I recently worked with clients who have been in their home for a year, have furnished it beautifully, but haven’t had a lot of time to devote to decor and finishing touches. One of the biggest tasks was fully styling the built-ins which surround their rock fireplace. Styling bookshelves may not seem like a big undertaking, but taking 16 individual boxes “moments” and making them flow cohesively is a more difficult task than it sounds. We had a bit of a tough deadline since the couple is getting ready to welcome their first child into their family, so we expedited this project and had it installed within two weeks. My Challenge: to style and create cohesive built-ins.
Their taste is classic, matte-Restoration Hardware “esque”. Nothing shiny, nothing loud, nothing too trendy.
*Apologies for poor photo quality- these were taken quickly upon completion with no natural light available due to the time of day
This is where we started:
… and here is the “after”:
The gorgeous elephant on the right is a family heirloom, so I found a “friend” to keep him company.
On the right side, here is the “before”:
… and here is the “after”:
The client already had the bottom left glass awards he wanted to incorporate and the whale bookends with books. Ultimately, these were rearranged slightly; the whale found a new home on the heart on top of the trunk and the ‘&’ was removed (I tried to break the rules with a little shiny haha).
This is the finished look of the complete unit- matte whites and grays which help to keep the room light against the dark floors, rug, and detailed furniture:
I am dying to get back over there and get some shots in the daytime, but for now, these will suffice. As previously mentioned, an elephant, the glass awards, and the whale were already owned, but all other accessories were purchased for this install.
I love using books to style bookshelves, but unless you already own a lot of books (that also “look” the part), hardback books are expensive. I ventured out to the local Goodwill and raided their white spine hardbacks and purchased all that you see here for under $100.
When tying two units together, I like to keep a row, either the top or bottom unified by using like objects. On the top row, the pottery is all from the same collection in varying shapes I mirrored the right side to the left. I also used a similar trick with two of the side shelves.
You can put a LOT on 16 shelves… but don’t. If you are like me, fight your tendencies and belief that “more is more” and keep it simple. Create “moments” on each shelf, not a full “story” on each shelf. I love to layer and layer, and use books in differing positions- leaning, stacked, and vertical. Step back occasionally and see how the full picture is coming together. If you want a more monochromatic look, see what decorative objects you already have and take spray paint to them.
There are many different ways to style shelves so take the time to decide what look you are going for. It is ok to return items and to rearrange them constantly. There are few greater feelings than the satisfaction of a well styled bookshelf.