How to style a

nursery shelf

Nursery shelf for a toddler
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It's a wonderful time to think about refreshing and restyling your home. Interior styling can sometimes feel daunting but starting off with a shelf is a perfect way to build your confidence. Not only is a styled nursery shelf pleasing to the eye but it’s so lovely to display any special items, heirlooms or pretty objects. 

Shelves can be refreshed seasonally so let’s kick off Spring and shed those winter blues. Follow each of the steps below and you’ll have a styled nursery shelf in no time. 

Clean and Clear

The first thing you’ll need to do is clear everything off the shelf you’re going to style and give it a good dust and a clean - very satisfying. Once that’s done you’ll be able to start styling with a clean canvas. 

Begin to collect any special or aesthetically pleasing items you might want to display. Perhaps your baby’s room has a theme or colour pallet you could reflect on the shelf? Books, baby booties, prints, bunting, special toys, vintage items and decorative objects are all good to use in styling. 

Build a Base

Start with larger items such as special books you would like to display with the cover facing out and larger prints. You will place these items towards the back of your shelf to create a base. This will break up the wall colour behind the shelf and create more height and interest. You will then be building on your base with smaller objects.

Nursery image base items
Start with a Base
Nursery shelf with more objects added
Add in your objects

Add in your Objects

Instead of thinking of your shelf or shelving unit as a whole, break it down into smaller areas, this will stop you feeling overwhelmed. Group items together to create little vignettes. Maybe a stack of small books with a special wooden toy on the top, or perhaps a postcard next to a special heirloom soft toy or baby booties. 

If you have shaker hooks like me you can also think about hanging decorations or clothes, this will give you even more styling options. I like to keep my daughter’s old linen romper from when she was little hanging here. 

Think about Texture

Soft toys, books, dried flowers, wooden toys, all have different textures which keep things from looking flat. It’s important to have a range of objects that have different textures, this is especially important if you are planning on having a monochromatic scheme - which means the majority of your items will be a similar colour. If every single item is made from the same material your shelf may look flat and boring.

Think about Balance and Odd Numbers

A really good styling tips to keep in mind if you are a beginner is to style groups of objects in odd numbers. Odd numbers appear in nature, most flowers have an odd number of petals and it's something that apparently humans really love aesthetically. So let’s say you have a stack of two small Beatrix Potter books, you could add a small rattle on the top of them which would equal three objects in that group.

Something else I see a lot of people get wrong is balance, it can be really tricky to create a balanced scheme, if in doubt take a step back and see if your shelf looks well balanced. Is there a nice variety of heights, textures, and colours going on or are things looking a bit dull or a bit wonky? It takes time, but the more you style the more you can train your eye to recognise little mistakes. 

Nursery shelf texture example
Adding texture
Nursery shelf
Finished nursery shelf

Change things Seasonally

I really love to refresh things in my home seasonally. Now, I'm not talking about decorating your home just like you do at Christmas but bringing in small touches to nod to the season you're currently in is a really nice way to connect with nature, and it also adds more interest back into your space during the year.  So as an example, in autumn I like to bring in more rust and warm tones into my daughter’s room. In the spring I may go out with her and pick some cherry blossom stems to put in a small vase to decorate her shelves. Thinking about these small seasonal changes really make a difference and stop your styling looking stale during the year.

I really hope you’ll enjoying following these steps, I’m sure you’ll have some beautifully styled shelves in no time. Happy styling.

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About the Author

Nancy Straughan a is stylist, and interior photographer in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lives with her husband and daughter. Follow Nancy and her gorgeous photography at @nancy_straughan.