How to Decorate Table Tops and Shelves

It’s good to be back with Over the Big Moon readers.  I hope everything’s going great for each of you!  Today I want to share different methods for decorating table tops and shelves because let’s face it, filling those flat surfaces with practical and pretty things can get tricky.

Here are some different ways you can approach each styling project to create lovely vignettes.

Divide and Conquer

Use this method for decorating coffee tables, side tables, and sofa tables.  

If you have a large surface to cover (and your piece of furniture is “floating” in the room) try dividing the surface into smaller sections.  You can achieve this by placing stacked books, trays, and large decorating accessories side by side.  Add more interest with different heights of smaller accessories on top.  

sofa table decor


Tell a Color Story

Great for bookshelves and built ins. 

A really fun way to display books is to color block them.  First, remove dust jackets from hardbound books, then divide into color categories. Use pretty baskets or bins to hold paperbacks that have seen better days.   Mix in pictures and decorating accessories but leave “breathing” room. 

built ins decorating


The Rule of Threes

When you are completely stuck with a bookcase.  

Try using the space in thirds.  1/3 books, 1/3 pictures, and 1/3 decorating objects.  Place each part (books, pictures, and decorating objects) in a zigzag pattern from top to bottom to keep the eye moving. 

easy bookcase decorating


Grid Layout

A cleaner, more modern approach to filling a bookcase with decor. 

Divide each shelf into 2-3 sections.  Place a large object (picture frame, plant, vase, basket, a pair candle holders) to define the shelf sections. This will give the appearance of a grid layout.  Add in a handful of smaller accessories for added layers and interest. 

bookcase styling


Monochromatic and Chic

Tell a story with one color. 

Use decorating objects in the same color for a fresh vignette.  Make sure to use accessories in various heights and widths.  

dresser vignette


Opposites Attract

Great for dark pieces of furniture. 

Don’t let dark accessories get lost on dark furniture.  When decorating a black or dark stained table top, use light accessories for an appealing contrast in color.  Follow the “divide and conquer” method for styling. 

bedside table desk decorating


Tall, Wide, and Sculptural

When in doubt with any tabletop or shelf decorating, try this no fail method.  

Group horizontal objects with vertical objects, and add in something sculptural. 

coffee table styling

Have fun playing with different arrangements.  If you are unsure of an outcome, leave it for a few days, and then see if it needs tweaking.  The more you start playing around with styling, the easier it becomes! 

For step by step styling tips with pictures, click HERE and HERE

Thanks so much for having me today! See you next month, 


Kathy | Up To Date Interiors

Hello from the coast of Okinawa! I’m Kathy and I blog at! I love sharing rental decorating tips, DIY projects, and handmade decor ideas. When I am not blogging, you can find me spray painting, styling a room for theumpteenth time, hunting for a bargain, or exploring the island with my family.

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