Creative Shelf Styling Ideas Worth Trying

When it comes to styling shelves for our home decor, many assume that the only decorative objects to use on shelves are books, vases, plants, family photos, artwork and small decorative accessories. These are standard shelf styling items, but I know of a few more of which you may not have thought.

To help you make the most of your shelves and bookcases, I gathered some creative shelf inspiration or shelfie ideas that are not only easy to do, but will add color and personality to your decor. Sometimes you just need to remove the doors from closed cabinets to reset your perspective.

Decorative Edge Trim For Shelves

Adding shelf trim falls into the decorating category I call the “little details“. These details when decorating a home can make a big difference. They are not really needed, but can make something look so much better.

This shelf styling tip is my favorite easy trick.

shelf styling idea using ribbon to add color

Adding a decorative element on the outer edges of shelves can make a boring bookcase or shelving unit come to life.

bookcase decor trimmed with

Using ribbon to do this is the easiest way, but consider how wood trim molding bought at the home improvement store would look across each shelf.

Adding trim of any kind will take a plain bookcase up a few notches on the shelf styling scale.

ribbon trimmed shelf edges in a pantry

Narrow craft store ribbon attached to the shelves in a pantry closet using decorative nail head tacks.

Linen closet makeover

The shelf edges in this linens closet were gouged and rough. Something the builder of the house just painted over.

To hide it without having to sand and repaint. I added white grosgrain ribbon the same width as the shelf edge and attached it with tacks.

Doing this was not necessary, but every time I opened the closet, I smiled to see something pretty instead of ugly.


For open cabinet shelf styling on a budget, use dollar store baskets or cover shoeboxes with decorative paper in the way of maps or leftover wallpaper from another project.

I used purple ribbon and white thumbtacks to add a pop of fun color to the open shelves.

Kitchen decorated for Christmas. Open shelfs trimmed with a cutout paper chain of pine tree shapes.

If you are crafty you can make DIY trim from paper to decorate the front edge of open shelves in holiday or any style you want.

Pantry Closet Before and After Makeover

If you like to be organized, you can add clear plastic label clips to the front edge of shelves.

This can done on any shelf. They will help you easily find everything at a glance and will keep the shelves organized since you will know exactly where to place them.

Decorate Open Shelving Using Backdrops

Open shelves, cabinets and bookcases in a living room, bedroom or home office can become one of the most decorative elements in a room.


Instead of focusing on what to place in open shelves or bookcases, think about how adding a colorful or patterned backdrop to the back of the shelves can make the items in front of it look even better. O love how the backdrop highlights some of my favorite cookbooks.

How to paint kitchen cabinets

I make my shelf backdrops using corrugated cardboard or dollar store foam boards and choose what I wrap them with depending on the color scheme of the room.

Accent color backdrop made using paper covered cardboard inserts in open kitchen shelving

There is another nice aspect of adding a shelf backdrop when using the same wallpaper or wall paint color that a bookcase is on. It can make a closed back bookcase or shelf look like it has an open back.

This can create a focal point and make the bookshelf or shelves look really nice when viewing the wall with the bookcase as a whole.

decorative paper lined medicine cabinet

I have even made shelf backdrops for a medicine cabinet in my previous home to add a pop of color and pattern.

To find out how I make the backdrops, head over to this blog post:

Consider Neutral Shelf Decor to Add Impact


Create instant impact on open shelves by displaying a collection of similar objects or using items all in the same color. Note that this solution can work with everyday dishes or long-neglected dishes which have been handed down through the generations.

Having many items on your shelves that are all the same color makes the overall impression look less cluttered and more styled.

Office Shelf Styling Ideas

office shelf styling

When it comes to office bookshelf decor, sometimes you may need the shelves to be purely functional to hold printer paper, files, etc. without using any decorative accessories.

If this is the case for you, then add color to the organizers you have. Plain cardboard file holders can be covered with gift wrap to add style. Shoeboxes can become decorative boxes in which to hold smaller items.

Store printer papers in low sided rectangular baskets. Make the most of everything with square shapes by stacking them.

Use the top shelf for the non-functional items where they will add to the overall look of the open shelves or bookcase, but not be in the way.

As you can see, shelf styling doesn’t always have to be about adding decorative items to the shelves.

Take a look around your home to see if any of the shelves or bookcases could use a little detail or infusion of color.

Shelf Filler Ideas

Decorative Objects for Shelves

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Unique Vintage Clock

Clear Block Photo Frame

Small Storage Boxes

Faux Plants

creative shelf styling ideas to try

Frequently Asked Questions

Are open shelves still in style?

The open shelving style kitchen trend seems recent but I’ve been using it far longer. It might be a great option if you’re looking to inject some fresh, modern vibes into your space. And the possibilities are endless.

Just use a screwdriver to remove the hinges, use some spackle, touchup paint, possibly a backsplash, and you have a clean canvas. You can store dishes, highlight favorite pieces, or coffee mugs. It depends on accessibility and height but you can also stage small appliances and cookware.

If you have a small kitchen, adding a power strip to the back of the cabinet might let you keep those appliances plugged in and always available. In a new kitchen, you might go the other way and build an appliance garage. It’s just like the open cabinet idea but hidden away.

How do you cover open cabinetry?

The beautiful part of removing cabinet doors is it’s easy to reverse everything. And as you reattach the doors, you can think about new knobs or even an entirely different type of door. A new style or even entirely different material like glass front doors.

Pull-out shelves may look unattractive with an open cabinet but they’re perfect for pots and pans. Add a door and all of that unattractive hardware is hidden.

How do I get started with converting closed cabinetry?

I mentioned the blank canvas above but it goes beyond that. Think about this as an opportunity to create a whole new kitchen layout. What problems are you trying to solve? Excessive clutter, lack of storage, or perhaps just aesthetic.

Do you have a kitchen island? Are you taking advantage of all of the dead space underneath? Have you organized upper kitchen cabinets so frequently used items are more accessible? Can you create extra storage space but using every small space?

More DIY Home Decorating Styling Ideas

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  1. In an ever changing world, it is nice to know that some things never change. Thank you for all your positive upbeat posts for making our homes more beautiful.

  2. What great ideas!!!! I love the idea of putting ribbon on the front of unsightly shelves…I’ve never seen that done before!! Thanks for sharing these creative ideas!

    1. Sue Barry says:

      Great ideas as always! Love the covered foam board backdrop. I want to try that in my family room for the tv shelf unit. Seems like an easy way to change things up. Thanks again!

  3. GM.. What did you put your colored file folders in to hold ??


  4. Great ideas Diane. I really need to jazz up my china cabinet. I removed the doors to “modernize” it a bit and it is blah. It was my grandparents furniture – not my style – but sentimental.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Terry – I bet your china cabinet looks really different without the doors. I get it that it is not your style. Most of my furniture is had me downs that were not quite my style. It is one of the reasons I started to learn how to paint furniture. :-). Enjoy making the china closet more to your style.

  5. Carol Andersen says:

    Hi Diane,
    I have been enjoying your many tips, most of which are not being done by everyone, which is very refreshing. Thank you for all the great ideas. Today’s post offered a bunch of charming and very manageable ideas — I can do these! Thanks much.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Carol – Thanks – I appreciate you taking the time to tell me. It is nice to hear that you find my ideas doable and refreshing. XO