Integrated shelves to fill? Try these tips from an expert – The Mercury News

As a writer and designer, I’m terrified of the blank page and the blank wall – which I feel compelled to fill with style and purpose. It can be intimidating.

If you want to experience full body paralysis, stand in front of an empty wall or vacant set of built-in shelves and try to accessorize them. The simultaneous appearance of forces petrifies even accomplished DIY home designers.

These forces include the fact that open shelves are essentially screaming, “This is what we think is beautiful. Ideally, they should represent those who live in the house – their character, interests, tastes, intelligence, and travels – without looking like some stuffy old taxidermy.

In addition to that, in a shared space, the displays must nicely mix various horizons: its French earthenware, its framed fishing flies. And besides having meaningful objects, they must look good together. To create an attractive composition, you need to take into account the texture, shape, color, scale, the right amount of empty space, and the overall balance.

I just took on such a challenge with the built-in shelf in my large room. I have mixed artefacts from DC life and mine, and added books from our combined libraries. The result looks good, but I’m not happy with it so I don’t give up.

So after hearing that the styling of the shelving is a specialty of interior designer Jaclyn Joslin – owner of Coveted Home, a furniture store in Kansas City, Missouri – I called her.

“I see two extremes,” Joslin says among customers who ask her to help them with the shelves. “I see either shelves completely empty because the owners don’t know what to do, or shelves full of stuff. Creating a harmonious shelving arrangement is tricky even for those who are trained in design.

She offers this advice:

Clear the slate. Remove everything from the shelves. Resist the temptation to paint the back wall a contrasting color. Joslin says, “Painting, or even wallpapering this area, was a trend for a while, but this look isn’t anymore. Just stick with white, or the color of the walls in the room, or the color of the built-in.

Point out the possibilities. Open your cupboards and take out all the candidates for shelving decoration – books, pretty dishes, vases, old rusty cameras, glass art, ironwork, candlesticks, clocks, potted plants, woven baskets, small framed art objects. , etc. Place them on a table to “shop” from. Rate objects for their sculptural qualities, color, texture, shape, and what they mean to you.

Add layers. Support or hang the art on the back wall to add depth. You can place books or small accessories in front.

Mix the materials. Aim for a variety of textures: ceramic, metal, wood, glass, books, textiles, plants and works of art.

Player. Start with a few hardback books; add an orange ceramic vase, then a piece of orange glass. Put small next to big. Enter a plant. Let each shelf be its own landscape, then make sure the shelves are perfectly balanced.

Leave plenty of free space. The eye needs relief. Keep adding and removing until you like the arrangement. Come back later and play again until the shelves click into place.

Start a habit. Make collecting beautiful accessories a part of your life, suggests Joslin, not only when traveling, but when shopping in your own city. “The biggest mistake I see is when people run into a store and buy a bunch of cheap accessories to fill a space,” she says. The result seems soulless. “Better to sit with a few empty spaces and wait for the right element. “

Take it easy on the photos. The second biggest mistake Joslin sees is too many framed ones. This takes away any hope of creating an edited, understated and stylish display.

Include your favorite books. Hardback books are best, although a darling tattered few can add character. Arrange the books vertically and horizontally for more variety and incorporate beautiful bookends. Generally avoid a wall-to-wall book look, although in some rooms a sturdy wall of books does look great.

To evolve. “Don’t feel like you have to hang on to what you’ve bought if you don’t really like it anymore,” Joslin says.

So that’s my excuse. It’s not that my shelves aren’t quite right – they’re just changing.

Contact Marni Jameson at his www.marnijameson.com.