Erin Gates is an interior designer, blogger, and curator of all things stylish. She began her blog, Elements of Style, in 2007 and formed her own design company, Erin Gates Design, shortly thereafter. Her work and writing have been featured in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, and Better Homes and Gardens. She and her husband live in Boston. Her first book from sister company Simon & Schuster, Elements of Style: Designing A Home & A Life, is now available wherever books are sold.
As an interior designer, one of the things that clients ask me to perform most often is organizing, decorating, and accessorizing their home bookshelves. People seem to be intimidated by the prospect of making these spaces look neat and interesting. When styling a multitude of homes for my book Elements of Style: Designing A Home & A Life, I found myself utilizing a series of “rules” when it came to working on the bookshelves. Here are five essential tips:
Start With A Clean Slate
In order to do this properly, pull out everything from your shelves, wipe them down, and start from the ground up. When you try to reorganize piece-by-piece you get nowhere. Edit down to your most important books and possessions and group them by type on the floor.
Consider The Back
Before you start putting things back in, think about ways to dress up the space itself. I love applying patterned wallpaper or grasscloth to the backs of shelves to make them feel like a little jewelry box. An easier (and less expensive) method is to do a bold or dark color paint. These methods will really makes the objects on your shelves pop.
Mix It Up
Don’t limit yourself to just books! The key to making your bookshelves feel curated is to mix in accessories along with your book collection. Sculptural objects, bookends, vases, tchotchkes, picture frames, and art pieces all make fantastic additions. Another tip is to orient your books in different directions, with some spines vertical and some horizontal. On the horizontal stacks place an object atop it for perfect layering effect.
Look For Balance
You don’t want one shelf to have all frames and others all books – be sure to mix objects together on every shelf. Place items on the shelves in decreasing size order, starting with biggest books and accessories, with the smallest books and accessories last. Repeatedly stand back and look for spaces that need more visual weight and those that need less. The goal is for there to be a nice harmony among the shelves.
Conceal The Clutter
Sometimes you just have to use your bookshelves to store not-so-pretty objects and everyday items. Hide unsightly remotes, paperwork, electronic manuals, and other household items in matching baskets or decorative boxes. This works great for kids items too!
Keeping your bookshelves tidy while turning them into beautiful centerpieces really changes the way your living space feels. Less visual clutter translates to a more soothing, peaceful home and we all need more of that kind of elegance and style in our lives!