagram FollowingMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 21, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Thanks Adriana! I was over on your blog today and really enjoyed your article about Instagram! I’d love to see your shelves when you’re done! I love how different everybody’s taste is. That’s what I enjoy most about design. :o)

  • Emily August 21, 2015, 3:12 pm

    Love this! I will have to refer back to this when I move into my new apartment next month! Thanks for the tips :)
    Emily recently posted…August Ipsy Bag ReviewMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 21, 2015, 4:50 pm

      Thanks Emily! I’d love to see pics when you move in! Be sure to share with us on FB. :)

  • Stephanie August 21, 2015, 3:23 pm

    They look great! I always have to make myself make things more random, because I have a tendency to start out making everything even. Thanks for sharing!
    Stephanie recently posted…Cookie Butter “Puppy Chow”My Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 21, 2015, 4:49 pm

      You bet Stephanie! It took a little practice for me too, and honestly, a little nudging from my hubby. He’s anti-symmetry. It felt a little weird to get advice from the man in the house… but he has good taste, so what’re you gonna do?? :o)

  • Mandi August 21, 2015, 4:10 pm

    LOVE the shelf with the camera and Love blocks. So cute!!

    • Leah Sannar August 21, 2015, 4:49 pm

      Thanks Mandi! I snagged those little vintage cameras for a STEAL and I have LOVED having them on display ever since. :o)

  • Mickey August 21, 2015, 8:38 pm

    These are such great tips. I love how easily you can change the look by added and removing items, so much fun around the holidays too. I’d love for you to visit my blog at http://www.mybashfullife.com/. Wishing you a great weekend!
    xoxo Mickey

  • Cathy @ Our Mini Family August 21, 2015, 9:49 pm

    Your shelves look great! I actually don’t own a bookshelf–go figure! We keep our books in a box and it’s really sad haha but now I am inspired to go get a shelf!
    Cathy @ Our Mini Family recently posted…Back-to-School Sprinkles BarMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 21, 2015, 9:51 pm

      You know, Cathy.. It’s funny that you say that! Because my hubby is always giving me a hard time about “displaying” paper back books. He thinks its kinda silly. And maybe it is, but I LOVE books and I like the way the look. Lots of color. :o)

  • annabelt @ geeks diet August 22, 2015, 5:56 am

    You make your shelves look very interesting! Ours are packed too full with books – time for another clearout I think!
    annabelt @ geeks diet recently posted…Shakespeare Monologues that got my son into drama school… (by Klingons, Teletubbies, Tom Hiddleston and two year olds)My Profile

  • Diana August 22, 2015, 8:23 pm

    This turned out great! I love the camera!
    Diana recently posted…Pedicure Routine!My Profile

  • Tirralan - Tinseltown Mom August 23, 2015, 9:37 pm

    This post is very useful! I never even think about my shelves, to be honest, but I probably should. I love how you styled your shelves. I’m definitely putting this pointers into practice.

    • Leah Sannar August 24, 2015, 1:06 am

      Thanks! I’d love to see yours when you get them decorated. :)

  • Kristen August 25, 2015, 7:57 am

    Absolutely love this! I always have a difficult time with my shelves! I will be using your tips for sure!

    • Leah Sannar August 25, 2015, 8:05 pm

      Awesome! Glad you found it useful, Kristen! I know it took me a long time to figure out how I like to style mine. :)

  • Stacey Valle August 31, 2015, 2:33 pm

    Great sense of style! Funny because I just cleaned around my room and still not feeling it. I just didn’t want to spend my money on something more to make my room looks better or felt it was pointless to get more things and put the rest in the garage. However, my shelves! My bookshelf – I’m not stratified with how it looks now haha. These are great tips! It is helpful and your shelves look so much better than mine! ;)

    • Leah Sannar August 31, 2015, 9:00 pm

      Oh thanks Stacey! I appreciate that! I’m sure you’ll get your shelves looking great in no time! Shop around your house, that’s what I do! :)

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