For some reason people commonly struggle with how to style a shelf and make it look natural and an organic collection. The key is actually collect personal items from travel or a particular memory- over time. If everything is purchased at once or at one store, it starts to feel artificial and not personal. The trick is a happy balance! I always tell clients I love "shopping" at a clients home. I get the advantage of seeing their items with fresh eyes, which helps reorganize and edit. Then we can determine if we need to sprinkle in a few new items- which is often the case for a refresh.
There are three things I keep in mind when I am working on a styling project:
Be sure to incorporate a mix of types of shapes. For example, be sure to include solid vases- NOT glass. Open or woven elements, medium and small shapes. Be sure that all the shapes are not the same thing- not all circle, square, etc. And I always include several good coffee table books. Leaning small picture frames are also a great way to bring in another element.
Make it look natural – but not messy. The goal is always asymmetry. Balance out the each side with colors and shapes not completely opposite, but try one shelf down. The hardest part for most people is to not make it symmetrical. Humans naturally wants things in order. It should look curated and thoughtful.
I always start with a couple grounding areas, such as I map out where my book vignettes will go in the overall composition. Then I start to work in the shapes- working quickly I try not to think too much and over analyze. You can do that later. Also this quick approach allows this first pass just the "setting" phase. After I have gotten about 50% of the selections up, I step back and see where I need to fill in the whole and what shapes I need.
Another tip, walk out of the room for 10 minutes and then come back. Letting your mind and eyes visually rest, allows you to see things fresh when you return to the room. This is when you can start to analyze what is working and where some items need to get moved. If you get to a standstill- just start over. Take everything off the shelves, and start fresh. If needed rinse and repeat.
Lastly, do not be afraid to edit the items that are not working, even though it was passed down from your Grandma or a memory from your first trip to Paris. If it doesn't work, find another special place for it. Clients often get too emotionally attached to an object that may just need a new place to live in the home.