Shelf Life

I have a friend who recently moved and is currently in the abyss of decorating her built-in bookshelves.

When we moved in I filled my bookshelves with all kinds of junk. Then I proceeded to spend 5 minutes a day adding, removing, rearranging items for the next several weeks.

I realize I’m kind of crazed. I probably think about things more than I should and over-analyze the placement of items. I also have a plethora of books.

(No, really, far too many. I tell this to myself every time I move. NO MORE BOOKS! Then I see one little used book sale and come home with armloads more.)

Suffice it to say we have four bookshelves in this house. And I still don’t have room for them all. There, I said it. And I’m not ashamed.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared my living room here before.

Here she is in all her pre-painted, just-moved-in glory.

Here she is now. (By the way, while sanding the mantle I discovered that it was once painted teal. Crazy huh?) This was our favorite room to paint. (Read: easiest job to do because it required the least spackling, sanding and prepping.)

And yes, our humongous television is in front of the window, but we don’t have much of a choice. There are 5 large windows, two built-in bookshelves, one fireplace, two doorways and one radiator (we already removed one!) to deal with. Not to mention furniture. It was here or over the fireplace. And we weren’t really feelin’ that. Plus, I don’t think we will have our tv in this room for long. Next to this room is an amazing 70s wood paneled sunroom we will tackle. But until

So, back to my being crazy and analyzing how to balance out our bookshelf decor.

Here is a close-up of our two built-in bookshelves side-by-side.

As you can see, it’s not totally finished yet. Some of the photo frames are still empty. And most of them are filled with the first photos I could find in our move. I’ll get back to it someday. I have since been distracted by IKEA pendant lamps, evil kitchen cabinet hinges and cleaning up from Hurricane Irene.

There were three rules of balance I used when decorating and fiddling with my bookshelf decor.

1. Color

Color-coded bookshelves are all over the map. This is likely because it helps a huge stack of books look a little less sloppy and slightly more presentable. I should add, I totally judged a book by it’s cover. If I didn’t like the spine of the book, it didn’t go on these shelves. My “uglier” books (aka: most of my paperbacks, how-to books and chick lit are upstairs).

  • Whites: white, cream, yellow, silver, gray
  • Darks: black, brown, navy
  • Reds: red, orange, pink, maroon, purple
  • Blues: blue, teal, blue-gray
  • Greens: evergreen, lettuce green, you get the idea

2. Elemental

The elements of the world are earth, wind, water and fire. The elements of your bookshelves will depend on what you are putting on them. Mine are paper, wood, metal, glass and organic material. Yours could be pottery, plastic or ice cubes.

  • Paper: books, obviously
  • Metal: photo frames and other collectibles
  • Wood: sentimental knick knacks made out of *shocker* wood
  • Glass: vases
  • Organic material: woven straw, rocks, seashells, etc.

3. Impression

I am not sure if I really know how to describe this one.

While I was arranging by color and by element, I was also trying to balance out the impression certain piece gave. I distinguished them by graphical, weathered and photographic.

  • Photographic: I think this is obvious. Photos.
  • Graphical: A lot of these are book spines with graphic text on them. As a graphic designer I pay a lot of attention to type, so this would bother me if everything was arranging sloppily. (Did I really just admit I arrange my books my typography style. Eek.) I am also including any frames or vases that are a solid color into the “graphical” category.
  • Weathered: I also own a lot of older books (Hi, my name is Kat and I have a used-book-purchasing problem.) so I wanted to group a lot of these together. Other weathered items include driftwood, a carved buoy and pieces that just looked old.

Perhaps the easier way to describe this step is to balance out your antique (that word for me is kind of a stretch) and new items.

I think I’ve reached a new level of nerd-dom in this post.

Please tell me I’m not the only one?

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