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Style Tips: Everyday On Display

You really do not have to have a ton of decorations, craft items or expensive collections to make a house personal, pretty or feel “finished.” Really, you don’t! I noticed upon arrival last summer in blogland that many bloggers have tons of accessories and collections! Decorating a home by buying collections, art and/or hand making creative home accessories is a big hobby for some folks. That is great, but not everyone wants to spend money to buy decorative collectibles or has the time and creativity to fill up their home with hand made crafts.

So what are we to do if we fall into the “I don’t want to spend a lot OR create everything by hand” category?

It can seem like a lonely desperate situation to be in if you look at blogs for inspiration! But don’t despair! There are other solutions. Trust me, somehow I manage just fine in that lonely category!

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

My kitchen pantry displays our dried goods in jars, and other pantry items are organized in pretty baskets.

Here is my style tip for the day:

It is not necessary to spend lots of money OR be crafty in order to have a beautiful or personalized home. You just need everyday items.

Simply by utilizing things you DO have and actually use everyday your authentic style can shine through.

Being somewhat practical, I love the idea of displaying useful items as decorations. By having pretty things to use, you have the joy of finding beauty in every day activities (and you know I like that idea) AND your house magically becomes attractive, without trying too hard to “decorate.” That idea always appeals to me. I love the look of beauty that is more natural, evolving and less contrived.

When you have things in your home that are pretty colors, shapes, textures or patterns, find creative ways to have them out in the open! Just group them together on shelves (even inexpensive shelves with brackets can look amazing), or in glass fronted cabinets, open armoires, or even just out on hooks. Everyday items can function as art. The subtlety of it can be very striking. Almost appearing like a “happy accident” rather than a “Hey, look how hard I tried to decorate this shelf” kind of look.

I am a big fan of the bulletin/pin boards. They keep paper clutter confined and can make an artistic statement all at the same time! Love that.

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

Kitchen Bulletin Board from BHG

Save closed storage for less than attractive items and clutter. If you have too many things in sight, you will suffer with a lack of visual serenity and the whole look will be chaotic. Be selective in what is out for public view. Strike a balance between accessories on display and breathing room.

Having things on display that you actually use rather than just look at is efficient, and cost-saving (because it is a dual-purpose item rather than just a decorative piece), not to mention completely authentic! Group things by color, shape or purpose just like you would display a priceless but basically useless collection.

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

I love this DIY Driftwood Jewelry Organizer that doesn’t just hold jewelry, but looks beautiful as art!

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

Add shelves in any room to add personality and opportunity for your style to be showcased. Pretty dishes can look so homey on an open shelf or in a glass fronted cabinet.

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

Kelly from Eclectically Vintage repurposed this old ladder to hold guest towels and provide a place for a pretty vase of flowers.

Re-purpose furniture to display every day items. By mixing everyday accessories with furniture intended for other display purposes you create art! Try a bookcase stacked with towels in a bathroom or a library cabinet with glass doors to showcase purses and pretty shoes in the bedroom.

Baskets or clear glass jars can be filled with everyday necessities to make a decorative statement. Even cotton balls can look amazing in a glass jar from a discount retailer like Home Goods!

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

Don’t have pretty everyday things? Well, you need them! You really do! Why drink out of an ugly cup when you can sip out of a pretty one? If you are on a budget (let’s face it, most of us are or should be on a budget!) start shopping at resale, thrift and discount stores for your basic necessities like cups and bowls in pretty shapes and colors. The key here is that attractive doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. That is a big fat lie so don’t fall for it.

Over time, I implore you to start replacing ugly everyday necessities with attractive things. Then you’ll be happy every time you pull a pretty cereal bowl off the shelf for breakfast. I’d much rather have a pretty cereal bowl than a useless object d’art sitting on a shelf. Even simple white dishes can be very attractive. Truth is, I don’t own a bunch of fancy schmancy dishes. I love to collect mismatched white dishes from inexpensive places like TJ Maxx and HomeGoods.

