Updating the South One Space at a TimeUpdating the South One Space at a Time

How NOT to Style a Bookcase

August 26, 2019

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Okay I know, you've seen a million videos and blog posts on how to style a shelf or bookcase right? There’s a lot of really great tips on how to style a bookcase or creating the perfect “shelfie”found on interior designers websites or instagram.   Here's a different approach and something this designer feels you should definitely NOT do.

A few years back I attended a dinner party at the newly built luxury home of  one of the participants of a golf tournament. My husband is a golf professional so these come around a lot for me. First of all…..I do not play golf. This means no one talks to me as soon as they find out I am not a lover of the game. Golfers are a strange breed.Golf is all they want to talk about. So for me, this means I usually walk around smiling, admiring the decor and feeling like a square-peg generally speaking.

This residence was stunning!  A hilltop residence with a gorgeous kitchen, huge casual dining area and family room. All looking out onto the gigantic outdoor pool and patio with a magnificent view of the city! 

So What Does This Have to Do With Styling a Bookcase?

Stay with me, I’m setting the stage. After twenty laps os so around the place and my face beginning to hurt from the permanent grin, I planted myself on the family room sofa. Custom of course, fabric like butter and an enormous built in with shelving sections on each side. I began to do what all designers do, (just admit it, you know we do) scrutinize the space. 

The bookcases like everything else, were beautifully styled. Perfection, all the correct design elements. Perfect scale, color, finishes, repetition, pattern,etc.”Obviously, a professional job” I thought to myself. I was very comfortable on that custom sofa so the longer I sat there,  the harder I thought about it. Then it came to me! It looked just like a model home!

So What's the Problem?

I quickly realized that what I was looking for in all of this glorious perfection was not a clue of who these people were. Unless you are in the witness protection program,  a perfectly styled bookcase or shelf should reflect who you are. Model homes are meant to appeal to everyone and you are not everyone.

 This does not mean that things like proportion, color and scale go  out the window. Of course you need to pay attention to basic design principles. Don't be afraid to put you and your family on display! Your likes, hobbies, family history, vacation memories  etc., should all be stylishly revealed when styling bookcase or “shelfie”.

These selections can all be related by color, frame selections,and  groupings or vignettes. Don't be afraid to let your personality shine through. What has become  one of my favorite photos of my son is one from the fourth grade where he is making an incredibly goofy face. His  teacher sent the package home with a “special” note and the photo company offered a “do over”. I chose to select an off beat frame and it is now a favorite piece on my office shelf. 

How NOT to Style a Bookcase!

DON’T- Go out to the local homestore and purchase everything you need at once. 

Search through your “stuff”, at least the stuff you want people to see. Find what lights you up and start from there. After all, you will be looking at it all the time, your guests will most likely not. Find a  starting place and then go shopping for items to make what you already have relatable. Frames, vases of different heights, and decorative boxes or baskets are all good items to both serve purpose and fill space.

DON’T- Buy six of the exact same thing.

This is not how rhythm and repetition are created in a curated display. Rather you want items of similar style and shape, but not exactly the same. Picture frames for instance should be of similar style and visual weight but not all the same frame! Stay with a predominant finish or color or maybe even group of colors. Don't be afraid to throw something unique in there to stand on its own.

DON’T- Purchase items just to fill the space.

Of course you may need to purchase a few things when styling a bookcase. Ask yourself why before purchasing an item. If it's just to fill some space think again. Do you really love it? Have to have it?That should be your criteria!  Don't be afraid to take a little time. Maybe you will find the perfect item on that upcoming vacation! You should be surrounded by things you love so never make a purchase if its only for the purpose of filling a little space.

 If your designer is curating items for you this explains why the designer-client relationship is so important. Your designer should at this point, have very clear understanding of who you are and what lights you up. And never be afraid to speak up and let us know when something is just not you. It happens and we are used to it. If your designer gets offended, look for another one.

DON’T- Be afraid of negative space. 

Negative space or empty space when styling your bookcase is your friend. Don’t feel the need to fill every square inch of space! Quality over quantity always! Some of the best looks I have seen are one perfect large object on a shelf all on its own. At times, less really is more.

 If you are in the Jacksonville Florida area I usually always have time to work in a consult within a week or two. Sign up for my email list below, (I promise not to bombard you with offers) and get great design tips and ideas in your inbox! AND you will get  my free guide to selecting the perfect cabinetry! 


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