6 Tips to Creating a Beautiful Open Shelving Display

I sent my mom a photo right when I was finished with this shelving. It’s our thing. We are constantly decorating, rearranging and sending each other photos for approval or just to share with SOMEONE else that actually cares! ????

I got my love for design, art and beautiful interiors from her. She always had such a beautiful (AND CLEAN!) home! I still don’t know how she did it with 5 kids. I struggle in that area. Hahaha!

When I first saw this open shelving walking through our house, I had big plans. But I didn’t know HOW big. I thought new paint. But, boy this little corner got a big transformation! 

(As was our entire renovation. A huge snowball effect that took over our lives and slowly, like lava, moved into every space until the entire home was being renovated top to bottom.)

To start, we decided the top arch needed to go. I think it is beautiful, actually. But we had just created three large arches right next door where those doors were sitting… it felt a little… err.. “archy”? for lack of a better word. ????

We took the shelving all the way to the ceiling, backed it with a traditional bead board, created new shelves and added a large crown moulding on the top that was being used elsewhere in the house!

New doors were created and of course, finished off with new brass knobs. I chose Repose Gray by Sherwin Williams – a very soft and warm gray that looks great with the marble that is carried throughout the house.

Open shelving is such an amazing way to create visual interest in a space without much effort or commitment! The beauty is that you can easily change your shelving decor for the season or if you style changes.

These few tips might help you on your open shelving journey! And ya know what I always tell Ezra, the more important thing is that we are having fun! ???????? Ok, let’s get to it.

1. Texture
First, consider the texture of the items on your shelf. Finding a way to have a cohesive look, but still varying texture adds a level of depth and dimension to your shelving.

Consider a book shelf lined with vertical books. We kind of see it as one big object… it all starts to look the same blends together, and you lose visual interest. By adding in a variety of texture, (wood beads, smooth marble, woven baskets, or rough pottery) it keeps the space interesting and catches the eye.

2. Varying Heights
As you are selecting your items and playing with how to arrange them on the shelf, choose items with differing heights. It keeps things interesting while also taking up more space on the shelf.

3. Pattern and Color
You do not have to shy away from beautiful patterns and colors. This is their time to shine! I got these antique ginger jars (top) from a local antique store called The Little Green Door. If you are local to Columbia area, you need to stop in for a visit! Such an amazing collection of antiques and collectibles. I absolutely love the blue here. These were the first items I chose, they really set the tone and tie in the “dusty blue” rug that will be in this room.

Another pattern that follows throughout is a black and white stripe. This isn’t as noticeable as the blue pattern, but the book ends, candle sticks and a black books stacked next to white ones, there is a subtle pattern of black and white that gives a more cohesive look.

When you are working with a variety of items from different collections, don’t be afraid to add a splash of color or pattern. Tying in color from the rest of the space helps to create a cohesive look, but open shelving can also be a perfect place to play around with pattern on a smaller scale.

4. Grouping
Our eyes love order. They also love odd numbers. If you group together your favorite items into threes or fives, (or let them fly solo – 1!) you can’t go wrong.

Aaaaand then sometimes you can break that rule ???? In a couple places I liked the look of two items at about 50% the height of the other. If you look at the shelving as a whole, those two shelves balance each other out. (Second from top on the left and bottom right.)

5. Create Visual Balance
Depending on the number of shelves you have, you will want to balance out the items to keep a symmetrical design. It’s easy on the eyes and keeps you wanting more!

I start by adding my largest items, (ginger jars, oil canvas art, basket and marble O sculpture) spacing them evenly throughout. The second largest items come next, keeping my grouping and height variations in mind. Then fill the empty spaces with the smaller items, (beads, small boxes, framed photos etc.)

6. More Than Just Pretty
This part is the most fun. Use pieces that are unique and meaningful to you! You are the one looking at it every day! So find pieces that bring you joy. My favorite piece on this whole unit is a doily my grandmother made. She recently gave it to me, telling me she has had it for years and years and has never been able to gift it because it was her favorite. So I feel pretty special. I love having little things like that out on display for me to see every day.

You likely have some beautiful pieces you’ve picked up over time, but if not, I have you covered on that, too. A lot of the items I used are antique OR just really old pieces I have picked up along the way. But I found a bunch that are similar!

Paint Color: Sherwin Williams – Repose Gray

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  1. Aran says:

    These look so good and bring such peace of mind! (Nothing to do with the madding undergoing renovations… hehe).
    Thank you for the ideas, it does look really good!

  2. Emma S says:

    I love this so much! Makes me want to add some built-ins in my house so I can style them! Love the colors and the variety.

  3. Nicci says:

    Love this – totally different style than me but super classy – and your pics just have amazing composition too!

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