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

Every day items hung on wall, Martha Stewart Online

When faced with a blank wall or empty shelf, ask yourself what every day items you could bring out to create art! What you choose to display will showcase your personality. Chic or antique, colorful or neutral, plain or fancy everyday items will set the stage for your authentic style.

This is another tip worth considering: You don’t need to find a trendy or popular accessory to have style. Just because everyone else has something in their house doesn’t mean you need it in yours. In fact, if you see something in everyone else’s house or on everyone else’s blog, you might want to reconsider having it in yours. Just sayin’, it’s something to consider. Trendy is not a personal style, trendy is often just imitating someone else’s style. And trendy becomes expensive and time-consuming when you try to keep up with what everyone else is in love with at the moment. Just sayin’. Trendy is fine, if that is what you love, but I prefer something more personal and longer lasting. That’s just me.

Consider creative ways to display every day items like:

Art supplies
Pantry Items
Oils & Vinegars
Fruits & Veggies
Pots, Pans, Baking Dishes
Dress Shoes
Coffee mugs
Decorative Books
Serving Pieces

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

In my kitchen, I keep everyday mugs, pitchers, cookbooks, cutting boards, even coffee beans and sugar right out on display.

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

*This post was updated from my original post in 2008 with new photos. I’ve added many photos in this post from my 2014 Summer House Tour, which you can find here!

Having a personalized and beautiful home is as often simple
as putting everyday items on display!

Style Tips: Everyday On Display

Style Tips: Everyday On Display


  1. Kathleen Grace

    I like the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. I have been guilty of forgetting that everday items can also be as pretty as “special” items for decorating. The result has been some things I am just not happy to use. I am in the process of weeding out and replacing with things I really love.

  2. Penny

    I have been a big fan of decorating with what you have and make sure you have things you love. Rachel Ashwell said in one of her books, she loves unloading her dishwasher because it is filled with beautiful vintage dishes she has collected over time..

  3. melissa lewis - off the wall

    oh my, i love the piece they used as an island/workstation in the second to last picture.

    Great post! Thanks for the helpful hints.

  4. Jill from

    Great article! I just had to share that I recently bought a wall unit for my living room. I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to put in it and that I would have to go to the expense of buying things. However, as I started to gather”pretty things” in the house that were potential display items, I was amazed what I came up with….books with the dust covers off, a clock, a souvenir from a trip under a glass cloche, a family photo displayed in a nice frame placed on one of those “plate holders”. I ended up not spending any money and feeling good that some of my “pretty things” were being displayed rather than being cluttered up in other areas of my house!

  5. Charmingdesigns

    You have put out some BEAUTIFUL pictures!! I like those baskets!! now if I could just keep my kitties out them! Laurie

  6. janet

    My favorite “authentic” thing is my pot rack hanging over my ikea island in the kitchen. The rack holds all the pots and pans I use and it makes it so easy to find them ( always stored on the same hook) plus it adds charm to the kitchen. I don’t know how I lived without it :>)


  7. Lori

    Love all the photos and thanks for the great ideas!

  8. a-iek

    ….Sigh…only if!
    Love the pictures and the opportunity to dream for the moment.

  9. Elzie

    This was really interesting. Every day things I guess we normally forgets. Will have to give it another thought LOL.
    Oh, I just love the kitchen you show. Wish I could have it like that.
    Hope you have a good Thursday.
    Love Elzie

  10. nannykim

    wonderful post–I absolutely loved it . I love the ideas—not cluttered, but useful and decorative. Great pictures to go with it too. I will have to return just to look at the pictures and give some more thought to it!! THanks!!

  11. jessi nagy

    hey thanks for all the wonderful ideas!
    thanks for signing up on my blog too!
    good luck!

