The Anatomy of a Shelf

Happy Saturday! Today we are going to talk all about the anatomy of  shelves, what to put on them and how to style them. Like the coffee table, shelves are a microcosm of styling where all of the principles will come into play on a small scale.

You’ve seen it. The effortless collections of beautiful things, arranged in perfect vignettes all over Pinterest, Instagram, and magazine covers. How do you do that?? What should go on your shelves?! What are the proper ratios?? How do you make sure it all goes together, while also being personal and meaningful?!? Ahhh!!! CALM DOWN! Once again, simple rules break down this process into something supremely manageable. Here are some now:

If you remember in my last post in this series “The Anatomy of a Coffee Table Top” we talked about the rule of 3’s which is that the eye likes objects in groups of 3’s which feels the most balanced. We also talked about the vertical + horizontal + sculptural rule, which means that you should have something horizontal to ground the space, something vertical to add height, and something sculptural to tie the two together. Like so:

Vertical horzontal and sculptural


Source: 1 / 2 / 3

This vignette satisfies both the rule of 3’s and the VHS rule.

Before we get started on the steps, I want to talk about what to actually put on your shelves. When it comes to styling a shelf you can technically use anything that fits! There aren’t any hard and fast rules about what can and can’t go on a shelf, however here are a few things that are helpful to have around when trying to fulfill the rule of 3’s and the VHS rule. Items that are commonly incorporated are:

  • Books: I really hope this was obvious. When looking for books you can easily buy pre-collected vintage books in pretty much any color scheme you can think of, which sounds convenient, but the price tag is shockingly prohibitive! I would therefore suggest taking your time to build up a collection – it will be much cheaper in the long run, not to mention fun! Plus, who doesn’t want an excuse to thrift shop??
  • Plants: This is my favorite thing to put on shelves. They provide color and life as well as freshening the air. Low light plants like ivy are hard to kill and can grow out in many directions, changing the landscape of the shelf in a pleasant way. Plus, you can stick them in some really pretty pottery!
  • Statues and decorative objects: This part can get really wild! Here is where personality comes out and things get quirky. If you have any historical family items, or travel souvenirs you want to display, this is the perfect opportunity. Personal opinion that my husband doesn’t share: the quirkier the better.
  • Baskets, Bowls, and Boxes: These are handy for fulfilling the “horizontal” element of your vignette. This is also a great surface to display those decorative objects, or plants on. They also tend to be more visually heavy which makes them great for grounding the vignette (but don’t tease them about it).
  • Art: art is another great place to get some quirk in, but it also can add a vertical element. This is a great opportunity to incorporate color and personal touches.
  • Pottery: Next to books, pottery is probably the most popular thing to put on bookshelves because it can really fill out the space and add verticality, or horizontality. A tall shelf is obviously the most safe place to display any treasured, delicate pottery. Collections of pottery can be pretty baller, especially if its handmade or vintage.
  • Lamps: Lamps are the least common way to fill out your shelves but if you have an outlet near by and it can fit, it is a great way to literally add warmth and dimension to a shelf vignette.

So there are some of the building blocks of shelves! Time for the steps to actually arranging your shelf vignettes! Keep in mind that these steps are just my guidelines to get you started and there are plenty of other perfectly successful (and perhaps more efficient) methods out there that I haven’t found yet.

step 1_

Determine your palette. “Palette” here is referring not just to colors but also textures, and the energy or style of the room. Is it a globally themed room? Is it pretty monochrome? Traditional? Gather items that fit within that theme. Here are 3 different directions you could potentially head but this is completely up to your personal style: 

beachy minimalist (1)

Beachy Minimalist: 1 / 2  Edgy Modern: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 Warm Traditional: 1 / 2 / 3


step 1_ (1)

The next step is to pepper rectangular objects horizontally and vertically throughout the shelves. You can put as many or as few as you like, but make sure not to put them directly above each other so that nothing looks lopsided. These items are more visually heavy and will be the grounding points of your vignettes.

Shelf Styling (2)


step 1_ (2)

Mix in art and pottery. Again, don’t let things get too lopsided, try to balance out the heavier items, adding something vertical or horizontal wherever it is needed to fulfill the rule.

pottery and art shelf styling (1)


step 1_ (3)

Add in plants, decorative objects, and figurines. As you can see, these really can be anything. For the decorative objects, I have added some round circle things (?), a collection of little house figurines, a brass duck, a camera, and a magnifying glass. I tend to go heavy on the plants so I have something on every shelf but one or two will be sufficient.

