Always give yourself a totally blank canvas, even if you’re planning on re-using some of the same items. Clear everything off your shelves and give them a good dusting before you start building up your new look.
Before placing anything on your shelves, gather together everything you’d like to use. I like to walk around the house and ‘shop’ for bits and pieces – inevitably more than I’ll end up using, but I like to see everything laid out in front of me so that I can draw out some themes. When you’re gathering your goodies, try to get a good variety of shapes, scales, sizes, colours and textures, and look out for anything quirky that might add a bit of personality to your display – something uniquely you.
Of course, you’ll want your display to be beautiful during daytime but don’t forget about after-dark… Try clustering together groups of candlesticks and tealights, or weaving strands of copper-wire string lights at the back of your shelves for a really pretty and impactful evening feel (you'll find it's easier to set these up before you add too many other things).
Create order within the eclectic. Start to fill your shelves with larger items like baskets, candelabras and big vases, which will help get the initial scale and balance right, and give you a basic layout on which to build.
Books are really handy for positioning and weight. You can find loads of gorgeous and inexpensive books in flea-markets, second-hand shops or on eBay – I’m always on the hunt for dusty, worn-out covers with pretty vintage designs. Bigger books work really well as a plinth for smaller items to sit upon; small books look great grouped according to a colour theme or tied together with string.
Incorporate greenery where you can – it’s good for the soul! – and look to the season for inspiration. Even if you only see twigs outside, you can still create something simple and beautiful. Faux stems are great if you’ve not got access to a garden, or for mixing in with bits of greenery, but don’t forget to rotate these seasonally too for a really natural (and convincing) look.