Artful Projects


How to decorate a shelf that speaks you more than anything else? Your home is an illustration of yourself. Above anything else, you want to enjoy that image of YOU. I want to inspire you to think about how to decorate a shelf that can be inspirational for you.

Let me motivate you to be more mindful and to breathe in the personal, even to the things that might seem relatively simple.  Yes, I know, arranging things on a shelf is not an exact science! But, oh, it can be so much fun if you treat it as a canvas for expressing what’s intimately yours.

What do I mean by a shelf with a personal touch?

Imagine it as a signature of your personality, desires, dreams and a few things you are head over the heels in love with. You put things on it that speak YOU, like your favorite books, or a photo that is a loving memory, or just something that is in a color you like.

Why would you want to decorate a shelf with a personal touch?

This tiny little project can have a huge impact on your daily life. It will steal a moment or two and make you smile or make you think about things deeply. You will feel it nudging you on the shoulder and saying: Look! You loooove this, you can doooo this!

At that short mindful moment (only for a glimpse of an eye), you will remember the parts of yourself you love, and it will feel good. You will get inspiration from that shelf every single day.

How to decorate a shelf with a personal touch?

I will give you an example of how I designed my personal shelf, and offer tips on how to do it for yourself, what to think about, where to start, what to include and how to arrange items on it.

The picture below shows my personal shelf. It is in my living room right above the sofa, across the window. I think I was obsessing my boyfriend (I was a true nagger) for days until he took some tools and hung the shelf right where I wanted it. I enjoyed decorating it and I have loved it ever since!

An example of how to decorate a shelf with a personal touch. A shelf with books, plats, drawings and a candle.

Where to put the shelf?

If you don’t have a shelf set up yet, think about the place for it by considering these things:

Where do you spend most of your time in your home? Put it there. I have mine in the living room because that’s where I hang out the most.

You want it to be easily visible, so don’t hang it too high, let it be at your eye level or just slightly higher. If you have a cabinet with bookshelves instead, and you don’t want to hang anything on walls (especially if you’re in a rental), just choose a shelf in it that’s high enough so you have no trouble seeing it.

Also, make it easily accessible for rearranging (you will do this more than you think, and that’s some extra fun!) and cleaning.

Finally, think about the light. If you want to put plants there, consider how much light they need. Some plants want all the light they can get, but some can truly shine in a shadow.

What size to choose?

Size shouldn’t be a priority, but if in doubt, you can consider some of these:

Look at the place you have decided to put it. How much space do you have available in that place?

If you have a lot of room available and can choose any size, don’t go too big or too small. What do I mean by that? Well, if you make it a long and big one, you might lose its purpose and clutter it.

On the other hand, choosing a tiny shelf will end in not having enough space for that one thing you love so much. But again, it’s up to you and your preferences. There are no rules. It’s not about following a trend, it’s about you.

Oh, and now comes the fun part!!

How to decorate the shelf with personal items?

This is the process I enjoy every single time. It fills me with giggles. So, let the fun begin. Below are my suggestions on what to think about when choosing things for this shelf.

# Books

three books

How can a shelf be without any books? Books are inspirational, educational, and besides that, they can be beautiful just to look at. I’m sure you have your favorite books, whether they are novels, art books or dictionaries.

Go over your collection and choose one or more of these:

  • a book which inspires you (an art book or a book on spirituality), the one you always come back to.
  • a book that maybe once changed how you felt
  • the one you think looks so pretty that it’s a visual pleasure, maybe with an interesting spine (if colors and design inspire you in some way). Apart from loving Shakespeare ever since university days, I am in love with the covers and the spine. That’s why it has a special place on the shelf.
  • a book you would like to learn something from

It turns out that somehow all the books I’ve chosen for my shelf have the same color coordination. See if that happens to you too. They don’t have to coordinate, of course, but it’s a fun fact that they did.

# An illustration or a photo

a personal shelf with a plant and a photo

It can be anything. What’s important is that it means something to you. What does that illustration represent to you? What emotions do you want it to evoke? It can be anything that speaks to you.

