Shelfies not selfies: How to display your treasured possessions

Last updated 05:00 08/10/2017

Treasures of different heights and forms are displayed on a Kelly Hoppen étagère, available from Frobisher Interiors.

New homewares from Citta mix with older pieces to create an interesting arrangement.
Julia Atkinson
An interchangeable pegboard shelving system from George & Willy is the perfect way for Julia Atkinson to display her treasures.

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Forget mastering the art of the selfie, decor-junkies are more interested in creating perfect "shelfie."  

We asked an expert what makes a display of personal trinkets into something instagram-worthy.  

Design blogger Julia Atkinson of Studio Home recommends starting with things that have meaning. "It's all about displaying items that you have some emotional connection to and get a positive buzz from seeing each day," she says.

"Mixing framed photos of fond memories with that weird but wonderful vase you inherited from your Gran and the pot plant you have successfully kept alive for a year can be more aesthetically pleasing than the set of three perfectly matched brass candle holders you picked up last week."

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The arrangements should appear random, but they actually require a balance of shape, size, colour and subject to be successful. Mix different heights, use contrasting but complementary textures and pair rounded shapes with those with angular edges.

It's also best to pick a loose colour theme like earthy tones or pretty pastels and then add one standout colour to draw the eye in. Pair old with new and include an element of whimsy to avoid it all looking too formal.

Got a shelf display you reckon works really well? Send your story, photos or video

Atkinson recommends thinking of your displays as mobile and seasonal, switching them up to suit your mood and the time of year. "For example that terrific sideboard display you have right at the entrance of your home might host a large pot plant during the winter months but come spring might be the ideal place to display your ever changing collection of blooms and branches you swipe while out walking," she says.

Hanging pictures and other items on the wall behind your shelfie is a good way to anchor a less permanent display. Atkinson likes to "wall test" items such as old oars, second hand musical instruments and plates: "It's surprising what can transform from standard to quite sculptural once hanging on the wall!"

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And while furniture like bookcases, sideboards and étagères are specifically designed to hold your treasures, if space is limited there's always a wall hung option like floating shelves or a pegboard. 

At the moment, Atkinson's personal "jumble of beauties" includes a conker, a pressed four leaf clover, a dried magnolia bud and kowhai seed pod, remnants of a dried red rose, quartz, a feather, shells and even a teeny jawbone - probably "from a rat". She spreads them across her mantlepiece mixed in with ceramics, plants, candles and vases of flowers. "I love how the shelf is always changing, and it makes me happy," she says.


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