  12. rosieswhimsy

    Lots of great ideas! Thanks for the photos. I love the uncluttered look……but don’t know if I can teach this old dog new tricks :-) Rosie

  13. Renee

    I love visiting your blog with all the “eye candy” photos there to drool over. LOL Thanks for visiting my blog and thank you for sharing yours with the cyber world. What a lovely place to come with a nice hot cup of tea to escape the day’s hectic pace. :-)

  14. Catherine

    I love the sunny and cheerful kitchens! The simplicity is so charming! Thanks for sharing your ideas. I always love them.

  15. Vee~A Haven for Vee

    Super suggestions…I do believe that I’ve gleaned one or two that I can employ today.

    Love the kitchen photo with the orange juice on the counter. FI always tell you my favs because it’s a way for me to define my style. (You know me, all over the map.)

  16. Becca

    What an amazing post! Everyday items as art! I have been trying to replace my everyday items to be more decorative everyday items for a while now because it just makes me happier, but I never thought about them as art! But I truly believe that style is in the everday details we choose.

  17. sandy

    Hi Melissa – my problem is space and I don’t like too much clutter (or my hubby doesn’t!). I love the apron idea (display).

  18. snhamlett

    Hello Melissa!

    Shame on you for giving me a good excuse for replacing my ugly dishes! Now I’ll just tell my husband that Melissa said I should when he fusses… lol! I love the pictures you’ve featured and the idea of using the everyday for decoration. I often look at blogs and see other bloggers great collections but I’m realistic enough to know that I can’t have that much stuff to dust… any suggestions for managing books? As a writer, books are my biggest temptation… I would definitely own many more books if I could find a way to corral them so they didn’t take over the house. And magazines… all those design magazines… a few are decoratives, but bunches just looks like clutter…


  19. Melissa

    I am not sure if I mentioned this in the article or not, but as far as the space issue, that is one of the great things about using everyday items for display. You don’t waste valuable space on useless trinkets that sit around collecting dust. If you do have a small space, make sure you are especially mindful of the “visual serenity” rule I mentioned, you need blank spaces for your eyes to rest ESPECIALLY in a small space!

  20. Melissa

    Oh, and as far as books and magazines. Everyone will have their own personal feelings on this, and it will depend on your decorating style, but I don’t like to see too many magazines out on display. The ones I am currently reading I would put in a basket and then hide all the other ones. They are too slippery to stack well and look neat, IMO. Rip out what you love and make a dream notebook or a collage and then toss them.

    As far as books, I personally love books as display. I group them together in batches though so they aren’t randomly set by themselves. Books can be used as risers for other decorations (set a pretty teacup on top of a stack of books), they can fill up empty places with pretty colors and definitely add to the personality of a room. I love to fill up empty spaces under sofa tables or consoles with stacks of books. You can even set a big stack of larger books next to a chair to use as a coffee table! All my decorating and inspirational books are in my office so I can see them and be inspired by them. Those are the best kinds of decorations, ones that serve as decor AND things that you actually use. Favorite books are perfect for that.

  21. Joni Webb

    Great ideas – I need to some much storage space!!! great pictures too.


  22. Kathy at Shocking Pink Thread

    Melissa, this is truly an inspired post! I should have read it before I posted my most recent addition. The part about being trendy and like everyone else truly struck home with me. I love my home with a passion. Since I started blogging though, I’ve seen so many amazing women do things that I don’t either have the time, the energy or the resources for. As always, I appreciate your encouragement to live the beautiful life, no matter what your circumstances are. (btw, I am with you about magazines. As much as I love to read them, they are not part of my decorating scheme!)

  23. Lorrie

    I’m not a fan of the cluttered look. In fact, although I love looking at other people’s shabby chic decor, it’s not me. So this was a great post.

    I also love the William Morris quote your first commenter posted – Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.


  24. Andrea

    I love the photos…thanks so much for providing such inspiration! By the way, does anyone have a great idea for displaying vintage cookie cutters?

