Built-in's can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on whether or not you know how to dress them effectively.
The obvious choice for donning your shelves, is rows and rows of books. This is what I like to call "The Modified Version of Styling". You know how in a workout video, there's always someone doing the modified exercise? Well, books would be it for a built in. If styling them using too many different items isn't going as well as you'd hoped, you can always fall back on this option, until you figure out a better solution!
But, if you're pumped up and ready for the Advanced Version, let's jump into it. First things first, I always begin every styling session with this process:
- Clear off anything on the shelves already. Completely clear!
- Shop your house for decor items, artwork, books, sentimental items. Anything that could fit on your shelves!
Okay, now that the prep process is done, let's move on to styling!
1. Consider Needs
Assess what functions the built-in has. It might just be for decoration, and if so you can move on to the next step.
It might be a set of shelves flanking a TV and in that case, maybe needs to hold a console or DVD's. Your job is to figure out how to satisfy the needs your space has, while also looking pleasing to the eye.
Our corner hutch needed to house a few items we use each morning for our families devotional, and so I grabbed a simple cloth basket and set it on the shelf. It's functional, but still beautiful.
2. Add Artwork and Books
Don't skip the artwork in this step! This is one of the only times that if you don't have anything already, and can't create some free art, that I will suggest you actually go and invest in some. Art will forever and always be my favorite way to bring a space to life.
When placing your art, push it all the way to the back and lean it up against the wall. This creates depth and dimension. Because we only have a few shelves, I used a small and simple piece of art, but if you've got an entire wall of shelves, I'd suggest using quite a few pieces that look nice together and scatter them throughout the built-in.
Books should be placed in stacks both horizontally and vertically throughout the shelves. I suggest adding these early on, because they give structure to the built in, give you something to rest other smaller objects on, and give your eye a pattern.
Style in a zig-zag. I like to create a subtle vertical zig-zag with this step. It's pleasing to the eye, and when you fill in with objects, it naturally looks balanced.
3. Fill in with objects
You'll remember the rule of 3's from my guide on styling a console table? Well this is exactly the same. You want to create vignettes using sets of three objects (this includes the books) and vary the height and shape of the objects.
To create dramatic effect you can choose some shelves to hold one larger sculptural piece, instead of a vignette.
I often see people fill their shelves too full, especially with smaller items. Remember that less is more when it comes to styling and don't add to many similarly sized items.
There you have it! I hope you see your built-in as a blessing, not a curse from here on out! Tag me in what you're working on using #jhstyle on Instagram! I'd love to see what you've got going on!