Bookcase styling

The mother of all bookcases

When a friend asks you to style the bookcases of her impeccably designed condo you first drool over every detail of the space while your jaw drops at the size of said bookcase project and then you just get to work because you already said yes and here goes nothing. I truly wish I had more advice about bookshelf styling but other than taking everything off the surface and just going for it section by section, I don't really know how it comes together. It just does. Ok – there is some thought in this process which I'll share as you read along. 

Here is the view from this room (sometimes my heart truly aches for city life) and also some really fuzzy before photos to show progress. Nothing beats a project that comes with it's own measurements and really bad before photos to make you look good. 

So this was more than just a bookshelf, it was a library, really – shelves on every. single. wall. They use it as their family/media room.

My main goal was to honor their style by using personal mementos (pictures, books, etc.) and then bring in some cool objects to fill in the rest while trying extra, extra hard to not overwhelm the space with a lot of stuff. Easier said than done in a room full of shelves. You have to fill them but there's definitely a balance to strike. The key is to not go crazy with the amount of things on one shelf. And some shelves just need one thing only. Also, don't go crazy with small things. You really need to balance small objects with large ones or it can look junky fast. If I'm starting from scratch I might try to stick to a color palate but for this room, I prefer the pops of color here and there to liven up the space. And coincidentally, the pieces I chose go really well with the paintings which was kind of dumb luck but I'll take it. 

When I'm shopping around, I'm looking for interesting shapes and sizes of things and also that everything will work well together. I'm loving all of the natural decor out there right now. Lots of wood, stones, hides, metals. I stuck mostly to that theme while I was perusing my typical go-to places (Target, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, CB2 – you can spend a lot of cash on decor objects but I truly don't understand why you would when there's so much good stuff out there for less.) My personal favorites are the burl wood boxes from CB2 and the sort of weird giant wood chain I found at HomeGoods. I need these for myself ;) 

Books were mostly from their personal collection. They have tons of art books which made my job super easy. You can't go wrong with a giant Andy Warhol book now can you? I did use some filler books and I've mentioned this before but my secret is Goodwill. I stockpile pretty books for occasions such as this. Taking into consideration how the book looks but also the title and topic when I can. Another tip – take the dust jackets off. The bindings are always far better looking than the jackets. So yeah, I arrange little piles of books at my local Goodwill to see if they'll look cool stacked up – you have your weird things and I have mine. At least the result is pretty. 

This room is multi-purpose because it's not only the family room but also the play room. To make it feel more cohesive I swapped plastic bins for pretty baskets and used them throughout the rest of the room for additional storage, too. These seagrass lovelies come in a bunch of sizes from Target and half the price of Pottery Barn... seriously guys, shop around (or get a stylist that does ;). As a side note, I did a fool's errand and rearranged these kids books. I do this in Henry's room, too. Why? I cannot help myself.  

So, three hours later there you have it (plus a bonus shot of some really pretty art). I'm super happy with how this space turned out. I bought a lot of stuff for this project and I'm very pleased that it all worked together so nicely in addition to their existing things. I love how the photos honor their family and the room just feels cool and fun... just like them. Don't you just want to get cozy on that sofa with a glass of rose and read about Andy Warhol. I know I do ;)

Do you have a built-in or a bookshelf that you're struggling to style? I can help! 

Shelfie styling

Bookcases probably mourn the days when they were filled with just good old fashioned books. But when the last book you read was "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" or the current reader of the house only reads ebooks, they're mostly filled with with stuff. So how do you display that stuff in a cohesive way that doesn't look junky? Let's discuss.

Since I've been sharing our home transformation little by little, I want to show how I styled our bookcase and that entire wall in general. Here's what it looked like when we first saw the house. That dijon paint was EVERYWHERE. And the decorative mantle just didn't make sense. Most of the place is clean lines and fairly utilitarian and then there was that. Maybe in a colonial with a more traditional style but not in this house. So, I bought a crowbar and tore it off. And immediately sent a picture to my mom to brag about my girl prowess. Always humble. 

Here's the after of the dis-mantle. (I'm here all week, folks).

Much better in my opinion...at least for our home.

Next, I painted everything white. I'm not sure I want it to stay that color forever but I wanted to start with a clean palate. Once that was taken care of, the bookcase styling got serious. Here's how I tackled it and how you can do it, too...

1. Start with the big stuff. Books (if you do have them), larger decor pieces, art, maybe a plant. Evenly disperse them throughout your shelving. 

I try to keep with a theme at least with the books from one little vignette to another so it's not total chaos. All things music in one place, art and design in another. It's not necessary but you might actually want to get to that stuff so at least you'll know where to find it. 

Stick to a similar color theme if you can. I did mostly natural tones and brass. Going crazy without a color palate in mind can get you to garage sale chic quickly...in a bad way. Don't worry too much about it because if you're like me, you probably have a tendency to pick up things of a similar palate anyway. Paperbacks were arranged in a rainbow in this case just to bring some order to all of that color. 

2. Add the small pieces to accent those big guys. This is where it can get tricky. Where exactly do you put those things? There's no science to it, really but as you can see I'm a fan of interesting objects on top a stack of books or little jars or sculpture next to something big. Larger framed photos or art pieces look cool with something in front to accent as well. The trick is to not go overboard with small things or it can get junky. Move stuff around and around and around until you take a step back and you like what you see. 

3. Take some stuff away. It's tempting to fill every space but resist the urge. I'm learning that from Mike. And as much as I don't want to listen to my husband when it comes to something I think I'm pretty skilled at, it's good advice. It definitely feels better. Clean and calm. I'm certain I could still do less in here but it's HARD.

Here's where we're at currently. All in all, I think we achieved cohesion in that space. Some books, some decor pieces, some things that tell stories, some things that just remind me of scraping by on an all-Ikea budget. Making a house a home has a lot to do with surrounding yourself with objects of meaning to you. It can seem daunting to do it tastefully but don't take it too seriously. The great thing about this kind of decorating is that it's not permanent. If you don't like your results, keep trying until you do!