Our latest installment of Project Design: Easy Steps to Styling Your Bookshelves.
As soon as Mary Ann and Cindy suggested the topic, I thought, “well, that’s great, but I don’t even have bookshelves.” You would think an old house would have plenty of built in bookcases, but no, not a single built-in bookcase in this house. So for me, that meant I had to buy bookcases before I could style them. We have plenty of options at Serena & Lily and don’t think I didn’t consider a pair of these. At the end of the day I just didn’t want to spend money on something that might not fit in my next house. So I started looking at less expensive options. We ended up with these from AllModern. We absolutely love them and they’re a fraction of the price. The style of our home is very eclectic with a little traditional mixed in with modern. It’s a mix of high and low-end all over the place. For example, we have Knoll Barcelona Chairs in the front room with a side table from west elm and a trunk I found at Goodwill for $15. So finding some simple industrial looking shelves in white that were around $100 each was fine with me.
Now for the styling part: Bookshelves are perfect for telling your story. Use your favorite collections, souvenirs, books, trinkets, and family photos to create a meaningful display on your bookshelves.
I like to look at bookshelves in sections. Instead of thinking that you have this entire space to fill, think of it as mini vignettes. Our shelves measure only 24″ wide, so each shelf is one section. The Balboa shelves that I like are 31″ wide and Serena & Lily shows it with the top shelf being one vignette and then the remaining shelves are broken into two sections. I think breaking it up makes it more manageable.
I have learned so much from working at Serena & Lily. This photo was from when we first opened in Westport. Of course they have changed about 100 times, but this was an all time favorite!
First, gather all your items and put them in one place.
Sort by color, shape, size, and texture.
The first thing you need to do is gather all the things you want to use and display on your shelves. Put them in one place so you can start to see how they will look together. Shop your own house before adding anything new. Think about collections, boxes, bowls, vases, and even things from your kids’ rooms. Once you have everything that you are considering displaying, group things together according to shape, size, color, texture. This will give you a good idea of what you have and also what you are missing.
Photos and frames – I know this is sometimes difficult, but changing out frames to all one kind can really pull the entire look together. I love the Acrylic Box Photo Frames from Crate & Barrel, but any frames in the same color or type of wood makes it visually less “busy” mixed in with other objects and books.
Take everything off before putting even one thing back. Begin with the larger items or groups of items, like books. I used my collection of white McCoy vintage pottery on the top shelf of each bookshelf. Then I skipped to the middle section and placed the typewriter. On the opposite bookshelf I wanted something equally as “heavy” looking and chose to stack two large books with the black and white book on top to balance the typewriter.
Start with completely empty shelves and start to build.
The next shelf on each side is dedicated to books. I don’t want them to be so similar that it looks contrived, so on the travel side I used a glass jar with candles in it. I have a candelabra that I found at our local thrift store and I always buy pretty candles with that in mind. I also like that the candles pulled the colors of the Sara Midda’s South of France: A Sketchbook I have at the opposite side of the shelf. I used one white stone bookend to balance the shelf, but not add more color since the books and candles already have a lot of color.
On the bottom shelf I used two Riviera Bins from Serena & Lily. I like the warm rattan color on the white metal. Also it’s perfect storage. In one I put a few of Patrick & Madeline’s old toys for when we have little visitors and the other holds stacks of cloth napkins.
Now the only shelf that remains is the top (or second) shelf below the McCoy. I chose lighter looking objects like the sand collection in clear boxes from The Container Store. I used a new DYMO Label Maker to create old school labels for each box.
To keep the same “light” look on the opposite side, I used a combination of Acrylic frames, a Tiffany crystal bowl filled with white beach rocks from our recent trip to Montauk, and a white vase with Billy Balls because they last for weeks! I also used an industrial ion lamp from Schoolhouse Electric. I read that you should always have a triangle of light. This space used to have a pair of lamps. I no longer wanted that look, but still needed just a little light to provide that triangle in our room. The Ion Boxed Light Set was the perfect option. It’s a little industrial like the shelves and provides just the perfect amount of light.
To finish the entire project, we replaced our regular flat screen tv with the new Samsung The Frame. We love it! It’s perfect for a house where you want a TV, but it’s your living room, so you don’t want it to look like you have one!
What did I buy to complete the look? An interesting black bowl, a small white vase and a large tray for the console between the bookshelves from Terrain. I also found bookends on Amazon and at Target.
Fill in with a few new things to make it more interesting and fun!
What would I change? Once we opened the boxes with the bookshelves I thought maybe if I had thought of it before I would have ordered brass screws and casters with brass. When I mentioned this to my husband, he said, “Is that what you really want or are you just trying to make it more difficult?” “Yes, the second one!” Brass is not necessary and of course would have added to the cost, but something to think about if you order these shelves or something similar.
Make sure to check out these bloggers to see their ideas on styling bookcases. We all could not be more different when it comes to our bookcases and that’s what makes it so fun!
Mary Ann Pickett – Classic* Casual* Home
Cindy Hattersley – Rough Luxe Lifestyle
Kris Jarrett – Driven by Decor
Sherry Hart – Design Indulgence