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The humble shelf is one of the most common pieces of furniture you’ll find in a home. Just about everyone has at least one, whether it’s a standalone bookshelf, a floating wall-mounted shelf, or a more fashionable choice like a ladder shelf. There are endless ways to make them a beautiful and tasteful focal point in your home rather than an overlooked storage space.

Of course, the main reason we keep shelves in our homes is for their functionality. We need them to store things, whether it’s books, keepsakes, or boxes, or to display things like photos, art, and knickknacks. It’s essential when styling a bookshelf to balance the aesthetic elements with functionality. You want the shelf to look nice but still serve its purpose.

Start with What You Have

Tempting as it may be to run out and buy a bunch of cute new pieces to display on your shelf, your storage space, and your wallet will both thank you if you start with what you have at home when you’re trying to fill your shelf. Choose one or two large objects and start there, filling in with smaller things as you go. For example, if you have a large vase or plant, you can make that the focal point of the shelf while filling in the rest of the space with small- and medium-sized additions.

Mix It Up

If you’re a bookworm, it’s probably tempting to cram as many books onto your shelves as you can. And although books can make wonderful decor, lining entire shelves with them isn’t a great aesthetic unless you’re decorating a library. Break up your rows of books with photos, art, or knickknacks. Add a touch of green with a small plant or even a big one on the top shelf that trails down the lower shelves. By making these minor adjustments, you can have plenty of storage space for your novels without making your living room look like a public library.

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Try Different Angles

Your bookshelf decor doesn’t necessarily have to stand straight up, and books don’t need to be stored vertically. Try stacking some horizontally and place a piece of art or a photo on top. If you have an object that lends itself to the idea, try laying longer pieces sideways, with one end propped up on a stack of books. Adding these different lines and angles adds interest to the shelf.

Be a Basketcase

We all have it: a drawer or bucket or basket full of odds and ends that we need at random times, but that add clutter to a room if they’re just left out in plain view. Grab a basket or even a suitcase-style wicker piece that will hold all of these objects, then slide it in on your shelf along with everything else. You’ll be able to keep all those necessities in one place. To everyone else, it will just look like an attractive addition to your shelf.

Less Is More

Another temptation when styling a shelf is to fill it as full as it can get. Again, this leads to a cluttered appearance, which few of us desire to have in our homes. Instead, use a less-is-more approach, leaving plenty of space on the shelf in between different objects. Use accessories of varying heights to allow vertical space to shine.

No matter what objects you find to decorate the shelves in your home, take your time and try out different arrangements to find one that works for you. With a little time and effort, you can turn a basic shelf into a statement that serves a functional purpose and an aesthetic one.