Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pointers for Arranging Shelf Displays

Today over at Amanda’s blog, Serenity Now, she hosted a Decorating Dilemmas party.  Participants linked up with areas of their home that wanted help with.  One participant needed help arranging some display shelves; I really got into that and practically wrote her a book in reply.

That got me thinking that it would be fun to take a look at some shelf displays and point out some tips and ideas.  Now, I am in no way an expert on this; I just enjoy it and I’ve done it many times.  There are no hard and fast rules.

My friend Dixie has these built-ins on either side of her fireplace.  Many years ago (like, 12) I spent a day at her house helping her accessorize them with things she already had.  We shopped her house and laid things all around us and started picking and choosing and grouping.  This picture was taken within the last year, so some things have changed in 12 years, and some have not.


I’m going to point out a couple of things in the above photo.  On the right side, 2nd shelf from the top is a collection of clocks.  As the pile of stuff around us grew, we noticed there were several clocks, and then we decided to look around the house for more. It’s not as easy to see, but there is also a collection of paper weights on the 4th shelf down.  Group like with like.

Books feature prominently.  Notice that some are vertical by height, and some are stacked horizontally with an item displayed on top of the stack.  Use books to add and vary the height of displays.  I often buy books at thrift stores just for display purposes.

Below is the living room of our red house, before we bought it, with the previous owners’ stuff.  This isn’t my style, but I think it works.  The collection of large duck decoys is dispersed throughout the display and gives a bit of a theme.  In this case, if they were all grouped together it would be too heavy.  Also notice how they aren’t all facing the same direction.


Here is the same shelf, left side, after my sister helped me paint and arrange our things.  You know what, I don’t think this is my style anymore, either!  However, we can get a couple of things here.  Three clocks, one on each shelf, kind of a theme again.  They also zig-zag from side to side; if they were all positioned to one side of the shelves  it wouldn’t look right.  On the middle shelf, a few teapots and a creamer are grouped together, creating a little collection (like with like).  Books are used for height.


Here are the shelves I helped Dixie arrange last fall.  The same principles apply.  Obviously like with like.  This was meant to be a very cohesive collection of white dishes. 

Height is varied:  notice the sugar bowl set on top of another little dish which is place upside down as a pedestal.  Also note how on the bottom shelf the teapots slope down from tallest to shortest.  The candlesticks and bowl on the opposite end do the same, as do the pitchers on the top shelf.


Below is a photo from Better Homes and Gardens.


Above, we can see:

  • like with like the white dishes grouped together in the middle of the 2nd shelf up, and echoed on each of the shelves above it, as well the rustic bowls on the bottom shelf
  • books  vertically, and horizontally used to add height to objects

And a couple I haven’t mentioned yet:

  •  framed art or photos either leaning against the back, or as in my first photo of Dixie’s shelves, hanging on the back wall
  • plate(s) either on an easel as here and on Dixie’s shelves, or hanging on the back wall

Well, this was not exhaustive by any means, nor are any of my displays perfect, but I hope you were able to pick up a few helpful ideas for your shelf displays!


::cottage instincts:: said...

Love these tips! I hate arranging shelves....I don't feel like I ever get it 'right', but I'm working on it. (and working on not being so perfectionistic!)

Nancy said...

I can't thank you enough for the tips! I am still working on the shelves. I got some things right, I think; other parts I'm still working on. This was a great post! I'm sure this will be helpful to many. Thanks!


southerninspiration said...

Some great tips, Holly!! I love arranging shelves, too!


Beverly @ The Buzz said...

I have been arranging and rearranging the shelves of a hutch ever since I took my Christmas village down. Just can't seem to get it right. I sat up straight when I saw your post title! Thanks for sharing. Guess I'll go try again....

Treasia Stepp said...

Love the tips and thanks for this post.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Good tips, and thanks for the linky. :) I love the top left shelf in that first photo. It's neat to have just that framed piece hanging there. Looks cool.

I am not good at layering. I also have trouble with books. I'be boxed books up, given them away, taken them to the used bookstore, put some in a trunk, and I STILL have too many on our shelves. There are some I just can't part with. Maybe I need to pare down again....

Mandi @ Finding Home said...

Great tips! My problem is decorating my bookshelves with books. I hate the different colors I think. I saw some inspiration though iin your photos that I might try. I definatly want to hang wooden signs and plates in my shelves. I love that idea!

Angie @ The Country Chic Cottage said...

Thanks! Great tips!! :) said...

Great idea's - thanks! If you have time go check out my post today asking for help with my family room - same type of shelves -

Kimm at Reinvented said...

Thanks Holly, for sharing these great ideas. I'm planning to rearrange my bookshelves in the den as part of the organizing process, care if I share your post as a resource?

kermiefrg said...

Great post! I'm getting ready to arrange our bookshelves in the family room in a few weeks, so I've been looking for inspiration photos. Thank you!