How To Style Bookshelves, Mantels & More: 6 Quick Tips

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Natalie Grasso)

When it comes to making a house a home, bookshelves, mantels, and other surfaces provide the perfect opportunity to express your taste, surround yourself with the things you love, and share them with visitors. Here are some quick tips for creating little vignettes without them looking clutter-y.

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1. Matching sets of books, pairs of items, and a muted and cohesive color palette keep the bookshelf styling in Eileen’s Bright & Airy Townhouse serene and undistracting.

2. When placing items on tables, dressers, or other such surfaces, use trays or baskets to corral like items and give your space a an orderly, put-together appearance. From Cheap, Yet Chic: 8 Living Room Ideas for Little to No Money.

3. Don’t be too fussy. Place books in various configurations, leave some empty space, and add some different kinds of pieces too, as this bookshelf from fiftififti does so well.

4. Place like with like and place items facing in the same direction (see the mugs), to create visual symmetry, as in this coffee cart from A Beautiful Mess.

5. Don’t feel like you have to fill up the space. This minimalist mantel vignette from Dabito’s Modern Meets Classic Mix achieves intimacy by virtue of being small. Placing the items slightly off-center ensures that the arrangement looks deliberately placed rather than half-done.

6. In this mantel arrangement from Design Sponge, bookending an eclectic collection with symmetrical pieces (in this case vases with flowers) keeps everything looking ship-shape.