Tag Archives: styling shelves

Style Lesson : How to Style Shelves


As a stylist, part of my job is to walk into a location and make some sense of the accessories on the shelves of the homeowner. If you’re interested in a career in Interior Styling, then this lesson will be of interest to you.

First things first: When I’m hired by an editorial publication I am sent a shot list and snap shots of the location that I’ll be styling. It works the same with every editor, every magazine.

The editor will give me their suggestions of coloration, and even decorating style, then it’s my responsibility as the stylist to bring it all together. In other words the styling of shelves is a combination of what a homeowner owns and props that I bring. That’s the big secret. Even when an interior designer styles their own location they usually beef up the props for the camera.

A big tip is to edit edit edit. As you have learned from previous lessons, less is more in the eye of the camera. Think about the composition as a whole (see composition styling lesson here).

Here are a few examples to help you visualize the shelf styling lesson:


Shelf Units: this homeowner had some great pieces. I brought all of the white pieces to anchor the shelf presentation. Hanging a piece of artwork directly on the shelves adds a nice layering effect. The pops of color in this case are yellow and red. Look at the shelving units in the totality of the space. The eye should glide over the shelves not dart from piece to piece.


Built ins: In this shelf scenario we wanted to feature the beautiful photos of the family. Notice the photos are all black and white framed in black frames. I only used a few accessories to keep the eyes on the photos. I wound up with a very slick modern and zen result. Sometimes styling should be pared down and quiet.


Low Shelves: Kitchen shelves are always a challenge when I go on location, especially lower shelves like these. I brought the baskets, cookbook, bowls, vintage salt and pepper shakers and the homeowner had the pitcher. When I arrived to this gorgeous kitchen, the homeowner had books just thrown on the shelves. I cleaned them up for the camera and broke up the composition with pops of bright books and decorative picnic baskets. Again very little usually does the trick, edit edit edit!


High Shelves: This sweet kitchen had very high shelves. If the shelves were not styled with bold color and important pieces, they would simply “fly away” and not act as a anchor for the room. I put the heavier piece on the bottom to literally weigh it down. I brought everything but the cake stand and pink box. In this case the homeowner had no idea how to make these shelves proportional to the kitchen.

* One quick and fun thing from the Kitchen Styling Lesson #03, can you spot the magic triangle in these photos? Fun right. Now you’re thinking like a photo stylist.

Hope this lesson has helped you, please feel free to ask me any questions. Good luck styling up shelves. xx

Photo 1: Lauren Rubinstein

Photos 2&3: Rob Brinson

Photo 4: Edmund Barr

Photo 5: Emily Followill

Styling by: Me

All images from Meredith Publications

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