6 colour block shelf styling tips

A mint green coloured shelf unit displaying books, curios and other objects in colour blocks.

Since arranging the pastels shelfie that you all seemed to love so much, it’s remained intact on my mint green String Pocket unit, like an altar to unsaturated gloriousness.

Tonight, i got a major shelfie bee in my bonnet and decided it was time to mix it up with some brights, like the red Spiderman that second-in-command won on Brighton Pier by feeding the 2p machine (that figure cost us a king’s ransom, I’ll have you know).

How to create a colour block shelfie

1. Choose your colour scheme

This can be anything, from two colours, three colours or more – all the colours, in fact.

If I’m working with several shelves, like this one, I take one object in each colour and place it on the shelves as ‘indicators’ of where the colour will be.

You can change your mind but I find this is a good way to get started so that you don’t get ‘shelfier’s block’.

2. Hunt around for colourful accessories

When I do shelfies, I don’t just put vases, books and plants on them.

I look for anything that’s the right colour, even if it isn’t a conventional thing to have on a shelf (such as this Spiderman figure in the perfect red).

Leave no room uninspected, whether it’s the kitchen, bathroom or your kids’ rooms.

3. Add in colourful books

These can be vintage or they can be modern – and a mixture of the two can be a captivating blend of old and new.

Top tip: if you have any hardback books, peel back the dust sheet to see if there’s colour underneath. One of my greatest finds was a gorgeous bubblegum pink cover I found under the dust sleeve of Miranda Hart’s autobiography. Joy!

4. Painted jam jars as a shelfie feature

I spent years trying – and failing – to find vases or plant pots in the colours I wanted, until I realised I could just paint them myself (and create sustainable homewares in the process).

Several of my favourite shelfies incorporate painted jam jars, which I feel gives the displays a real sense of cohesion – combined with books and stationery, you’ve a really simple but effective colour block shelf display.

Painted jam jars, stationery and vintage books form the basis of this colour block shelfie display
Use painted jam jars, stationery to create a simple but effective colour block shelfie display.

5.Start layering colour from the back

Once you’ve decided what colour is going where, put larger objects at the back so they don’t dominate the shelfie but give a strong background for smaller objects to work with.

Create demarcation with books placed vertically, and add height by using them horizontally.

6. Put smaller objects in front

You can use whatever you want, but cotton reels, nuggets of semiprecious stones, vintage thimbles and other curios give that ‘Victorian collector’ eclectic feel to shelf displays.

In fact, the quirkier the better. One of my favourite things to do is find objects that are so diminutive that it’s only by people getting close up or zooming in that they actually see them (I call it objects ‘hiding in plain sight’).


I’d love to see your colour block shelfies – tag me in on my Instagram account.

Martha, The Colour File x

Leave a Reply