Design Recipes: The secrets of shelf dressing


From built-in to portable shelving like bookcases, often there is a design dilemma as to the best way to dress shelves.

There is, in fact, an art to shelf dressing, a rhythm that can be created and repeated, through a thoughtful selection of accessories. Have shelves that you don’t quite know how to fill? Here are some top tips.


1. Do be very thoughtful and careful with your selections, as opposed to choosing items randomly.

2. Do look for similar colors, finishes and tones.

3. Do incorporate elements such as greenery and blooms to help add interest and texture.

4. Do use bins and baskets when looking to fill larger areas on shelves.

5. Do use books to help act as filler. A popular design technique is to pair books of similar colors together, wrap books or turn books spine side in.


1. Don’t be afraid to use contrasting colors, dark items on a light-colored shelf for example can really help provide an inviting accent.

2. Don’t overdo it. Less is more.

3. Don’t forget that shelving can also be an opportunity to highlight a curated selection of collectibles.

4. Don’t be afraid to leave shelves empty. Instead intentionally leave certain shelves bare when looking to create a visual sense of rhythm.

5. Don’t overlook interesting ways to create shelving, such as using skateboards or reclaimed wood placed on brackets.

This story was originally published October 25, 2021 5:30 AM.

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