Posted on May 06 2019
I must admit to not being very confident in my abilities to style a surface. I suspect many of you feel the same way. My interests and abilities lean more toward understanding the guts of a build or choosing finishes or space planning. Perhaps my colleagues would label me Benedict Arnold for not being totally on-board with the art of styling.
One of the on-trend words these days in the design world is CURATED. The idea being that all decorative objects in a room should be carefully selected and carefully placed. But this word has always been used in art galleries and museums. Do we want to live in a museum?
Whatever the style and size of our beloved dwellings, home is where the heart is. That means put some soul into it! What about placing books with spines in, so all we see are bland and anonymous pages facing out? That's all fine and good if a few of the books have no meaning and are utilized as purely decorative objects. Otherwise, good luck remembering which are your favourite cookbooks or that steamy romance novel you keep around to read again.
I don't like the idea of placing objects on a surface, just because... I still like the word INTENTIONAL. I like things to be where they could logically go. If you have beautiful things you'd like displayed, because seeing them every day brings you joy and happy memories, do it!
I also don't like the idea of buying soulless accessories just to fill a void. They end up covered in dust and soon forgotten because they were never loved in the first place. And buyer's remorse will inevitably set in. Having said all that, if your bookcase or coffee table or any other surface needs stuff reorganized or placed more beautifully, here are some inspirational examples from some of today's most inspirational designers.
This is Leanne Ford. Along with her brother Steve, they create exciting and interesting spaces in the Pittsburgh area. When it comes to filling a shelf space, Leanne is all about 'more is more'. She doesn't worry about each object having breathing space. She layers and stacks. It may seem a bit much visually, but it's never boring. And every time you look at it, you'll see something new, as if you're discovering a treasure already on display.
To offset the busyness, she often implements her signature white background to allow the objects to pop. Leanne's spaces are beautifully spare with furniture pieces more like art in a room.
This coffee table is barely dressed. But that is the point. When it's so unique looking, it doesn't need a lot of surface decorating.
If you're really at a loss as to what to place on a shelf, consider a grouping or collection of like objects like plants in the same style of pot. That way the display looks cohesive. And as I always say, have a sense of humour. Don't take yourself or your interiors too seriously.
Studio McGee is a rapidly growing design firm based in Utah, run by a husband and wife team, Syd and Shea. Their style is classic, clean and perhaps a tad conservative. The McGee's create beautiful still lifes. Their genius lies in setting the perfect tone in any space. This coffee table is classic and fine lined. It's the perfect backdrop for the objects placed on it. I like the fresh cut flowers, which add life and a splash of colour in an otherwise calm and monochromatic vignette.
White millwork is always in style and the right choice to display your favourite things. Here Studio McGee allowed for breathing space around objects. Because the shelves are equal widths and heights, objects are relatively similar in scale and size. They are placed alone or in small groupings, slightly varying horizontally and vertically. Here the display is meant for calm appreciation, no edgy feel intended. And the symmetry adds to a sense of formality yet doesn't feel too precious nor off-limits.
Chip and Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper fame do not need any introduction. Their relaxed, southern style is so sought after these days. I really like how the Gaines' method of styling a surface starts with the design and material of the unit itself. Here the look of chunky, barn board floating shelves are the perfect backdrop for a chic country kitchen coffee station. The objects displayed are not as important as the shelves themselves.
Here I love how the objects are framed and featured within the black, metal shelving. The items are like framed art on the contrasting white, ship lap wall.
When it comes to styling a bookcase, a little restraint can be nice. Here the Gaines' light touch makes this vignette soft and beautiful. The books are accessories, equal in value to the potted plants and framed art. This niche is not the library space for these homeowners.
I love a beautiful collection like this. I'm thinking about starting one with old typewriters. Each vintage camera is equally spaced, with plenty of room in between. The negative spaces act as framework for the items. The cameras pop beautifully. The shelving unit is kept simple, white and wallmounted for a clean look, making sure it plays second fiddle to the objet d'art.
Honestly, I would consider this arrangement to be a little impractical, if this upside down drum coffee table is used regularly. However, there are only 2 objects on it, which can easily be moved as and when necessary. Again, the focus here is the coffee table. Its criss-cross lines are beautifully rustic and so interesting. This idea lets us know that we can all think outside the box, by considering any object the correct size and height, to act as a coffee table.
Here is my small vignette, atop an antique dental cabinet. It's a small area on our staircase landing. It's a collection of some meaningful pieces, both gifts and purchased. I tried to address the issue of verticality and horizontal lines, to make the whole thing look layered and interesting. I have already changed this around a few times. I like that it's in an area of our home which doesn't need to have a useable surface. This is purely decorative and small in scale. I tried to group like items such as repeating the glass material, warm metals and some signature white. The pieces are both new and old. I love that pop of blue, which does repeat in a few places around our main floor space.