Shelfies Are the New Selfies for Design Lovers

Sorry Kim K, but our #shelfie game will break the internet.

If you need advice on how to take the perfect #selfie, you probably want to head over to Kim Kardashian's site. But if you're looking for the scoop on how to create showstopping #shelfies, you're definitely in the right spot.

Trio of Metal Bookshelves

Trio of Metal Bookshelves

Woven storage baskets soften the metal bookshelves and serve as a storage catch-all. A mix of keepsakes, books and framed art keeps the shelves looking interesting and stylish.

Photo by: Brooke Henton

Brooke Henton

What is a shelfie, you might be wondering? Basically, shelfies include the art of creating (and documenting!) the perfect decor arrangements on the bookcases and shelves in your space. Celebrity interior designer Windsor Smith sums them up perfectly: "I see them as curiosity cabinets, a window into what you are thinking, where you have been and where you wish to go."

Truth time: Creating the perfect Instagram-worthy shelfie is a bit of an art and does require some practice, but there are some easy guidelines I want to share to help you become the shelfie ninja I know you were truly meant to be.

It's All About the Vignette

White Modular Bookshelves for Storage and Display

White Modular Bookshelves for Storage and Display

"When you're working on a strict budget, cash doesn't usually extend to custom-made built-in cabinetry," says designer Anna Williams. "Instead, I've used a set of affordable and modern white bookshelves to create plenty of storage, without the expense." A bright abstract is a colorful focal point, while wicker baskets provide some hidden storage options.

Great shelfies are really about mastering one concept: the style vignette. Vignettes are really just the collective results of the decor + books + objects + [insert item] that you put together on your shelves and arrange to look snazzy.

My favorite types of vignettes usually include unexpected arrangements, a variety of textures and surfaces and a few core pieces. Some regulars in my shelfie toolkit include:

  • Books
  • Metallic objects such as animals, containers or geometric shapes
  • Natural objects such as branches, shells, plants or flowers
  • Collections of almost type
  • Small cups, saucers or other unusual serving pieces
  • Vintage magazines

Books Aren't Just for Reading

Contemporary Study Features Criss-Cross Bookshelves

Contemporary Study Features Criss-Cross Bookshelves

Spazio Rosso, Inc. choose a dijon paint color for the walls and yellow raffia wallpaper for the ceiling in this contemporary study. The built-in shelves were redesigned in a diagonal pattern to create a unique geometry, which the area rug and drapery fabric were chosen to enhance. The desk is composed of two layers of glass, the top being black, underneath being white.

Photo by: Sean Litchfield

Sean Litchfield

While almost anything and everything will work for a good shelfie, books can truly be your shelfie workhorses.

Try to think of your books as decor, and use their colors and covers as prominent cornerstones of your style vignettes. For big impact, you can create a look like this one pictured by covering up your books with uniform pieces of paper or gift wrap. This would also be a very simple way to bring some color or pattern into your space.

Embrace Unusual Objects

Accessories & Art on Gray Bookshelf

Accessories & Art on Gray Bookshelf

Built-in bookshelves in a deep shade of gray make a bold statement in this contemporary living room. Blue accessories stand out and add a punch of personality, along with rows of colorful books.

Photo by: Amity Worrel

Amity Worrel

There are truly no hard and fast rules with shelfies, so don't be afraid to bring in unusual objects — even if you've never seen them on anyone else's shelf before! This shelfie manages to combine gold ethnic shoes, a dinosaur planter and a pretty paper file with more traditional objects like books and vases, and it all looks fabulous together.

Look Beyond the Shelf

Open Shelf With Books and Topiaries

Open Shelf With Books and Topiaries

In the living room, a open shelving system offers both storage space and imaginative display potential for artwork and accessories. Adding two tabletop topiaries brings an organic, natural element.

Photo by: Rethink Design Studio

Rethink Design Studio

While we're excited that you're getting serious about your shelfies, we don't want you to forget about the areas around your shelves — especially if you have smaller or low-profile shelves. You can easily use art to work in tandem with your shelf vignettes by thinking through how your art will look with the objects you're using on your shelves. When everything works together, you'll have your own beautiful decor symphony going on.

