I recently had a reader submit her bookcases/TV unit for my give and take series, and although I’ve never tried to virtually style shelves, I decided it might be fun to give it a try. Cat has books for the shelves that she hasn’t placed yet and was also wondering if she should accessorize the top.
What I would take away from the space: When I’m styling bookshelves, I like to take away all of the very small accessories (possibly adding them back later as a finishing layer). I also think too many different styles of picture frames can sometimes look too busy.
What I would give to the space: I definitely like to see books on a bookshelf, but how many is a personal preference. Cat mentioned that she didn’t want the shelves to be overstuffed, so I would use books on every other shelf, along with a few well placed accessories. In this case, I wouldn’t add anything to the top. I think it would take away from the thick moulding and pretty beams.
Okay, are you ready for this diagram? :) Hopefully it will make sense.
A: I would keep it simple and symmetrical by using a row of these small vases, two in each compartment (four total). If it feels too minimal, she could also fill in with books and use the vases as bookends.
B: This is where I would add a row of books, using one of these bookends per compartment.
C & D: I would add frames on each side (mix it up—one horizontal and one vertical), along with a smaller accessory like this little succulent or this gold star. (Again, she could always layer these pieces in front of more books. . .)
E: I would keep these shelves pretty minimal, adding a horizontal stack of books on each side.
F: A longer basket or bin is not only an easy way to fill a bookshelf but is nice for hiding remotes and other little things that seem to accumulate.
G: Another framed photograph and small succulent arrangement would work here to balance things out.
Since the bookcase won’t be overly accessorized, it will give Cat some space and time to collect other pieces, but it still looks “finished” in the meantime.
All the accessories are fun. I would also flank some tall plants on the side of the bookcase.
What do you suggest for styling tops of tall book cases like that? I have a similar setup, although my bookcases are more media cabinets – somewhat mission-y in brown wood with bubbly glass doors and drawers. I’m not as concerned with shelf styling as what to do on top. Mine are on with sides of the tv/fireplace against a very tall wall. I’ve tried a few things and nothing seems to work. Should I go symmetrical and simple
like matching baskets or something else? Have been trying to figure this one out for years! Any help would be appreciated.
Emily Clark says
Kathy–thanks for reminding me about that. I just updated the post with my thoughts… :)
I would personally leave the tops alone in this case because of the beams. But, in our living room, I’ve used ginger jars in different heights and really like that look.
Sarah C says
I took a bookshelf styling class last year and the #1 thing I learned was to keep things “visually light” at the top – so anything too visually heavy at the top (chunky baskets) will look funky. I think ceramic pieces like the ginger jars work when they have some white space, as does light-colored glass or wire sculpture pieces. Maybe a couple of large lanterns?
You made me give my baskets the side-eye.
I love your virtual styling! I would also suggest installing some nice knobs/hardware to the lower cabinets.
I was thinking the exact same thing as soon as I saw the before shot!
Sounds fantastic. I would agree with the hardware and large plants at each side. I also think you’re right about leaving the tops bare to show off the nice moulding.
Where did she get her cabinets ? Are they custom ?
Please don’t ever stop doing these. I learn so much from them.
This post is exactly what I needed today! My husband just built custom books shelves flanking the fireplace and we moved the tv above the mantle. I have all these blank shelves to fill!!! Love your ideas and would definitely add hardware to the cabinets below.
Kathleen Tweed says
Love this post! Wonderful suggestions. The picture frames all being alike is probably a no-brainer to you but I know I’ve made this mistake over and over. Plus, making some of the frames vertical others horizontal – I can now see where that would make a big difference! Love all your suggestions! Hopefully Cat will take your suggestions and send in “after” pictures. Would love to see the finished work.
I love this series. Some many good take aways to use in our homes. Do you ever receive after pictures from your readers? I’d love to see how their spaces look after incorporating your suggestions.
Emily Clark says
I have one that I need to share! And, I did include an update from a reader at the bottom another give & take post.
I’d love for you to do a post on styling accent/console/entry tables in the living room! I’ve got 3 I just can’t get quite right :)
I would love this too!
Great post! You did a fantastic job with your diagram and explanations. Very simple and easy to follow!