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How to Style Open Shelves: 5 Tips for an Uncluttered Look

Open shelving is making a big comeback in interior design. This decor feature creates the illusion of more space, making it the perfect strategy to add depth to smaller rooms. However, it also means more of your belongings on display and the inability to hide clutter behind closed cabinet doors.

The key to rocking open shelves is intentional styling. Here are some practical tips for styling open shelves for an uncluttered look.

Use Living Plants

Living plants are one of the best ways to breathe life into a room, literally and figuratively. You can use living plants in open shelving to punctuate breaks in decor themes and to disrupt the flow in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Succulents are a great option for open shelving decor, either in small, coordinated pots or bright, reflective terrariums. The benefit of succulent care is that there are many low-maintenance options. Most succulents perform well with bright light and minimal watering, making them ideal for a living room or kitchen shelf. High shelves are also ideal for pet owners who love displaying flowers but don’t want to put their animals at risk.

Vining plants are another fun option for shelving. Plants like English Ivy do well with minimal light and grow even in the harshest of environments. As the vines grow and interact with your shelving, you’ll have an ever-changing decor element that looks amazing. 

Add Functional Storage

As shelves are meant to act as prime real estate for storage, incorporating functional storage hidden in plain sight is a great way to add style and purpose. Get creative and channel your inner Mari Kondo by adding nice boxes containing wires, batteries, remotes, etc. Add a few covered baskets to hold extra blankets or toys while adding to the decor.

Your organizational skills will also come in handy when finding that balance between storage and style. If you stack things, always place the heavier, larger pieces on the bottom. In the kitchen, leave open shelving for the things that get used often and store lesser-used dishes and appliances away. Adding containers and smaller ledges within the shelving can help you stay organized while creating depth in your decor.

Change Your Stacking Style and Direction

Think outside the box when styling your shelves. No design rule dictates how books should be lined up or that dishes should be stacked in matching piles. Change directions and stacking styles to create more dimension on your shelves for an artfully arranged display that stands out in an aesthetically appealing manner.

Break the shelving down into halves and quarters, planning your styling in smaller boxes. For example, you might line books up starting from each side of a shelf and filling the outside quarters. Then, you could place bookends to stop the books, using the center space to display art, a plant, or a horizontal stack of your favorite reads. 

The same theory applies to displaying dishes. You can have a few eye-catching plates standing with their back against the shelves and the complementary bowls stacked in front. The key is to make it intentional and well-planned as not to look cluttered.

Add Bold Accents

Bust through the monotony with some bold accent pieces displayed prominently on your shelves. These could range from colorful pots for your succulents to upcycled thrift store trinkets. Play around with different elements, like fairy lights, to create a dynamic space.

Another great way to turn your open shelves into a work of art is to paint or wallpaper the interior. Take an ultra-modern approach by painting each interior shelf a bright color while leaving the outer edges untouched. Alternatively, wallpaper the back panel of the shelf for a subtle pop of color that ties into your overarching decor scheme.

Create a Cleaning Routine

Finally, create a simple cleaning and decluttering routine to keep your styled shelves looking great. Create boundaries and rules for putting things on the shelves. Flat surfaces tend to attract keys, wallets, pieces of mail, and other tidbits from our daily lives. Ensure there’s a space for these belongings so that your styled shelves don’t become a catch-all.

Set aside time each week to wipe down and dust your styled shelves to keep everything looking fresh and vibrant. 

With these five tips, you can create a stunning display of your open concept shelving. Find your balance between design and functionality, and use your shelves as a creative outlet.

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