How to Style Custom Shelves So They Don’t Look Cluttered

photo of two offset natural wood shelves on a white wood paneled wall, styled with books and plants

Follow These 5 Tips for Magazine-Worthy Home Decor

Most American homes have a similar furniture formula, and that tends to include some type of shelving. Wall-mounted wood shelves save floor space and add vertical storage or display space.

But with shelving, it’s so easy to end up with cluttered home decor, especially if you love collecting treasures.

Expert home decorators know the secret to eliminating clutter - and it isn’t not owning anything! Instead, using their tips and tricks, you can assemble shelf vignettes just like the ones you see in the magazines.

Keep a Theme Per Custom Shelf

It’s easy to run wild and overload your shelves with an array of treasured items. Unfortunately, a variety of items can overwhelm a space because your eyes are too busy taking everything in.

A simple trick for minimizing the appearance of clutter on your custom shelves is to group items by category or theme. For example, you could display a collection of midcentury swung glass vases on a single shelf. Even if these beauties took up the whole shelf, it would still look less cluttered than one with fewer vases, picture frames, seashells, and other knick-knacks.

Remove One Item From Each Floating Wall Shelf

When assembling a vignette of various items, include pieces of varying heights, shapes, and textures. This tactic creates visual interest and balance. But remember: it’s really easy to over-do it! To prevent the look of clutter, once you’ve finished your vignette, remove one item.

Regularly Dust Your Wood Shelves

Minimalist style in home decor is coveted, in part, because it’s easy to keep clean. Household dust in a minimalist home can easily be wiped away.

But if you’re more of a maximalist who likes to display their treasures - like most of us - it’s much harder to dust your custom shelves. And when they do get dusty, the build-up can make them look even more cluttered.

Dusting your shelves and everything on them on a regular schedule not only helps minimize household allergens, but it also can minimize the appearance of clutter. Set a reminder in your online calendar, if you need.

Use the Rule of Thirds When Decorating Your Farmhouse Shelves

There’s a rule of thirds in almost every form of artistic expression. The same goes for home decor.

The rule states that a surface - like a wood shelf - should be imagined as being divided into nine equal parts, via two parallel horizontal lines and two parallel vertical lines. Important elements of your home decor vignette should be placed along these lines or where they intersect.

If you imagine these lines, you’ll be able to arrange your collection of objets d’art in a way that looks like a pro took on the task. And vignettes created this way almost never add visual clutter because they’re so interesting and balanced.

Color-Code the Books on Your Shelving

If your home library is looking a little out-of-control, an easy way to tame the clutter is to display your books by spine color. We know - it doesn’t make it easy to find a certain genre or author - but life is too short to have messy wood shelves!

Start by pulling all your books off your shelves and sorting them into color categories. Then, decide the order you want to place the colors - the true rainbow color order, from darkest to lightest, or another way. Then, put your books back on your custom floating shelves. (Our J Thomas Home shelves can hold up to 45 pounds when properly installed, so they’re perfect for book collections!)

Some book lovers take their organization a step further by also lining up their color-coded books by height.

Get Bespoke Custom Floating Shelves from J Thomas Home

Skip the big box store and major online retailers, and opt for a small business that handcrafts every product, including our custom shelves!

Everything we sell is made-to-order by artisans in our Kansas City woodshop. They’re carefully packaged and shipped to your home with love, not with the help of a robotic arm and conveyor belts.

All you have to do is decide on your shelf design (traditional wood shelf, extra-thick shelf, or farmhouse shelf), and choose your wood species and finish color. We can even help you choose the stain that would look best with the existing woodwork in your home.

Shop for wood shelves on our website, making sure to indicate the size you want, and we’ll take care of the rest. Let us know if you have any questions, or if you’re looking for even further customization.

At J Thomas Home, we love helping our customers get the home decor look they’ve always wanted, with stylish and functional furnishings. 

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