Beautiful shelf arrangements need planning and effort. Otherwise, they may become congested and unappealing to the eye. On the other hand, a well-designed shelf adds life to a space while also being a great conversation starter.

Arrange your shelves in visually interesting ways. You can do this with different sized objects, different color patterns, and different levels of clutter.

Arranging a shelf display can feel like a daunting task. But when you learn the tricks of the trade, the outcome is an esthetically appealing display that reveals personality and style.

Clear the Shelf Completely to Prepare a Fresh Start for the Display

When arranging an attractive shelf display, the first guideline is to have an unoccupied shelf.

When you open your shelves, you create mental flexibility by removing old ideas and attachments to the shelf’s existing arrangement. This prepares you to reimagine the possibilities and allows you to incorporate new ideas for shelf design.

Moreover, it allows you to think about what items would complement each other the best.

Starting with an unoccupied shelf allows you to create a truly unique and beautiful display.

Choose a Color Scheme for Your Shelving Arrangement

Selecting a color scheme for your shelf design will help you plan the layout and add intriguing focal points.

Consider the colors in the room with the shelf when selecting a color for your shelving. Hues that complement each other can make your shelves more aesthetically pleasing.

Color Scheme Options and Rules

Color schemes really make or break a space! Keep these things in mind:

  • Using one color for a monochromatic theme is a signature design element for many well-arranged shelf designs.
  • Be careful not to use more than three colors.
  • Use a color wheel to determine which colors complement each other best.
  • Use colors as a guide when choosing items for your shelving arrangement.

With these tips, your space will stay looking very sharp!

Arrange Small Decorative Items Next to Larger Times to Balance Height and Weight

Incorporate large pieces into your design to balance and anchor smaller items, preventing them from seeming scattered or incomplete.

If you have a lot of small items that you want to display on your shelf, try grouping them to create visual interest. Arranging them by color, theme, or material can help to create a visually appealing display that is still cohesive.

How to Use the Triangle Rule

A balanced shelf design will consist of elements that vary in height, weight, and width. The items should be grouped using the triangle rule.

The triangle rule is when the object on the display shelf forms lines that create a triangular pattern. This helps the eye naturally wander around the shelf, taking in all the displayed items.

The goal is to design a shelf display that looks natural but intentionally planned.

Add Art to Shelf Arrangements to Create Interest

Adding art is an opportunity to bring in pops of color and break up the elements. You can add paintings, sculptures, or even pottery.

  • Paintings. Paintings and other flat art pieces can lean on the back of the shelf to create layers and dimensions. Adding layers to a shelf is key to creating an exciting and inviting display.
  • Sculptures and Pottery. If you have several small sculptures, consider grouping them to create a cohesive display. Pottery can also add color and interest to a shelf display. Vases, bowls, and other vessels can be filled with fresh or dried flowers or left empty.

When selecting art for your shelf display, consider the overall aesthetic you are trying to achieve. Then, choose pieces that complement the space’s other elements and reflect your taste.

Keep Some Open Space on The Shelf to Avoid a Cluttered Appearance

Interior designers use negative space as a primary consideration for creating all types of designs, including shelf designs. A shelf arrangement with too many elements will look cluttered.

When arranging a shelf, negative space indicates the area around open space surrounding the grouped or individual decorative items. 

If you break this rule, your shelving will become cluttered and unorganized. Often, people are undecided about what to do with certain items or are too attached to certain pieces, so they put too many things on one shelf.

Refresh Shelves to Display Different Items

Keep in mind that an arranged shelf is not permanent.

  • Take advantage of the opportunity to refresh your shelf arrangement regularly.
  • Take turns displaying your favorite things without feeling like you must show them all simultaneously.

You can refresh your shelves yearly, monthly, or seasonally! Some people find it very therapeutic to periodically spicy up their spaces.

Keep the Number of Family Photographs to a Minimum

Although showcasing many family photographs on your shelves may be tempting, doing so will take away from the overall shelving design. To make the shelving design stand out, keep the number of family photographs to a minimum.

Try hanging a family photo collage on the wall or displaying them in a photo album. This way, you can still enjoy the memories without taking away from the overall design of the shelving.


Arranging your shelves doesn’t have to be complicated. With these tips, you can create a beautiful arrangement that will catch everyone’s eye.