I have swapped out these shelves so many times over the years. My recent version includes a vintage addition. I added some of the plates I scored for .50 cents at the thrift store. They have a tribal theme going on that I really like.
I was going for symmetry and color cohesion. In my opinion decorating with symmetry is the easiest, but it only works when you have matching pairs.
This version is eclectic, colorful and fun. There's no symmetry but putting the items together in like-colors make it look somehow organized. This version is by far my favorite. It's a great way to show off quirky collections, especially if you did not get a large china set for your wedding. (Who does anymore? I wish I had!)
Here I was going for a more feminine, antique look. There's not much symmetry again, but it has balance. I played with the balance of light and dark, tall and short items. This version is much more "gut guided" than any other. When in doubt, find a picture of styled shelf that you love and use it as inspiration when you are thrifting or picking through your possessions. I like to set a whole bunch of items on my table and move them around until I find a good grouping of things.
This version was when I was experimenting with books in the shelf, very early on. Not sure why I zoomed in so much. I had a really cool rainbow theme...way before the first rainbow bookshelf I'd ever seen on the blogosphere. Mixing books with kitchenware can be tricky. My shelf is above a little desk area, so I could pull off books and it didn't seem out of place. My opinion is that plates and books need to be mixed carefully or they just look odd together. Instead, try mixing books with a cool collection of bottles or some other collection of trinkets like antique spools, cameras, etc.
Which version do you like the most?