Style Your Bookshelf Like a Boss With These 10 Items

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How to Style Your Bookshelf From Top To Bottom

A simple, wooden bookshelf gets a chic facelift with a mix of both decorative and practical accessories. Take a look...

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Showcase Souvenirs

Ignite conversation by using bookshelves to display trinkets from your travels. If you're going to group like-objects together, choose items that differ in height. Here, a pair of knight's helmets, one large and one small, are placed side by side.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Add Life With Greenery

Liven up your bookshelves with low-maintenance plants potted in chic containers. Here, a simple, sun-loving grass thrives inside an aluminum pot placed next to a large window.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Always Use Odd Numbers

A popular trick designers use to style bookshelves is the arrangement of objects in odd numbers. This is especially useful when grouping picture frames together. As a general rule, three is the magic number. To achieve the perfect look, stick with one large, one medium and one small frame, then alternate orientations from vertical to horizontal.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Hang Artwork From Shelves

Designers often look at shelf facades as an extra surface for hanging art. The key to doing this right is to choose a shelf that sits approximately four to five feet above the floor, then fasten the art to the fascia using non-abrasive picture hanging strips. Once the art is situated, use the space behind it to hide objects you want to keep out of view.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Mix in Natural Materials

A careful mix of organic materials can make a space feel well-rounded and expertly curated. Bring a touch of natural stone to your bookshelves with marble, onyx or amethyst bookends. These materials help break up the rigid, linear look of stacks of books.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Add Interesting Shapes

Coral adds the perfect dose of life to surfaces, and designers use it to break up spaces that can otherwise look flat. Choose a piece of coral with an interesting shape and think of how it will fit onto the shelf. If you choose a piece that's too large, it can take over. Conversely, tiny pieces of coral may end up looking more like visual clutter than a stylistic feature.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Mix in Metallic Elements

Metallic elements can add beautiful sheen to a bookshelf and also help play with light. While pewter and nickel are usually the most popular metallic finishes, the richness of brass can add a classic touch of antiquity. Look for brass objects that have a faded finish rather than those which are super polished and may appear too formal.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Add Whimsical Touches

A few small, playful touches can take a serious-looking bookshelf and make it more approachable, personable and one of a kind. Hold on to children's artwork or dig up some of your own vintage creations and place them on the shelves to add shape and color.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Integrate Chic Storage Options

Bookshelves have a knack for fulfilling decorative and practical purposes, but you need the right open storage containers to successfully achieve both goals. Instead of plastic bins, choose those with vintage, industrial appeal, such as wire or welded steel. In addition to adding a space to keep papers organized, they will add a touch of aged texture.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Display Vintage Decor

For a mix of both masculine and feminine style, add vintage electronic objects to your bookshelves, such as cameras, radios or clocks. These items introduce interesting shapes and add a touch of history.

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Every Shelf Matters

Industrial Bookshelf Features Family's Eclectic Keepsakes

Industrial Bookshelf Features Family's Eclectic Keepsakes

Use of an industrial bookshelf in the master bathroom creates an artful space to organize hand towels, washcloths and accessories while new and vintage collectibles add a spa-like or beach inspired style.

Photo by: Ana Rodriguez-Gonzalez and/or Lorenzo Gonzalez

Ana Rodriguez-Gonzalez and/or Lorenzo Gonzalez

Even your less visible shelves deserve some love. Don't forget about shelves in some of the less trafficked parts of your house including guest bathrooms, kids rooms or even a laundry room. If you've got a visible shelf in any part of your home, you've got an opportunity to turn it into a fun little shelfie.

Unusual Shelves = Sexy Shelfies

Triangle Shelf

Triangle Shelf

Make a hanging triangle wood shelf using only a few materials and tools.

and Danmade

Great shelfies are possible on any type of bookcase or shelf, but you're sort of one step ahead the game if you choose unusually shaped shelves. This triangle shelf is a great option for small spaces or out-of-the-way corners in your space.

Storage Solutions Can Be Styled



You can even fancy up shelves that are primarily needed for various storage solutions. Baskets, like the ones pictured, are a great option. You can choose other types of storage solutions as well, like bins or boxes, but try to use the same color and shape if you want to create a more streamlined look.