  25. Paris Parfait

    Like your reader above, I’m a big believer in the William Morris philosophy. Some great ideas and lovely photos here.

  26. Pat

    We embarked on another remix, yesterday. Rearranging furniture etc…in the hearth room, breakfast room, kitchen. Just about everything in these rooms, used as accessories are actually things I use in day to day cooking, etc. I put the big blue and white crock bowl back on the big farmhouse table, this morning. I love it there…just the empty bowl on that long table.
    Great post Melissa, with lots of wonderful ideas!


  27. JO

    Really nice ideas Melissa… puts to use some great ides for displaying old things… I love it



  28. kara

    Oh, I wish I could “click & drag” that armoir with the clothing inside right into our bedroom. That is right up my style alley!
    It would look darling in our shop as well!

  29. Terri

    Hey Melissa, I left a really long comment and then the system ate it. Maybe it will re-appear after a while!
    I said great post and couldn’t agree more. I am not a fan of constantly buying new accessories and believe in saving my money and using what I have and not being wasteful! That said, I agree that slowly buying beautiful things is the secret! That way your world becomes nicer and nicer! A great cereal bowl or water glass is a treat!

  30. Aimee

    Great ideas Melissa! Sometimes it’s tricky to display items without it looking tacky or too random. And I think it’s easier to be objective about what looks good in someone else’s house, rather than looking at your own items on a shelf and knowing if it looks good. That’s why blogs like yours with good ideas are so cool! :)

  31. beachy

    Such beauty and inspiration! I had to chuckle to myself, because every time I saw a photo I liked, it always said, “Coastal Living Online”! lol

  32. Lisa

    What great pictures. I’m amazed that you know where to find so many wonderful ideas.

    That first pix with all the pretty polka-dot bowls and that clean white is stunning.

    Hmmm, time to think about re-decorating.

  33. laissezfaire

    What a beautiful post filled with so many interesting ideas! Thanks Mel! xxoxoox

  34. brilliant asylum

    Ha–you are inspiring me to shut down the old computer and start organizing. Happy weekend!

  35. this is glamorous

    Melissa, this post is filled with such great ideas–I really liked the Martha Stewart entryway–the idea of hanging umbrellas is very clever. Now I’m off to reorganize everything . . .

  36. KJ

    Oh how I love coming here! The sunny kitchen from Coastal Living makes me want to don an apron and dance! Because we rent, I don’t have the luxury of choosing paint colors. I have to use accessories and work with the palette given to me. But someday I dream of painting my own home and I will splash sunshine all over the house!


  37. Wendy

    Amazing. I LOVE the hanging umbrellas, the shabby wardrobe, the bright and cheerful colors!! I’m getting inspired. Thank you!!!

  38. perfect bound

    I couldn’t agree more. I love your collection of images. You’ve snagged all the best. I have been waiting to put an extra pair of shutter to good use. Now I know how!

  39. emilie

    anybody have a clever idea for displaying 80+ commemorative spoons?

  40. Kathy sue

    Melissa, I soooo agree with you philosophy,I have decorative items but they are things I love to look at. I think it is the difference between decorating a house versus designing a lifestyle and a feel for you family and home. When I make changes I want my HOME to maintain the same feeling. It is kind of like a good haircut, if no one notices you know its a good cut. If it still feels like HOME after the changes its a job well done. Kathysue[rms]

  41. merle

    HI, these are all wonderful ideas! I was wondering, does anyone have ideas for display at a trade show for purses/bags? I am looking to do something creative to display my eco friendly bags at my next trade show! I have thought about shutters, and hang bags from them, last trade show I used cardboard towers, but they were not sturdy enough, so any thoughts would be appreciated.

    thank you-merle

  42. {this is glamorous}

    So much inspiration here! Makes me want to sort through all my things and rearrange them in collections — such a lovely idea to use things one already has . . .

    Thank you also for the links :)

    Hope you’re having a lovely week, Melissa!
    –Roséline xoxo



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