Fourth Grade Styling

>> 1.29.2014

I've had the hardest time learning how to accessorize bookcases. For someone like me with no design experience, it's been a real learning curve, and a lot of trial and error. I feel kind of like I am in the fourth grade of styling school, with so much more to learn. I've spent a lot of time researching how to style bookcases, dressers and mantles, and I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it.

There's this bookcase that I stare at every day while cooking dinner, and its haphazardly placed accessories (or lack thereof) were beating me down. So the other day I neglected the chores and spent the morning restyling it. Part of accessorizing is just trying different things until it looks good, so that's what I did.

Here's a before:

And After:

I'm pretty sure the pros don't spend an entire morning trying to figure out a space like I did, but I do think in most cases there is no one right way to do it, and it takes some trial and error to find what really works.

You should try this at home. Here are some tips; some I've taken from other designers, and some from my own limited experience. 

1. Steal from your house. So maybe you have a really cool frame that you love, but it's in another space. Don't limit yourself by keeping that frame in there. Try it out in the space that you're working on. Who knows, maybe it will look better there.

2. Put things you love into your bookcases. There is no rule that says bookcases are only for books. They should be for collectables, interesting knickknacks, pictures, memories, and things that appeal to you.

3. Stack books different ways. On their sides, by color, spines facing the wrong way, etc. Put things on top of books too! Try it. It's fun.

4. Start with the larger things and spread them out evenly throughout the shelves. Then go for the medium size stuff, and lastly, add the little things. While doing this, keep in mind height, shape and color and try to vary it up.

5. Are your bookcases a little bare? Go to the thrift store. Look for cheap books with interesting spines, little chotskies like figurines, vases, things that are appealing to you. They may seem weird alone, but put them in a bookcase and it's magic.

6. Think in odd numbers. Solitary items, and groups of three and five are more appealing to the eye than even numbers of items on a shelf.

7. Sometimes less is more. Once you put everything in, take a step back and get a good look at your work. Does it seem like "too much?" or is it just right? Now's the time to edit, and take things away that seem to clutter the space instead of add to it. Because we don't want to turn into this:

photo via Keely Kraft


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