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Vintage Shelf Styling Tips

February 24, 2023

written by: Holly Garritano

Shelf styling can be hard. And even harder when you are attempting to style a shelf without the right design elements. In this blog I’ll talk about what key components I believe make up well styled shelves and how to arrange them while maintaining balance. 

There are so many approaches to styling in general. While there isn’t really a “wrong” way, there are some fundamental ideas that you can implement to assist you in your home décor and shelf styling. Let’s get started! 

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Understanding balance, negative space, and positive space is a good place to start. I tend to leave more negative(empty space) at the top. And then use larger, heavier objects near the bottom. There is freedom in balancing. For a more traditional look, keep things symmetrical. If you want it to feel more organic, go for asymmetrical. Balance allows our eyes to naturally move and observe the design. 


Keep it interesting! Your shelves will look best when you mix harder objects with softer ones. A great way to add texture is to use materials found in nature such as shells, coral, small branches, driftwood, stone, and/or dried florals. These are great for adding an earthy texture. 

Here are some examples of hard and soft elements:

Hard Elements 






Soft Elements 






Depth is achieved when you use contrasting materials. And when depth is present our eyes are drawn in and intrigued. So make sure you have a good mix of items from both lists. 

Height Matters

Differing textures is essential, but a not so obvious detail to pay attention to is height and shape. Having objects with contrasting heights and shapes plays into shelf styling as well. 

This part takes a little trial and error. Be patient! Arrange, take a photo, rearrange, repeat! Sometimes a quick snap of two different options can easily guide your eye to what looks best. I have found comparing my options side by side in my photo stream helps me easily see what is working and what is not.

When the height of an item seems short, place 2-3 vintage books underneath to elevate it. You can turn them page side out for a uniform look or turn them around if the color of the book spine works with your decor. You can also turn them vertical if you’re in need of height.  Then use book end or a heavier decor piece to hold the books upright. 

Know your style 

It’s important to stay true to what feels right to you. Start collecting images on Pinterest, or saving posts on Instagram from your favorite designers. Use them as a guide to help you. Note decor that you like in those images and make a list. Buy only what you love and stick to your list. Don’t just buy what is convenient or trendy. This is a common mistake I’ve made myself. Those hasty, impulse items actually end up becoming more like road blocks in your design plan. So just avoid them and stay the course even if it takes a little longer to achieve your desired look. 

It’s important to think through these concepts when decorating any space in your home. Not just shelves! When you consider one or all of them, you will be able to execute your vision for a space easier and are more likely to be pleased with your end result. 

Our homes are where we tend to spend most of our times. Our decor should make us feel something special. Using vintage and antique goods gives a collected, layered look and really makes a home feel more inviting and soulful. I hope these concepts will be beneficial to you, happy shelf styling! 

Truly romantique

Antique bust statues cracked and cream color

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