Decorate Your Shelves

Eclectic Bookcase With Red Accent Wall

Eclectic Bookcase With Red Accent Wall

With the clever use of pre-fab bookshelves and kitchen base cabinets, this bookshelf area gets the look of a custom built-in at a fraction of the cost. A red accent wall adds a pop of vibrant color, while black and white wallpaper covers the back of the bookshelf's cubes for a touch of texture.

Photo by: Brian Patrick Flynn

Brian Patrick Flynn

You can also really up your shelfie game by decorating the actual shelves that you're creating your vignettes on. Removable wallpaper in different colors and patterns is a great option for creating some interest in your room. However, you can even use real wallpaper and just attach it to your shelves with double-sided tape so you can easily remove it if you change your mind. Paint works well, but I enjoy the flexibility of using papers because I tend to enjoy mixing my shelfie game up.

Think of Your Shelfies When You Travel

White Bookcase Display With Traditional Decor

White Bookcase Display With Traditional Decor

Not sure what to showcase on shelves? First, consider what you love. Your interests and hobbies should come through in your accessory choices, says Debbie Wiener, an interior designer in Silver Spring, Md., who helps homeowners create spaces reflective of their everyday lives. "Kids' framed artwork, books, decorative plates, baseball cards or boomerang collections. Your home should look like you," Debbie says. Take stock of vacation mementos, crafts and items you're drawn to time and again when assembling accessories for a shelf arrangement. Design by Emily Henderson.

From: Secrets From a Stylist

The next time you take a trip, make sure to think of your shelves. Some of the most interesting items in my shelfie vignettes are objects I've picked up in my travels. Finding unusual objects on your trips is a great way to remember your favorite vacations, as well as spice up the style in your home.

Easy Ways to Style Your Bookshelves Like the Pros

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Add a Textured Back Panel

Textured wallpaper or fabric is a great way to add color and depth to a basic white bookcase but keep the importance of a consistent color scheme in mind when covering the back panels. Since a majority of the objects here are blue, neutral, white and brass, a navy backdrop is the perfect choice for layering the blues and adding contrast to the gold-toned pieces.

©Rustic White Photography

Create Small Groupings

To create a striking display, arrange books in small groups rather than simply filling every shelf end to end. Remove their jackets, then gather books with different heights and thicknesses in similar colors and pair them with sculptural bookends.

©Rustic White Photography

Opt for Creative Containers

While bookshelves are mostly meant for display, they're also great for storing necessities. On the shelves of this dining room bookcase, matches, lighters and napkin rings are kept in vintage buckets which double as decorative features.

©Rustic White Photography

Curate Collections

It's easy to run out of display space when you have lots of treasures to show off. Cut down on the number of shelves needed by grouping objects with similar finishes together. Here, assorted brass candlesticks, goblets and tools appear as a cohesive collection.

©Rustic White Photography

Work In Sculptural Pieces

Sculptural objects with striking shapes are best displayed in a less-is-more approach. This leather-wrapped bronco is placed beside a treasured ceramic plate rather than surrounded by a grouping of similar objects which would otherwise read as clutter.

©Rustic White Photography

Add Reflective Accents

Glass accents are a great way to add a touch of glitz to a bookshelf. To add depth and play with the layered blues, two different gourd-shaped containers were placed side-by-side as a pair.

©Rustic White Photography

Include Natural Elements

Designers routinely use starfish, seashells and coral to bring a vivacious vibe to bookshelves. In addition to its rich texture and sculptural shape, coral also comes in a variety of colors, making it perfect for layering different shades of the same hue.

©Rustic White Photography

Frame It

When adding picture frames to shelves, choose those with a range of heights and materials, like these shell-covered and seagrass frames.

©Rustic White Photography

Throw In Some Greenery

Depending on the amount of natural light a room receives, adding living plants to bookshelves can instantly make the entire room seem more alive. Rather than displaying houseplants in traditional pots, try a more creative approach by placing them in unexpected, repurposed vessels, like this spittoon.

©Rustic White Photography

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