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How to Style Built-In Shelves Like a Pro

Styling your built-ins doesn’t have to be stressful, read on to get my formula to easily style your built-in shelves like a pro!

styled ladder built-in book shelves

Style Your Built-In Shelves Like a Boss

When we built our room addition I wanted white enclosed built-ins.  We have them in the office and I wanted to move those into the new addition.  

My husband wasn’t thrilled with the idea.  He would have come around if I had a pushed, but I started looking for alternatives instead.

I finally decided on ladder shelves with drawers at the bottom.  We spent an entire Sunday putting all four of them together.  They are a perfect compromise for built-ins, they add extra storage, and they make the tv wall quite a focal point!  

They came in white and wood tone and as much as I would have loved the white I knew they would have been a cleaning nightmare so I ended up getting them in the wood tone.

I love how the grey of the wall shows through. It would have been a shame to cover up all of that hard work I did painting.

Instead of using the handles that came with them, I used some vintage drawer pulls I had picked up on one of my junking adventures.  Then came the fun part…styling my new built-ins!

Do you struggle with styling your built-ins?  Well, I am here to help you with the easy process I use when styling mine…it really is quite easy!!

How to Style Your Built-in Shelves

Start with a clean slate

Any time I restyle these built-ins, I start with a clean slate.  I take everything off, dust them, and gather the items I want to put on them.  There are a couple of things that stay put no matter what.  Our video camera monitor and the Alexa.

set of 4 ladder style built ins with a tv in the middle

Keep it simple and fitting with your lifestyle

Then of course I add in some books.  I used to sprinkle them on every shelf, but I decided I like them all on the bottom shelves. It makes them easier to dust and if I want to read one, I can find it easier. Simple is better for our lifestyle. It is important to design your space to fit your lifestyle.

ladder bookcases with books on the bottom shelves

Choose things that you love when you style built in shelves

When deciding what to display, I choose things that I love and for the most part I use the “less is more” rule. Each item has meaning and they don’t all necessarily go together, but that’s part of the eclectic style.

Display items in odd numbered sets

You may choose to stick to a theme of items and if you do make sure to display them in odd numbered sets, this make it easier to stagger them in your vignettes.  I really have no theme, but I still display my items in odd numbered sets.

ladder bookcase styled with items

Balance your vignettes

Balancing your vignettes on each shelf, as well as the entire built-in as a unit, makes it easy for the eye to take it all in. I work in opposites to achieve balance, mirroring my items on opposite shelves in size and placement.  

styling built ins with 4 ladder shelves with tv in between

That is really all there is to styling your built-ins like a boss!

  • Start with a clean slate
  • Choose things you love
  • Display in odd numbered sets
  • Balance your vignettes to make them pleasing to they eye
  • Keep it simple and make it work for your lifestyle

Now go style your built-ins like a boss and let me know how it turns out!!

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37 Comments

  1. I need all the styling tips please! I love your ladder shelves and they are truly the perfect compromise to built in.

    I will be sure to pin this for later!

    1. Thank you for reading Lisa!! I hope my tips help you!! Feel free to ask questions if you have them 🙂

  2. I love these styling tips. I’m a minimalist and my apartment needs some love in the styling area! I enjoyed this, looking forward to more from you!

  3. I’m loving the idea of built ins! We are currently in the process of styling our new apartment and these would look great. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Lovely I really like your tips and love the ladders!

  5. They look AWESOME! My husband is an industrial designer turned furniture maker. We’re currently styling up some of his creations for his online gallery – definitely using this post for inspiration. I feel like our style is a little more nomad/boho minimal (totally made up) with lots of natural fibres etc

  6. I am tedoing my study this weekend. These are great tips.

  7. This post is timely for me. I have 10 shelves I ‘m getting ready to paint that will go on either side of our TV. The brackets are on the wall and I’m only waiting for my paint sprayer to arrive so I can get them painted. I know I’ll need some styling tips once I’m ready to accessorize so I’m pinning this post.

    I too love farmhouse but don’t necessarily use it in my home, but I love industrial and have started incorporating a few things here and there. That just means we have eclectic taste, we can love what we don’t have in our own home.

    Thanks for linking up to Waste Not Wednesday!

  8. I love how you have used the ladders!!! That way you get to see all of your awesome goodies that you have collected and change out when you want to change things around!! Love all of your tips too!

    Thank you so much for sharing over at Waste Not Wednesday! Looking forward to seeing what cleverness you share with us this week!!! 🙂

  9. Nice job with both the shelving and the styling. I’m never sure I am styling shelving correctly so thanks so much for the tips!!

  10. These are some great tips on styling built ins! Awesome idea to use the ladder shelves, and of course you have styled them so beautifully. Thanks for the tips and inspiration!

    1. Thank you Keri!! I am really glad I looked for an alternative to closed in bookcases, we love them 🙂

  11. I have never seen ladder shelves with drawers! How cool is that?! Your styling tips are even cooler. I can’t wait to start designing my shelf decor.

  12. I love these bookshelves. They seriously look amazing. You did a great job styling them and putting everything together.

  13. These bookshelves are adorable! Honestly, I didn’t realize they were built-ins. I love them and your styling looks great!

  14. I love these! Thank you for laying out the design choices you made and why. It really helps.

  15. Those ladder shelves are amazing!! Great infomration, as always!!! You knocked it out of the park with this post!!!

    1. Thanks friend!! The shelves were a great compromise with what I wanted and what the hubby didn’t, lol!

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