In our modern, tech driven era it’s hard not to get shelf envy from the multitude of lustrous “shelfies” posted on social media day to day. They all seem so natural; these masterpieces of open storage, as if all the impeccably curated items had simply always been there. You don’t need a degree in interior design to stage a first rate bookshelf, but there are some principles that are foundational to styling any surface in your home. Below are a few very simple guidelines that will lead to surprisingly handsome results.
Experiment with book orientation
This first tip might be the most effective, not to mention easy to accomplish. Most of us naturally arrange our library in the same manner across shelves – either stacking them all horizontally or upright. Mix it up! Intersperse vertical runs with horizontals. Make some stacks shorter to allow room for objets d’art. You’ll be amazed how much visual interest this creates; especially if you have a lot of books, it will break up the monotony.
At the risk of stating the obvious, your bookshelf will inevitably come off bland if it only contains books, no matter how interesting they are. Curate a trove of decorative objects: sculptural ceramics, candle holders, vases. Be inventive and vary the collection. Be selective by only purchasing items that stand out to you. Peruse flea markets, vintage stores and garage sales you happen upon. The unpredictability of these places is part of the fun, and it will be reflected on your cabinetry creating an element of spontaneity that might even catch you off guard each time you walk past.
Arrange books by color
Or try it anyway. This one is a bit controversial, but done sparingly and in the right places it will really pop; Much like playing with the orientation of the library, arranging by color breaks up the bulk of the display aesthetically. It’s a quick layout to try and will also make the shelves look less busy, especially if you have a few decorative objects in the mix.
Work off a focused palette
This really applies to styling any surface in your home, but try and edit the color palette on your shelves to be clear and consistent. One of the most common mistakes people make when styling bookshelves is creating a busy, cluttered look. Edit your objects; if they’re not beautiful, sentimental or don’t fit with the aesthetic, then make a trip to the donation center.
Add your artwork
If you collect artwork or just have a couple pieces, put them in the mix! Adding art to your shelves is another great way to break up the rows of books and simplify the look. Paintings and sculptures can take up a lot of real estate on a shelf, which is really a good thing as it keeps the display decluttered. Art also adds personality, as it is something we choose based purely on what we like, not on function. It makes the shelves look deeper as well and creates a sense of layering.
As with any decorating project, remember the most important thing is to have fun with it. If you enjoy the process, the results will follow. Think of your shelves not so much as storage but as a space to exhibit your well-curated collection of books, design objects and art. And don’t feel tied to whatever you stage at first. Shelves, as with everything in the home, can be ever-changing and evolving. Check out NW Rugs’ bookcases for a place to get started on your shelf design goals.
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Placing the correct size rug in your space is as important as choosing the right color or pattern. A rug that it is too small will shift the balance of the room unfavorably. A rug that is too big, especially in open floor plans, may put the area designations off. There are a few rules of thumb, but a picture says it better. Use these handy guides by Interior Designer Lisa Ferguson to make the best choice.