The Personal Style Issue
Beautifully styled bookshelf.

How to Style Your Shelves Like a Designer

“We are trying to help people finish their homes in a way that is easy, approachable, and affordable,” Stephanie Purzycki says. Purzycki, alongside her business partner, Kaitlin Madden, who is the global editor of Real Homes, are the women behind The Finish, a platform for those looking for help for small-scale design projects and answers to questions they’ve always wanted to ask. 

Purzycki, who is a commercial interior designer by trade, realized there was a gap in the design market when she moved to the suburbs. “I was getting questions from friends and neighbors, like “What do you think about this, what would you put over here, what colors should I use? she says. “People want access to quality interior design talent to pick their brain and ask questions, but don’t necessarily need their whole home renovated.”

While hiring an interior designer can seem intimidating and costly, Purzycki and Madden have modernized and democratized the experience of working with a designer. The pair are based out of Southport, Connecticut, and enjoy helping people with the finishing touches.

“Most of the time, people have bought the big pieces like the sofa or rug, but it's the accessories like the artwork, styling, and drapery that takes a room from nice to fully done,” she says. 

I love when I’m helping someone by using my design background. I get to help make people love their homes and create a livable space, and there's nothing greater than that.

Black accent wall with fireplace and bookshelf.

Courtesy of The Finish

For Purzycki, some of the most memorable jobs include helping a young woman update her first apartment—taking the gray rental unit and adding personality through art and accessories—and when she’s able to help new moms with their nurseries.

“I love when I’m helping someone by using my design background. I get to help make people love their homes and create a livable space, and there's nothing greater than that," she says. 

How to Design the Perfect "Shelfie"

Many of her clients are busy moms who want to take what they see on social media and create it in real life. That’s where one of their latest offerings comes in, the shelfie. The packaged vignette of perfectly coordinated items is a simple way to bring together a look with a designer’s eye without having to shop around.

The shelfie includes three hand-painted blue-and-white vases, two seagrass frames, a cane storage box, a The Finish custom scented candle, and a Grecian bust. “Because we are based in coastal Connecticut, we tried to bring in the design aesthetic and sensibility that we see so often in this part of the country,” she says.


Courtesy of The Finish

How to Style Shelves, According to the Duo

When it comes to styling shelves, the duo has a few go-to's. “It should all work together but have depths and layers and height differences,” Purzycki says on shelf accessories. “I always try to find sculptural pieces, a storage box, frames, jars, and candles,” she says.

Always start with bigger items and collect everything you plan on using upfront. “When I start to style, I take the larger items and lay them out in a triangular or diagonal pattern throughout the shelves, so your eye bounces throughout the whole thing,” she says. Fill in with medium-sized and smaller accessories, then add in books vertically and horizontally. 

Another styling do? Add accessories in groups of odd numbers and always include some greenery.  For those stuck on a color palette, stick to white or neutral tones and try pulling in colors from your own home. “You don’t want to create a pink vignette if your entire home is blue and white,” she says. 

Close up of bookshelf and decor.

Courtesy of The Finish

Finally, items should be meaningful and tell a story. Try looking at antique centers, thrift shops, or online auctions. “Those are conversational pieces that naturally lead to a conversation when guests come over,” she says.