Start with one piece, and build from there. This shelf in our breakfast nook, all started with the little Holt Howard, 1958 Pixieware mustard bowl. My Nanny was an avid garage saler, I used to wake up on Friday and Saturdays to go through the classifieds with her and help navigate to the next sale. This mustard bowl, while I thought it was originally used in their house it was just another one of her finds. I still hold on to it because it was pretty unique and it reminded me of my Nanny & Papa. My Papa ate onion and mustard sandwiches and for some reason this little bowl makes me smile to remember him eating those sandwiches in his living room chair while watching Law & Order, even if the mustard came out of a jar not this bowl. Regardless, I wanted a proper home to display it, so when I redesigned our breakfast nook I built the rest of the decor on the shelf around it.
The shelf itself is a piece of reclaimed picnic table wood on simple black brackets, so I needed some pop to the other pieces. I've fallen in love with vintage glassware, especially those with color, so this E.O. Brody Co. green glass compote pedestal bowl seemed like a perfect addition to use as a planter. This is my second indoor plant in here, the first (the brown moss fern behind the mustard bowl) didn't survive well so trying a different kind. When I researched the green vintage glass dish, I was surprised to find it was from probably 1960, so both pieces are from the same time period:)
I finished the rest of the shelf off with an orange and yellow doily, a black and white jug from Hobby Lobby and a letter board. My 8 year old daughter came up with the saying on the board.
So when choosing the decor for a shelf, start simple, one piece and add a few items to compliment it. The great thing about shelf decor, it's not permanently stuck to that shelf, you can swap and move it when you want to try something different. If you're stuck on how to build out a shelf or mantel, send me a pic of the one item you want to start from!