Step #4 (1)

step 1_ (5)

Fiddle! Get obsessive about details. I give you permission. Fuss over and polish your styling until its perfect. This is the part that you imagine when you think about styling your shelves. This is also a multi-part process:

Step 1: Move something.

Step 2: Stand back.

Step 3: Stroke your chin thoughtfully.

Step 4: Feel superior and artsy.

Step 5: Move it back to where it was before.

You’d be amazed what this exercise does for your self esteem!

But really, fiddling is the most important part of shelf styling. You have all the right elements, in the correct scale, texture, and colors, all in the general area that they need to go, and you are almost there! Now you just need to shuffle things around until they feel right, adding and subtracting items as needed. Don’t be afraid to nix items that aren’t fitting in well, scrap everything if you need to!

So to recap:

#1 Determine your palette. Gather your items.

#2 Pepper rectangular objects horizontally and vertically throughout the shelves.

#3 Mix in pottery and art, filling in the horizontal, or vertical items needed.

#4 Add in plants, decorative objects, and figurines.

#5 Fiddle! Fuss over and polish your styling.

Miscellaneous guidelines:

  1. Make sure the vary the materials of the objects on the shelves. If you have natural wood shelves, make sure to separate a natural wood bowl by using a book or tray.
  2. If you’re dealing with a shelf thats super long and stretched out, make sure to arrange the vertical items in a way that flows well and adds height so that it doesn’t look accidental.
  3. When trying to child proof shelves, include some linen or wicker baskets on the bottom shelves to hold toys and stuffed animals, and keep more delicate items on the top shelves.

There you have it! Shelf styling. Leave a comment below if you have any questions at all! I leave you with some purse and simple shelf inspiration:

93785893274b66ed2e121b7869a6a4cb  efee3925bd168d15fd5dd643a35ba1c5bb7b54bbb53cdfe3d5496d33ff3f8a7a  5ac1c63bbe75a42e28492bd382c4157db6f6d438a45b3c2121f471a05320d4b6  f440e63d4c753bae79ef7c339bd528bf721b9cbb528347a3041c3a1d1551a433

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7
1 Room 3 Ways, Design Board, E-Design, Inspiration, Shopping, Tips

1 Bathroom 3 Ways

Happy Friday! Today is another installment of 1 room 3 ways, this time – a bathroom! A bathroom is a great place to do this because even though there are a lot of permanent fixtures, there are endless fun little accessories you can style with. Which means that picking just 3 combos was very very hard!

First we look at the bare bones of this bathroom:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways Original #2

The Vanity: This simple midcentury modern vanity is from Rejuvenation, which has some really fabulous vanities that go with most styles! With everything included, they are customizable and a great backdrop.

The Mirror: This mirror is from Pottery Barn and is an interesting shape with the fun chain detail, but is still simple enough to go with anything.

The Pendant: This pendant is a gem from Lulu And Georgia! It is the perfect blend of unique and simple. You’re not likely to find this ziggurat style anywhere else.

I also chose a white penny tile for the floor and shower. Penny tile is probably the most versatile (ha! get it!?) tile there is.

The styling variables:

  • Sconces
  • Art
  • Rug
  • Chair
  • Basket
  • Towels

The goal is to take these variables and change them around to demonstrate how different a room can look just by changing out the cosmetics.

Global Version:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways #1 of #2

Sconces / Art / RugChairBasket / Towels / Vase

For the global version of this bathroom a vintage kilm rug was the jumping off point. Global style is characterized by ethnic patterns, wood, and warm tones. It is a very layered style that is great for mixing in to other styles.

Wallpaper Version:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways #2 of #2

Sconces / ArtRug / Chair / BasketVaseWallpaper

We take a hard left turn with this wallpaper, turning the bathroom whimsical, colorful, and almost childlike. There is something very colonial about this iteration but I can’t pin down a specific style. It hints at a lot of different things.

Modern Scandinavian:

OB-1 Bathroom 3 Ways #3 of #2

Sconce / ArtRug / ChairLadder / Towels

The Modern Scandinavian bathroom is really minimalist and simple with clean lines and warm tones. This style is similar to global in that it can be mixed with any other style effortlessly. Unlike global style it is characterized by color blocking (no pattern), simple lines, and minimalist, open spaces.

