The beauty of the #shelfie – an Instagram photo of a beautifully curated shelf – is that anyone can try it, regardless of the size of your home. And it seems that plenty have: there are a whopping 1.2 million pictures with the hashtag on your favourite social media platform.
But unlike some interiors-focused Instas, that have us filled with envy at the endless space and boundless budgets they surely require, these images are more democratic. They can work in your living room, bathroom, bedroom or kitchen, and can look amazing even in the tightest of spaces.
Shelfies are a good entry point to start considering interior design if you’ve never paid much attention to it before, because they get you thinking more thoughtfully about the objects in your house. But they’re also not a big financial commitment, requiring a collection of books, trinkets and photos rather than an expensive piece of furniture – plus, they can evolve over time, too.
If you’re looking to get involved in the beautiful shelf game, Jen Ward, interior design influencer, (and the woman behind the @linenandoakco Instagram account) says that her top tip is to play with your creativity. It can be tempting to put too much pressure on each and every item and feel you’re committing to it for life, but retain the knowledge that everything can be moved around.
She advises: “You can display any items you want as long as you make them flow. Varying items in height helps draw the eye to the whole display. You also should group like items together. This helps create a casual collection.
“Consider your entire shelfie to be a vignette full of differing elements that all relate back to each other.”
“Size and textural variations are key to creating the perfect shelfie,” she says. “So add texture and different materials and most importantly make sure you add a quirky or humorous ornament or art print that will never fail to make you smile. Be bold – you have nothing to lose!”
You also don’t have to feel limited to an open shelf or a bookcase shelf. Jane says glass cabinets are also a good opportunity to get creative and curate each layer.
A pitfall however, for shelfie enthusiasts, is knowing when less is more. Whether it’s because of the practicality of wanting to display and store things, or you can’t make your mind up what to keep, clutter is the death knell of a good shelfie.
A great tip is to take everything off your shelving and then put it back on in a different way. It will really clarify what you want to get rid of – which can go to a car boot sale or charity. And getting rid of things is crucial to the perfect shelfie.
Jen says that the biggest problem with clutter is that it is distracting, so it makes none of your objects live up to their full potential. “It’s definitely okay to layer things on your shelves but make sure everything has a place and a purpose. Anything excess is clutter and will only take away from the look.”
It’s also a good opportunity to practise some habit-forming skills around getting rid of clutter in general. Too many of us hold on to objects or inherit them without really considering whether we want them in that space. Jane says that if you take the time to consider each spot in the home, curating and styling as you go along then you will never fall into the trap of a room looking cluttered.
Lighting is also really important. Jane advises fitting dimmers on every light possible which allows you to change the look, feel and function of a room with minimal effort, and flatters your shelfies. She also likes alternative lights such as floor lights or table lamps, and candles.
“Candlelight is the absolute daddy when it comes to lifting the mood in a room,” she says.
As for lighting when it comes to taking your shelfie shot, Jen says: “The best tip I have in terms of lighting is to turn all the lights off in the room your shelves are in. Light bulb light makes everything look yellow in a photograph.
“Open up the curtains to let in as much natural light as possible. I suggest taking your shelfie in the morning or in the evening to prevent harsh midday light from ruining your shot.”
As for colours, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to shelfies. Some love grouping colours together in a rainbow spectrum, while others like to stick to one dominant colour and work from that point. Jen says that contrasting colours is what work for her, especially if you are working in a small space. “It helps to create a bold statement,” she adds.
And if all else fails, take a look at all those #shelfie photos on Instagram. It reveals that while there is no right or wrong way to put together a look that’s right for your home, it can be a lot of fun trying.