I’m not going to lie. Styling is hard. It looks so effortless. I read Emily Henderson’s blog all the time and I think to myself, Emily I love you and would like to steal your house and hair, but I can do this. I’ll just throw three objects together (big, small, medium) that sort of work together and boom! Styled. And for the most part that works.
But then, what do you do when you have a large shelving unit and multiple spaces on the shelving unit that have to be styled, that need to look cohesive? You can’t just throw objects in groups of 3 in every segment. Not only would that look weird, but it’d be boring.
These are the life-altering questions I was facing a few weeks ago when we picked up the Ikea IVAR system (a stylish, cheap solution that doesn’t make your living room look like a dorm room?! Quick! Buy it now, because Ikea will probably discontinue it. They’re worse than NBC about taking items off the shelf that people actually like). We left our bookshelves at our Baltimore house and the only thing we have more of than art is books. There’s about a bagillion windows in this house, so wall space is fairly precious. Right by the couch though was a space the perfect size for three IVAR shelves, and it meant that I wouldn’t have to over load the space with art, though that it is a pretty excellent look if done right.
When we got the shelves home, I realized that the height of the different segments in the shelves was too big for just books and it wouldn’t look right, given how classy the shelves look. So, I grabbed my massive amount of accessories, knickknacks, kotchkies, etc and piled them all in the living room, as well as several boxes of books and spent probably the most excruciatingly exact 2 hours I’ve ever spent on a house project. I swear Steven thought I was nuts during this process, as I watched the Walking Dead and muttered about composition. Thinking back on it, can’t really say I blamed him.
I decided to style based on the following principles, ordered by importance: 1. Color 2. Styling Techniques 3. Subject (in the case of the books) and 4. Practicality.
For me, I already knew that I would be painting the room a dark color and that combined with the dark shelves, the dark couch and the dark floors, I knew I would need to bring in an appropriate amount of color, but it needed to stop shy of “Exploding Rainbow”. Therefore, I grouped the accessories and books by color first. Each square in the shelves has a clear color theme and I did my best with what was on hand to join the different themes in the middle.
For example, on the first row, the books are black and pink, the pot for the aloe vera plant is black and white, and I threw in Archibald Mchenry Bacon (the yellow pig. I name all our fake animals and plants) for a little pop of color, since it was getting kind of dark.
In the middle, I brought in the pictures, one in a black frame to tie in with the left side, one in a red frame to tie in the right side and a neutral silver to get that essential grouping of three.
On the left, I went with the all red approach and stacked red books and paired them with my voodoo statue from New Orleans (the accessories also pair out in a sense, because two of the pictures were taken in New Orleans).
On the second shelf, I went a bit lighter and stuck with mostly white accessories and gold. On the left shelf, I grouped most of my design books and then graded them by color, and paired it with white.
On the middle shelf, I went again with a neutral silver frame and added gold accessories and books, with a little bit of blue to tie into the cover of Cuba.
On the right it was going to be only white with the natural green of the cactus, but I decided to add a book on Cars I got for Steven and my gold urchin by Nate Berkus for Target. Since that tied into the rest of the shelf, I was really happy with it.
The third shelf is a bit of an ode to Steven. He loves old record players and my parents bought him a new Crosby a few Christmases ago. So, I kept it simple. His record player, a stack of records with a giant succulent and then some miscellaneous accessories and books that are mostly hidden by the couch, so I wasn’t too worried about a perfect composition.
The bottom shelf is where my crazy really kicked into high gear. The books are again graded by color, and it took me probably 45 minutes to pull out the right books and colors and get this juuuuuuust right. I really like it though, because it grounds the whole thing, is a lot of book storage and still matches the aesthetic of the shelf unit.
All-in-all, I may have been channeling the crazy, but the effort was really worth it. The whole room just looks very put together and adult with this, and it makes for an interesting show case of our lives together. Plus, a lot of boxes were unpacked in the making of this shelf, and that’s always a boon.
For resources on styling, you really can’t go wrong with Emily Henderson . She has tons of video tutorials and posts on the subject, has been a professional stylist for years and has a show on HGTV called “Secrets of a Stylist”.
Other than, just paying attention to what does/doesn’t work in pictures is very important. Once you start to get an idea of what you visually like, you can start playing around with how you display your items and tweak them so that they look…right. I know that’s really wishy-washy, but it really kind of is a gut-feeling thing sometimes.
There’s definitely a school of thought that your home shouldn’t be perfectly styled like a magazine. And that’s a very valid viewpoint, but I’m OCD enough that I want everything to look right, as often as possible (even if it’s an “effortless and unstyled” style). For people like me though, hopefully this was a helpful guide.