Before + After :: Shelves That Pop

#PleaseMakeThisPrettY: A D.I.Y. Guide for Styling Shelves

Design doesn’t have to be complicated — often just choosing a small area to re-style will give your home a new, fresh feel! In our #PleaseMakeThisPretty blog series, I’ll give DIY tips that you can use to enhance your own styling + decor!

I often work with clients on small styling projects, but recently a family friend, Tara, had reached out to me asking for some DIY tips…

Living in a downtown apartment, I want to bring the feeling of natural outdoors inside into my everyday living. My apartment has built-in shelves at our entryway, and without having much inspiration for what to put on them, I basically clogged them with family photos.

It's almost overwhelming for guests as they walk in!

So Heather, I challenge you! Can you give me some tips on how to create a welcoming vibe on these shelves? Please make this pretty!

I wanted to share with y’all how we worked together to make these shelves pop, and give some tips to update your own shelves at home. K, let’s get started!

First, here are some before pics of the photo-heavy shelves that Tara sent!


So to get started, we hopped on the phone and I laid out some strategies and golden rules to consider.

#1. Design Inspiration:

You can get started by creating a vision board, which is essentially a collection of images of items that you are drawn to for the project. You can create one or more, and then narrow down the look & feel you want to achieve.

For some people, doing this is a bit more preparation than desirable. If this is the case, I recommend picking two or three pieces that you know for sure you want to feature and build around that!

For our project, Tara chose featured products that reminded her of the outdoors: green plants and a woven textured concrete basket. She also wanted to feature a book that she snagged at the Design Roots shop called “House Plants” to show off her new love of gardening!

#2. Getting Started:

I find that the best way to get started is clear everything away from the area and start with a blank canvas. Then introduce your featured items and work around those!

#3. Consider the Golden Rules:

Less is More

Remember as you’re going along, not every inch needs to be covered!

Add Texture

Make sure that everything is not flat. Varying your textures will give your project life.

When you’re trying to bring a natural outdoor feeling inside — like the goal for this project — then natural textures like baskets, rope and other woven items work best — look for anything with natural fibers including greenery (even if it’s fake)!

Seek Balance

If you’re new to the game, having symmetry is the easiest way to have balance. If you are varying your focal objects, then seek balance — not every shelf needs a center feature. If it’s heavy on one side on one shelf, then on the next shelf, make the opposite side heavier.

#4. Assess the Situation:

Once you’ve laid out your items, stand back! Getting a fresh perspective and looking at the large scene will allow you to see if you were able to achieve the tips above.

#5. (Bonus Tip):

For this project, considering that the shelves are in the entryway of the home, I felt it was important to consider the whole experience when walking into a home. Since this DIY designer was looking to introduce the outdoor vibe inside, I recommended that any candles, incense or wall plug-ins match the “natural” vibe of the project. So in this case, I recommended an outdoorsy scent like lavender + eucalyptus, and to stay away from “sugar cookie” or other scents don’t align as well.

Here is the final project once Tara ran with the tips above!


I hope these DIY tips help y’all with your own styling projects! If you need any help, don’t be afraid to reach out on Instagram and tag @DesignRoots with hashtag #PleaseMakeThisPretty, and I can work with you on ideas for your project!


Heather xo