Shelves with Style

The maple floors in the two bedrooms aren't totally completed (still have to do baseboard, thresholds, etc.) but after Mike's days off we were finished enough to send the refugee furniture in our living room back to their respective homes. (Three cheers for not having a mattress in front of our couch anymore!) My family heirloom oak cabinet--clad in new felt feet--was one of the small bedroom's missing persons pieces.

In honor of it's homecoming, the antique hutch received a little primping. Now he's in his Sunday best--a new coat of polish and wax. And his five shelves hold pretty little objects, like gleaming rings on all five fingers. But before I go off and get too poetic on you, let's get down to the meat and potatoes of this post: styling shelves.

Have you ever tried to style your bookshelves? It's kinda tricky business but I love doing it. Something about the process is totally satisfying to me--it's like a puzzle and I love puzzles. 

Here's what I did this time:

First, I started with what I wanted to put on the shelf above the desk--the one outside of the cabinet. I decided the black vase, blue stone votive holder and the golden-brown bowl (that I made in my college pottery class) worked. Then, when this guest room is occupied I can put some fresh flowers in the space, have a candle for visitors to enjoy, and satisfy their sweet tooth with a bowl of treats. That is, if I don't sneak in here and consume all the chocolate before any guests arrive!

With these three items in mind, I rummaged through our books and decor for blue, black and gold. A few arm-loads of stuff later, the new bedroom floor was littered with the gathered treasure.

I started with the top shelf. It's the narrowest and would need the shortest books I could find. Once I found one book that fit I went back to our piles of books (don't judge--at least they're out of boxes!) and grabbed any that were the same size and fit within the color palette. Three books met the criteria. Not enough to fill the shelf, so I put the bookend (made by my great grandmother) and larger books with it. The wooden box brought more golden brown to the arrangement.
Note my order: books, larger decorative items, smaller decorative items. I pretty much follow this order every time. I'm not sure how I ended up deciding it's my preferred method, but it works well because I'm adding things in layers, building up the shelf from largest to smallest. It's kinda like how I choose my jewelry after I've picked my outfit. The big stuff comes first.

Because the top shelf was fully consumed by books, the shelf below it needed to be kept simple and light. Three brass candlesticks, a pinecone candle holder and a deer shed did the trick. This was actually the last shelf I did. As I said, I like to get my books arranged first.

I really didn't want the cabinet to feel cluttered. A simple stack of larger books topped with the black box worked on the third shelf.

The fourth shelf had the most head space, so I started with the big green book and put the smaller ones around it. The candelabra had to go on this shelf--it was too tall for any other. The black horse bookend--placed in the opposite direction of its mate on the top shelf--provides balance.

 This shelf was the least labored over. I wanted my rock collection here, where my little nieces would see it when they came--they like to play with the brightly colored stones. Our "just married" figurine--a wedding shower gift from my godmother--matched the stones bright colors. The books and other objects bring in the black and gold. I purposely put the stack of books on the left side. It balances out the stack of books on the top shelf that are on the right side.

Arranging shelves isn't complicated. It's an intuitive process that involves a lot of placing, tweaking, scrutinizing and moving. A few final tips:

  • Use objects that you love and say something about you. Items you like create arrangements you like.
  • Stick to a color family for cohesion. 
  • Vary the amount of stuff on each shelf. Some should be sparse with lots of breathing room. Some, more full.
  • Think about the balance and proportion of the over-all layout. Where's the closest  object of the same color? How are the books arranged above and below it? From what angle will the shelf be primarily seen?

Before you know it, your shelves will be basking in the glory of their new stylin' selves.

What do you think? Do you "style" your shelves or just fill them with books? What are your tricks for making an interesting display? Time to spill it!

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  1. First, I would TOTALLY eat the chocolate bit by bit. But, on the other hand, my guest room would be "inspected" often!

    Second, I LOVE the styling! Currently, I have too many books for my massive bookshelves and the styling consists of two rows on some of them. Ehhhh, I may need an intervention...

  2. Love your newlywed figurine on the bottom shelf! :)
    Happy weekend Kirst and Mike...!

    Love- R and boys