The Great Bookshelf Edit

7:22 PM

Arranging a bookshelf, china cabinet, or coffee table can be incredibly stressful. I have thousands of pins of perfectly arranged spaces, hundreds of how-to articles saved on my blog reader, and many many fails in my attempts to achieve an elegant but functional arrangement.

I approached our bookshelf like I did the development of my capsule wardrobe (don't worry a post is coming). The keys to ending at something you love comes down to...simplification and only keeping your favorites.

Step 1:
Purge! Purge! And Purge again! Armed with the KonMari Method and my inspiration from Zero Waste Home (more posts coming) I took a paired down approach. The key here is to remove everything and only keep those things you really love. Note: this doesn't mean keep things you feel obligated to keep or have a sense of guilt about (we will deal with those in a minute). What does that mean? Put into a pile the things that truly make you happy when you look at them. The things you find beautiful or that remind you a special event, person, trip, etc. 

There may not be a ton in that "love" pile and that is ok! If there are a lot of items, you may want to take another pass and really confirm you LOVE all of those items. 

Step 2:
Look at what you have and find themes. Are most things square or pink? Are the majority books? In my case most things had darker gray and blue tones. Most of the items were round (4 larger bowls) and the rest were square. 

Step 3:
Add a pop! I had one orange box that was the outlier from my step 2 themes. Taking inspiration, I chose orange as my zing. You could also pick an accent color you have around your home. Since I only had one orange item, it meant I had to go on a bit of a hunt for additional items to act as a backdrop "pop" of color. I borrowed (long term loan) Hermes boxes in their iconic orange from my sister. However, there are lots of other ways to find these pops. One of my favorites is to raid family heirlooms. In some cases that retro item might be just what you need. If not, never underestimate the power of paint (especially spray paint). 

In fact, the larger pillar candle holder on top of the bookshelf used to be black before I spray painted it rose gold. 

Step 4:
Put things back. This is going to involve a lot of trial and error to find that right balance. I tried to:
  • Ensure shapes were spread throughout the space
  • Put the pops in surprising places (sometimes in the background and sometimes in the foreground)
  • Leave empty space (the negative space is just as important). This will also give your bookshelf a much cleaner look. 
  • Pick one thing to the item your eye is immediately drawn to.
  • Step back often and look at your work.

Step 5:
All those "other" items...give them away or sell them. Books can be sold on lots of sites and help make some extra cash. For the items you have guilt about (family heirlooms, etc.) ask yourself if the previous owners would really want you to feel burdened with guilt and items just to keep this. If you still can't give it away try putting high up in a closet or hidden away. In a year you can re-evaluate the value. In the KonMari method you would thank the item for its service and role in your family and then send it along for someone else to get enjoyment from. 

If you have things that you have to keep on the bookshelf (in our case the bar items) consider finding bottles that fit in with the themes you have found or unique ways to change the items like cover the a book with fancy paper. 

It took me about an hour and a half to land with the shelf we have now but I LOVE it! The key to that was only adding those things I love and going with a few simple color options (more neutral softer tone for most items and a few key pops in one or two colors). Let me know your thoughts and I would love to see your shelf before and afters. 

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  1. This cabinet is amazing! I read Marie Kondo's book too - so far it's inspired me to organize my paperwork, clothes and kids room. We live in a small apartment so we're pretty minimalistic already, but I look around and realize there's always something that seems to have accumulated. It feels so good to re-tidy!

    1. I hear ya on the small space. We are in a small and semi awkward townhouse in the city. I agree wholeheartedly that it feels fantastic to tidy and clean out. I have a secret fear that I will hit a point where I have nothing else to clean out. Somehow I doubt that will happen though.

      Have you read Zero Waste Home? I found it complimented Marie Kondo's philosophy really well by encouraging me to consider the larger implications of my purchase decisions. There were also some helpful organizational and cost saving tid bits too.

      I am glad you like the cabinet. We are so happy with how it turned out and husband even got really into it!

  2. Very nice! I really like that decanter, and I like how you stacked the tumblers. I've wanted a set that is casual but still of high enough quality to feel special when you're actually getting into the good stuff.

    If you don't mind an opinion, the corner with the liquor and such appears a little crowded. I'd remove either the thing under, or the thing behind.

    1. Thank you so much! I love how it looks! The tumblers were from crate and barrel a few years ago, but I love keeping them stacked in there instead of in our regular glasses cupboard in the kitchen. It makes it feel a bit more 50s classic. The decanter is Mikasa I think?

      I am always open to ideas and suggestions! Please keep em coming. I will have to give it a try without the picture behind or book underneath tonight. I agree it feels a bit full in that corner since so much is open space above. I was also thinking of maybe putting a few of the bottles of liquor away so we only display a few to help with the crowding.