For example, I put an image of a vintage camera (in the picture above), because I’m a photographer and that photo is something that reminds me of a thing I have always enjoyed, a thing that was my entrance to the world of art.

# An inspirational quote

a shelf decorated with a quote

Words are powerful. If you choose a quote that you want to read every day, frame it and put in on the shelf. It will inspire you each time you look at it. And it’s going to inspire your guests, too.

Think about what you wish to see all the time, to feel motivated, or be reminded of something precious. I’m sure you already have some of your favorite quotes.

Even better, you could make your own simple printable of it, with a nice font, or you can search the Internet for inspiration. Pinterest is always bursting with ideas, so check it out.

# Color it green!

Always go with plants. They breathe air and freshness in your home. Plants make you feel connected to nature. And there are so many beautiful ones out there.

Before choosing a plant, consider where your shelf is, because of the light. I mentioned this a few rows back. When I knew nothing about plants, I would just put one by the window because I believed all plants liked the sun. I couldn’t be more wrong.

Some plants are delicate, so you should be careful if you want your plant to live happily ever after with you.

# A personal object


What is that one thing you are always careful not to break or misplace, and always so proudly want to show it off? What item has a special emotional value to you?

For me, it is a wooden ballerina. I am a former dancer, and although I danced mostly for fun, not professionally, dancing has been an essential part of my life. And what’s even better, I got this ballerina from my mum, she bought it in Cuba for me.

We all have such a thing we cherish. So include yours onto the shelf.

# Decorate a shelf with a piece of your art!

a drawing of a girl on a shelf

I know you have made something you love. Whether it’s a drawing, a small painting, a photo, an illustration, a bowl, an ornament. No matter what it is, display your favorite work on the shelf. Give yourself credit with it, and let it inspire you to continue creating art.

I have an A4 size picture frame and I usually put my drawing or painting in it. I see it as my artistic accomplishment, as a trophy I want to display and enjoy.

How to arrange the items?

It is important to make the items visible or mostly visible. Layering is a great way to give dimension to a shelf and make it interesting to the eye.

What this means is that you don’t want to put all the things leaning against the wall. Layer your flat-ish items first, in the back, and then play with the space in the front. This way, all of the items will be visible.

When arranging items on a shelf, try to break a monotonous line. If your frames are all the same size, break them by putting something in between. If they vary in height, avoid ordering them by size. You want your shelf to be visually balanced and attract your eye and attention.

Put the books first, lay some horizontally and a few vertically. This is to visually break the monotony.

Then include the photo, illustration, and the quote. They are flat and taller than other items, so lean them against the wall. Visually, they look better in the back.

Now, put the plant on either left or right, but not all the way on the sides. When we put things off center, we visually create more balance.

Finally, include your personal object and your art. Depending on their size, experiment on how they fit next to other items. If these are not tall enough to stand out, why not putting them on a book or two? I put my ballerina on a set of books, and for me, it looks fabulous.

Final tips and thoughts!

This is not science, it’s something you enjoy doing while making it personal. Just do what feels right to you because you will be seeing it every day. Besides these suggestions, you can include anything that you think fits: small objects or more books, you can’t make a mistake.

Think odd numbers! I suppose that sometime long ago, someone probably realized how magical odd numbers were. They have been present in art throughout our entire history. Also, our eyes like odd numbers, too.

If you look at the photo of my shelf again, notice how I put three big frames, one small frame, one plant, three horizontal books, one vertical, one piece of my art and one personal object. All odd numbers.

I also added a final touch with a few things because I like their design. There is a cute little cotton cactus, a wooden candle holder and a light board where I can write anything I feel.

You can decorate a shelf by a modern trend, maybe go retro or vintage, any style does it. BUT, if you put your personal items on it, items that are meaningful to you, you hit a spot! It then becomes a place that you pour your personality into.

By looking at it, you can get inspiration instantly! And even more, you make a house a home. Isn’t that what we all crave for?


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