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Decorating Tips for Shelves and Bookcases

By: Leah Hennen
June 15, 2015
Transform bland bookcases and wall shelves into stunning displays with 18 top-shelf decorating tips from interior designers.
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Show Off Your Collections

Whether you collect birdcages or buttons, sculpture or shells, transferware or teacups, any collection you love deserves pride of place in your home. Plus, there's power in numbers: "Anything looks better as a collection," says Mary Carol. "The different sizes, shapes and colors play off each other, and grouping a collection together gives it emphasis." Gather up your treasures around the house and mass them for a stunning display.

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From: Emily Henderson and Secrets From a Stylist

Put Your Passions on Display

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.

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Group Like With Like

Unite your shelf displays by grouping items by theme, color, shape, texture or material. "Like things together give the biggest bang," says Megan Samuels, ASID, an interior designer in Manhattan Beach, Calif. "It creates a really nice, curated feel to your treasures." A grouping of white pottery and other light-toned objects looks stunning on dark wood or brightly painted shelves, for example, while an assemblage of boxes, bowls or spheres adds instant emphasis that's lacking when they stand alone. Design by Sarah Richardson.

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From: Emily Henderson and Secrets From a Stylist

Make It Functional

You can unify a shelf display by function, too. Mary Carol Garrity, author of Feather Your Nest: It's All in the Details and the owner of Nell Hill's, an accessories emporium in Atchison, Kan., likes to turn a shelf into a bar or a serving station. "Take out the shelf above to create more room, then top a tray with pretty cut-crystal decanters and glassware," she suggests. Design by Emily Henderson.

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