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Arrange Shelves to Showcase Collections

From shoes to dishes to quilts, let these artfully displayed collections inspire you.

Written and produced by Julianne Hilmes and Lucy Fitzgerald
  • Arrange Shelves to Showcase Collections

    Can’t quite decide how to showcase your favorite collections? Take another look at those shelves. From shoes to dishes to quilts, let these artfully displayed collections inspire you.

    Here, crisp white shelving with a blue-painted interior showcases colorful pottery while serving as a point of interest in the breakfast room.

  • Distinctive Color Against Blanched Shelves

    Bleached wood shelves add height to this guesthouse. By leaving space in each cubby and placing National Geographic magazines with their distinctive yellow spines out, this unique collection of spheres and other objects doubles as art.  With a complementary hue of soothing blue, these citric accents are sure to pop.

  • Greenhouse Shelves

    In her Santa Monica, California, flower shop, Stephanie Schur uses shelves as a creative way to display and organize vases, flowerpots, and gardening gloves. Ceramic pots decorated with birds and curious plants add to the whimsical feel of an apothecary’s shop.

  • Blue-and-White China Collection

    A collection of blue-and-white patterned china is displayed on the shelves of an antique hutch in a kitchen sitting area. The dishes were the inspiration for the choice of Lee Jofa fabric covering the armchairs.

    See more from this summer home, designed by Suzanne Kasler.

  • Neutral Porcelain Display

    Who says bookshelves are just for books? Built-in wall space is a great place to show off gorgeous porcelain pottery. The pieces’ neutral tones harmonize peacefully with the dove-gray shelving without distracting from other subtle focal points around the room.

  • Country Kitchen Shelves

    A cozy medley of blue-and-white dishes and ceramic chickens lines the shelves in this country-French kitchen. Besides adding color and textural elements, these pieces come in handy when cooking or serving a large group of friends and family.

    See more clever shelving ideas from designer Charles Faudree on the following slide.

  • Cozy Enclosed Bed with Handy Shelving

    Wrapped in a rosy toile, this guest bed is nestled in a cozy niche, complete with curtains for privacy and a porthole window. Shelves lining the back of the alcove provide surface area to store books, statues, photos—even a reading light.

    Click here for more country-French inspiration from Charles Faudree

  • Gorgeous Red Accents Against Blue Shelves

    White shelves stand out against robin’s egg blue walls and vibrant red accents in this showhouse library, designed by Patricia LaPierre. The shelving houses a range of obscure and colorful artifacts, from seashells and coral to plates and paintings in warm colors that pop against a cool backdrop.

  • Colorful and Inspiring Shelf Display

    Sometimes the items you most want to display will have such a big impact that they will inspire the palette for an entire room. In this sitting area, wall niches feature simple shelving that holds an exotic array of trinkets and mementoes nestled among familiar family portraits and books. The bright hues of the yarn rhino, yellow statues, and pair of colorful prints played a role in designer Jennifer Garrigues’s decision to keep the armchairs and rug a quiet cream, allowing the pieces on the shelves to stand out.

  • Sophisticated Pottery Collection

    A precious collection of antique Chinese pottery is displayed in a vintage glass-front Belgian bookcase. The pieces’ subdued hues blend seamlessly with the neutral palette of the rest of the living room, like the caramel-colored leather lounge chairs from Wesley Hall. Urns line the top of the cabinet, adding a sense of dimension.

    See more of this lovely Atlanta home.

  • Eye-Catching Cabinetry

    Windows form the back of these glass-front kitchen cabinets, affording views of silver vases and colorful pottery from the inside and outside. The extra windows also allow sunlight to flood the kitchen through an unconventional source.

  • Curio Collection

    A corner curio cabinet is a handy way to display your curiosities. Vintage silver-rimmed cups line the top and bottom shelves, with a worn wooden box anchoring the middle shelf. Hanging the unit in the corner allows more open space on the desk.

  • Collecting for a Complementary Palette

    A pine china cabinet holds zesty pieces that complement the yellow, gold, and cream dining room designed for the DC Design House by Camille Saum. The shape of the chartreuse-colored plates reflects the rounded dining chair backs. Shiny green paint inside the cabinet works to anchor the sunny palette with a cool but exciting color, while silver and gold objects inside glitter and gleam.

