The possibilities are endless when it comes to styling a shelf.

Depending on your accessories — be it books, catch-all bowls, candles, or plants— there are hundreds of ways to make any shelf (big or small) look great, but perhaps the best thing about shelving is that they constantly evolve and are never really “done”.

I recently picked up a simple shelving unit for my TV and couldn’t decide on which style I preferred: neutral and minimal, or bold and colourful. In any case, I think shelving should still be functional and serve a purpose (namely storage), so using baskets and bins is a great way to store the ugly but necessary stuff (think TV cords, DVDs and cables), while leaving some visible open areas store neater, show-piece decor and items. Oh, and adding plenty of plants never hurts! Check out more details and photos on my shelf styling technique below, and head to my blog to see which style I ended up choosing!

Neutral and Minimal

Often, simple and minimal doesn’t have to mean bare and empty. Rather, the key to achieving this style is keeping colours to a minimum. My shelves are still quite full, but because everything on them lives in the same neutral palette, they don’t feel cramped and give the illusion of airy space.

Flipping books to expose the pages rather than showing the spines is all the rage right now (though it goes against my past job as a librarian for 5 years!). From a design perspective, I adore this trend too, but to keep it a interesting, I like to use a good mix of book heights and paper tones — from bright white, to cream, to yellowed with age. To add interest to this neutral and minimal styling, I added metallic decor items and a big, bold, glossy black glazed piece (the head) for contrast. Paired with natural fibres and neutral tones, this look is still simple and warm without being boring or cold.

Bold and Colourful

Without changing a whole lot, this shelf went from neutral to colourful in just mere minutes — which really speaks to how much of a blank canvas shelves really are. By turning around my books to expose the spine, re-organizing, and swapping out art and decor, my shelf instantly informed the overall style of my living room and took a dive into rainbow territory (which I took literally when it came to my books). I think Piper approved of this look more, although she’s terrified of my golden bull-dog (from the neutral option), so that might have something to do with her bias!

In this look, I stored my striped, colourful blanket and decorative throw pillow in the narrow nook, and put a lot of the unsightly cords in a big, red bread tin. I think the key to going colourful without venturing into “kids room” or tacky territory is practicing restraint. While a few decor items and my rainbow books pack a lot of punch, I balanced it out by pairing black and white book spines and not using a lot of trinkets or”chachkies”. It’s all about balance!

Related: A Tiny Bedroom Makeover- The After!

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