styling the living room shelves

by | Feb 3, 2020 | All Things Home, Decorating, Living Room, My House | 125 comments

As I was fiddling around with the accessories in the living room, I finally decided to rework the built-ins on the right side of the fireplace.  I painted them white shortly after I moved in and filled them up with one thing I have plenty of – ironstone.  (You can read about painting the built-ins HERE.)  It was just easy, pretty, and something I could call “done” when I had so many other things I wanted to work on in the house.  But, I wanted to revisit styling these living room shelves…

I have wanted to add some warmth and interest there for a while, but even though it’s a fairly small project, it was too much to do when I was having issues with my shoulder.  Earlier last week, I started just moving things in the space…a few books, a couple of pieces of blue and white transferware, just to see if I liked adding some color and warmth to the shelves.  I decided it was worth pursuing, so I took everything down, gave the shelves a good dusting, and started over.

styling the living room shelves | white ironstone | miss mustard seed

I gathered things from around the house…antique books, pinecones, greenery, and some blue and white pieces from the dining room hutch.  And I just played.  That’s one of the keys to styling shelves – allow yourself to test out ideas and try new things.  I arranged and rearranged.  I scooted and reworked and then sat on the sofa staring at it until I decided I liked it or it needed to be changed again.  I did end up removing one of the shelves, so I had a bit more vertical room to work with and that gave me more options for stacking and adding height variations.

I waffled between feeling like it was too busy and liking the added visual interest.  I’ve learned, though, anytime I’m rearranging something, I need to give it some time.  It feels different and, right away, the instinct is to change it back to the familiar.

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

But the warmth, color, and greenery really adds a lot.  There is variety…things of different sizes, shapes, textures, and colors, but they are all within set parameters.  There really isn’t right or wrong when it comes to styling shelves, but just what you like.

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

And I’m glad to be using some things that were stashed away in a cabinet – like these antique wooden croquet balls.

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

And my collection of pale blue and white transferware is showcased better here than in the dining room.

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

Moss, pinecones, and a few small faux plants add some life.

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

I may tweak something here or there, but I’m pretty happy with it and I’m going to leave it this way for now.

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

Several people have made suggestions about altering the cabinetry to make the right and left sides symmetrical and, trust me, I have puzzled this one over a lot.  I love symmetry and that would be my preference.  Unfortunately, that’s not a simple or inexpensive project, since the cabinets are completely different configurations and depths.  It would involve removing and replacing one side entirely, which we’re just not going to do.  If I was designing it from scratch, yes, they would match.  But, we have existing, quality built-in cabinetry, so I’m just going to go with it.  I am still going to work on the fireplace wall, though, and have some ideas I might pursue.

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

And, I decided to keep the horse on the trunk.  I sort of like him there…

styling the living room shelves | blue and white | miss mustard seed

As always, thanks for the suggestions!  I do read all of them and they always get me thinking and trying new things.

A few people have asked about Decorating Dilemmas and one is coming soon…


  1. Kathy Hoover

    Love it!
    It needed more life.
    I might have papered the back of the shelves with a wallpaper…either a blue or sand mini print to add warmth….maybe art- a small landscape…

  2. Beth B

    I really love it! It looks so much cozier and really showcases your decorating talent! A little greenery always livens up a space.

  3. Linda

    You have such beautiful things and taste. I love your home and want to live there.😃

  4. CarlaS

    Well, I’m a little late to the party but had to say that it took my breath away. It looks stunning! You are amazing!!! The texture and colors are so warm and inviting. Love to see the baby kitties in your photos too. They’re getting big.

  5. Mary

    Oooh Marian, I love it this way, it’s beautiful!!

  6. Cynthia Ditman

    I have been following you for several months, and always delighted with what I see. You have a gift of blending the Old Primative pieces with with the Classic look. Sooo comfortable while sooo delightful to the eyes of beholder!
    Looking at your living room there is a french chair next to the fireplace with a blue and white check, is it possible you can tell me or everyone the manufacturer of the fabric. I have used checks with my favorite fabric, Toile. Having trouble this time. Finding it . Thank you and keep enjoying what you do so well!!!!!🙋‍♀️

  7. ellen

    Looks great! I’d consider adding some textiles and a few of your oil paintings for some more variety. Your paintings are all beautiful and would bring some color and a place to rest the eyes in 2-dimensional form. Just a thought . . .

  8. Patricia

    I love what you have done.. Even though I do not know you, it seems more compatible with your personality. And compliments the overall color scheme better .

  9. Linda

    Do you have a current source for the beautiful moss balls? They have more texture than those I’ve seen and an overall nice appearance. BTW – I have gone back and forth in my piano room where I have a whole wall of built in shelves. Sometimes they are very minimalist with just a few large mostly monochromatic pieces on each shelf. Sometimes they are busier with lots of texture and more color. They are both fun. I say that “only my cleaning lady notices”….and me when I spend tons of time changing these things around. But as in all creative things, it is strangely satisfying.

    • Marian Parsons

      Those are actually rubber and they are from Hobby Lobby! in the large bowl, I have one whole one and a half tucked on top to make it look more like a mound of natural moss.

  10. Connie in GA

    I absolutely love this arrangement, and the addition of your blue & white pieces ties in so well with your furniture and drapes. Simply beautiful!!

  11. Hope

    I love the window treatments! Did you make them or purchase? Either way, they are beautiful and when did you get them?



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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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