Design & Style Tips: Open Shelves

There are two purposes an open shelf serves: function and focal. Functional items are those that you need: books, baskets, clocks. Focal items are ones that bring beauty to the space: frames, sculptures, plants. A few simple adjustments with decor can really elevate a space, so we gathered our five favourite style tips, plus a bonus one, for some inspiration and guidance to you this spring!

1. Less is More
Don’t be afraid of empty space! Your shelves don’t have to be filled from end to end. In fact, we recommend keeping items away from the sides and creating floating “islands” on your shelf with items. One, two, or three islands depending on the width of your shelf, separated by space between each one. Keep spacing between functional baskets and bins as well to look nice and be easier to pull out.

2. The Magic Number
Our eyes find certain numbers pleasing, the number 3 being one of them. Use a 1:2 ratio when styling your shelf, taking up two thirds of the space with items and one empty. You can divide the shelf up equally in three parts and fill two parts on one side only. Or divide it up into three parts and place two items on the imaginary “lines” of those divisions, leaving a space in between them and the outer edges. The Rule of 3’s also can play a part in the amount of items. Grouping three items together, creating an “island” on your shelf can rarely go wrong. Five items work as well, our minds like odd numbers. Just make sure to use the next tip when you do this —

3. Layering
You want to add layers when you create these clusters, or islands. Include different heights: a short candle with a medium-sized vase, and a tall leaning piece of art behind it all. Add books to short pieces, add small items near a tall item. Alternate the orientation of books, have some vertical with bookends on either side (remember, we aren’t leaning against the ends of the shelf) and others horizontally layered. You want to connect the shelf items together as steps, and create visual interest.

4. Colour
Consistency, consistency, consistency. Pick a few colors you like, that also work with the rest of the room. Our magic number of three is always a good start, but five can also work nicely. Now try to keep all the items as close to those three colours as possible – different shades and tones are fine as long as they balance out. If you like black and white, maybe add blue for some colour. Add some brass and greenery for five colours that harmoniously balance out while creating an impact.

5. More Life
The greenery is important, not simply for colour, but for happiness as well. Plants are proven to brighten our moods, so utilize them to your advantage. Without overwhelming the space, of course, balance is still key. Add a few green plants on different shelves – more than one to bring greenery throughout the space. Make sure to look out for their sunlight and water needs so they thrive on that shelf. High-quality false plants are also an option if real ones don’t last there, but we love to bring real plants into the mix.

Ever have a gathering where the conversation drops? Bring in conversational pieces to your shelves in those entertainment spaces. Living areas, dining rooms, kitchens. Add elements to your shelves that show a passion or interest of yours: vintage cameras, historic books, an original piece by a local artist you love. Display a favourite purse or an autographed football. Your shelves should be a reflection of your personality, so have fun with styling them!

We’d love to see your decorated spaces, tag us in your shelf styling pictures and more on Instagram @brejnikfinehomes

Brejnik Fine Homes

Suite 216 - 980 Fraser Drive
Burlington, ON L7L 5P5