November 13, 2014

Bookshelf Makeover

Welcome to today's edition of things that you didn't know you were doing wrong until Pinterest told you so.  This edition faces the dilemma of bookshelf styling.  What's that?  You didn't know this was a think?  Oh you dear thing.  If you've been on Pinterest at all, then sooner or later I'm sure you've come across tips for styling your bookshelf to look worthy of a magazine.  Typically, that means removing all of your books, or organizing them by size, color, with the spines turned around (no, really), or some other bizarre treatment that may look nice but renders the shelf useless for storing books you actually, you know, read.
Thankfully I did come across a couple blogs that explain why some setups look cluttered while others look nice and appealing.  Furthermore, they showed how to apply these principles of balance, vertical and horizontal space, and grouping with shelves full of real life books.  Brilliant!  I applied those general rules and got a great end result with the bookshelf in my living room.

Before: A Mess
Before, I didn't know why the shelf felt messy but it just did.  Turns out there were some general design things to explain this feeling.  There were a lot of spots where things were all too similar.  They threw off the visual weight of things.  Mixed in with the obvious no no of toys were the messy spots, again close together, without any sense of balance or feeling of intent.  They looked disheveled because they were- spots to toss books whenever.  Lastly, I wouldn't have thought it, but the "plain" cubes with just books and nothing else were throwing things off, too.  You don't need tchotchkes in every cubby but you do need to spread the love with the empty spots, not concentrate them all in one area of the shelf.

So to get started with the clean up, I took out all the toys and put them in the playroom, where they belonged.  Then I took off all of the non-book items.  I set aside the Halloween stuff and put it back in bins until next fall.  I needed the default look of this shelf when not decorated specifically for a holiday.  Then I went cube by cube and started pulling out books in chunks to stack on their sides, or to double up rows of books, put some behind objects and use others to prop up on either side of a stack.  I did this bit by bit, layering in the accessories as I went, going over it a couple times and rearranging to get the final, balanced and clean looking product.

Ta da!

So why does this setup work so much better?  Let's break it down by a few simple rules.

Vertical height.  You need the height to go up and down in some nice progressions, giving the eye some spots of interest to catch and move on from.  You end up creating a series of triangles in the layout of objects, and when you see that these triangles are varied all through the shelf, it's working.
This variations aren't just vertical height, either- horizontal depth is important, too.  You need layers, so sometimes this is by pushing the books far back and placing something in front of them, like an old camera or a stack of books on their side.  Other times, it's pushing the books just to the middle of their cube so they're at a different depth than their neighbors.  The mirror in the back of one spot does this to a whole other degree as well.

Lastly, I balanced the blank space throughout the shelf instead of all at the bottom.  Much better!

And there we have it.  Nice, pleasing bookshelf makeover while keeping ALL of my books on the shelves!  I'll do a future holiday edition when I gussy it up at Christmas time. :)

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