When Matthew and I first moved to Atlanta, we moved into the nicest little one bedroom apartment. It was the first apartment we toured and it really felt like the first real adult thing we had done as a couple. You know, besides getting married. I had researched for weeks, making a spreadsheet full of apartment buildings in northern Atlanta suburbs with different requirements and pros and cons, all in preparation for our big move. I did all of that work just to end up in the very first apartment I found. We were sold on the nice woman giving us the tour, how much the complex reminded us of our apartment in Chapel Hill, and honestly, the built in bookshelves in the living room. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on those bad boys. By this point, my love for decor was just beginning to develop and I knew that arranging the shelves would be like leveling up in a game. I would have all this space to express myself and set a tone for our home and there’s nothing I love more than potential.
We lived in that apartment for three years and the shelves went through several transformations and if I lived there today, they would probably look entirely different from how I had them last. Since then, I’ve had bookshelves and mantles to fill with trinkets and souvenirs and books and bird figurines but I’m going through fewer transformations now because I have a more defined style and I have better tricks. So I thought I would share some of my ideas on how to style shelves so that you can have an arrangement you love immediately, making your home just how you want it.
1. Start with what you naturally want
I think starting with what you naturally want is super important. Your home should reflect you and your style and if you are pleased with what you see, that’s really all that matters. For our mantle, my starting off point was candles and pink and blue. Candles can be elegant and cozy at the same time, which is the feeling I wanted. And pink and blue together is my favorite color combination and I hadn’t really thought to use it in home decor before now.
2. Symmetrical but not identical
One rule I have is Symmetrical but not Identical. The mantle is balanced on each side but the elements are different and so they draw your eye. The whole reason I love “curating” is because you of the dynamic you can create. You’re putting things together, curating them, that are disparate but you can arrange them to appear like they were made for each other. And I think that kind of harmony is what draws your attention and pleases the eye. You want balance but you want enough diversity to keep the shelf interesting. So I have colors corresponding to each other on each side but nothing is put together exactly the same.
3. Unifying element
So the way to connect all these disparate items is to have something to pull them together, to unify them. For our mantle, it was this picture of Christ. Like I said before, I knew I wanted to do pink and blue but I needed something to bring them together. The pink of the sunset and the blue of the water were perfect. It was an added bonus that this is my favorite picture and that it just sets a lovely tone at the center of our home.
I think this is key to making a shelf dynamic. It gives the shelf depth and it creates this sort of “peeking through effect.” You get a different picture from each angle.
5. Working with 3’s
So I didn’t realize this was one of my rules but looking at my bookshelves, I realized I like to make these triangles out of my decor. It’s a good starting off point to layering.
I love shelving space because there is so much potential there. You have this blank canvas that is so easy and fun to fill. Moving can be overwhelming, having all these empty spaces you have to fill. But hopefully these tips help you whether you’re moving or redecorating or you want to get started in interior design. I didn’t start with any knowledge, just inspiration. It all starts with what inspires you, what makes you feel peace and joy in your own home.