  • Navy Details on White Shelves

    Special items coordinating with the room’s color scheme are housed on raffia-backed shelves. Navy collectibles bring out the couch’s soothing colors; vintage silver trophies bring a touch of retro sparkle to the top shelf.

  • Color-Happy Shoe Closet

    Arrange a to-die-for shoe collection on closet shelves to create a fun wall space, as shown in reality star Bethenny Frankel’s NYC loft. Organized by color and style, these beauties also help to inspire outfits.

  • Sea-Shelves

    Glass shelving tucked into a teal alcove provides an ocean-hued backdrop for a seashell collection. The greenish-blue backing ties in the striped upholstery scheme while mixing in colorful elements of the sandy pink seashells.

  • Bathtub Organization

    Shelves near the tub are an easily accessible place to keep a store of bath salts and soaps in vintage containers. The handy location also ensures that books and fluffy white towels are always within reach.

  • Shelves Punctuated with Color

    Color plays a starring role in this sophisticated space. Cooking and wine books are stacked amid portraits of chefs and bright blue Asian sculptures for a small shelf display with big personality. Dragons lend an exotic touch, while shapely vases balance the high-texture scheme. The vivid cerulean pieces look particularly striking against the white backing of the arched niche.

  • Exotic Collection on Wooden Shelves

    An exotic collection of small statues takes center stage on environmentally friendly cabinetry by el Environmental Language, which blends in seamlessly with the room’s natural wood scheme. The rich browns and golds look right at home against an inviting neutral wall paint. A striped rug brings out the varied wood grains in the cabinets, shelves, and fireplace surround.

  • Contrasting Shelves in a Pink Room

    White-painted bookshelves provide a gallery-like background in the living room and offer a contrast to the bright pink walls.

  • Bardith Plate Collection

    Antique white plates from Bardith are the perfect items to showcase in this pretty neutral sitting room. The shelving niche features a decorative arch, which adds a nuanced touch of timeless elegance to the room’s classic style.

    Explore more of this grand New Jersey home here.

  • Art Lover’s Collection

    Custom bookshelves wrap around this library, designed by homeowner Steve McKenzie. As CEO and chief designer for custom framing company Larson-Juhl, as well as an artist himself, he loves to collect artwork. This room in particular is lined with art books and pieces from artist Jonathan Adler. “I’m obsessed with art books,” Steve says. “The library was designed specifically to house my books and our collection of Jonathan Adler pottery.”

    See more from this art lover’s Atlanta home.

  • Displaying Family Photos

    Shallow shelving along a busy upstairs hallway is the perfect place to display family photos. In conjunction with the rich wooden floors, these black-and-white prints make a graphic impact against the white shelves and wall.

    See more from this new home with classic style.

  • Colorful Quilt Collection

    Built-in shelves painted dusty blue contain a collection of quilts from Bellwether Dry Goods, which are displayed throughout the home. The desk, a family heirloom, warms the space.

    More from this Capitol Hill home on the following slide.

  • Rustic Hutch Display

    A collection of prized dishes is ready for use in this antique pine cupboard. Vibrant fruits and veggies lend loads of color to the sophisticated scene.

    See more from this home, designed by Mary Douglas Drysdale.

  • Nautical Minimalist Shelving

    Built-in shelves are a great way to carry the motif of a room. Here, ship lanterns and silver bowls filled with coral work with the harbor painting to set a nautical mood. A symmetrical arrangement and creamy backdrop keeps the scheme clean-lined and classic.

  • Butler’s Pantry Wet Bar

    Tucked into this pantry, a wooden buffet with open shelves provides space for a modest wet bar—as well as a collection of quirky ceramic pieces. Against white walls, the pastiche of artwork creates a unique color palette all its own.

  • Bookshelf with a Secret Feature

    Bathroom shelving pulls double-duty above this tub in designer Skip Sroka’s D.C. home. At first glance, the alcove appears to house a collection of books; however, the framed artwork cleverly conceals a flat-screen television. Perfect for a long, hot soak after a day in the office!


    Click to see more of Skip’s home.

  • Shell Shelves

    Shell motifs give these built-in shelves an attitude that suits the blend of decorative styles in the room. An assortment of aged artwork and photographs mingle with silver pieces and unique candleholders on the shelves, which match the Victorian vibe of the French-style bergères and a violet settee.

  • Craving more collections? Click here to see our slideshow on collecting exquisite Gilded Age China and Glass.