1 Bathroom 3 Ways

Styling is magic! It can completely transform a room into different versions of itself. In this series I demonstrate how to restyle the same room 3 different ways and completely transform it!

Don’t miss the other posts in this series!

1 Bedroom 3 Ways, 1 Living Room 3 Ways, 1 Nursery 3 Ways

Inspiration, Tips

The Anatomy of the Coffee Table Top

Happy Friday! Today we are talking about all things coffee tables.

Coffee table styling is one of the easiest places to start as a stylist because its a little microcosm of styling! You can easily illustrate the principles of all styling in one little patch. There are a bunch of little rules (I hate that word) to illustrate in this post but all of them are so stinking simple!

First there is the rule of 3s. The eye likes to see objects in groups of 3 or more in an odd number, it creates balance and feels the most complete. It seems counter intuitive but even numbers and shapes don’t fit into design nearly as well as odd. For example, in a table scape, a stylist might fill a jar of orange juice 2/3rds of the way full instead of halfway or all the way. This is to make sure that the scene doesn’t look TOO perfect. You want to give the impression of being thrown together or “real life”.

Second, you want to have one horizontal object to ground the vignette, one vertical object to add height, and one sculptural object to tie the other two together. Like so:

Rule of 3'sNotice this also satisfies the rule of 3’s

Now we have to figure out what exactly those horizontal, vertical, and sculptural objects are. Although theoretically there are an endless number of things you could potentially display on a coffee table, there are a few go-to’s we will be dealing with today. When in doubt, stick with these – they make up the basics of coffee table styling:

  • Trays (horizontal)
  • Bowls (keep necklaces, stones, or nick knacks in here) (horizontal)
  • Books (in stacks, or singular) (horizontal)
  • Plants (vertical/sculptural)
  • Candles (vertical, sculptural)
  • Sculptural objects
  • Vases/pottery (vertical/sculptural)

Sculptural objects are a little harder to define. In the loosest terms, it is something that has an organic shape. It could be:

  • a bust
  • a figurine
  • a plant
  • an African mask
  • an abstract sculpture
  • a rock or coral
  • a quirky candle holder
  • a hand sculpture
  • etc, etc.

So now that we know the shape of the objects, the number, and what kinds of objects to look for, lets take a peek at possible configuration. We will be using the two most common coffee table shapes to illustrate. The circle, and the rectangle. First up the circle:

Round Coffee Table Styling #1 (1)


There are three main areas in this example. The tray (a coffee table’s best friend), a plant/bowl/pottery and another plant, bowl, or pottery. Inside the tray is another grouping of 3. Next example:

Round Coffee Table Styling #2

This time everything is inside the tray in a grouping of 3 main ‘islands’ with a sculptural object on top of the books. (books are a great place to put a sculptural object) Next we have the rectangular options:


Again, we have three main ‘islands’ inside a tray.


This one is different from the others because it doesn’t have a tray, and the objects are more spread out. This modular configuration feels very full and layered.

Here are a few combos:

Coffee Table Styling

1: Tray, Bust, Vase 2: Book, Tray, Plant 3: Figurine, Candle, Books 4:Tray, Hand, Candle, Book

If you don’t know where to go for these types of items, H&M Home, Chairish, and World Market are all really great sources for coffee table nick knacks.

I should note that in really minimalistic design, these “rules” for coffee tables change a lot! You still want a variation in height, but its okay to have it be more spread out and simple. If you are going for a minimal look in your room, you could stick to one type of object on the coffee table. For example, you could put a few potted plants, a vase collection, or an assortment of stacked bowls.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Enough with the diagrams, give me pretty pictures!” Well, finally here are some examples of coffee table styling that make me swoon:

CTS4   CTS3CTS2   CTSinspo1

Source: 1|2|3|4|5|6

A few miscellaneous guidelines:

  • Don’t match materials unless separated by something. For example: You can’t use your wooden bowl, on your wooden coffee table, unless you put the bowl on top of something that isn’t wooden, like some books or a marble tray.
  • In a similar strain, make sure there is enough variation in light-dark. For example if you have a darkly stained coffee table, find a lighter toned book or tray to style with so that it doesn’t get bogged down with too much dark color. Let there be a separation in-between your dark and light tones.
  • Vary the shapes. Unless you are going for an all-round room, make sure that you mix some squarish shapes with some roundish shapes so that they eye doesn’t get bored, and everything flows.
  • If you are using a tray, make sure that the tray is proportional to the coffee table. If you have a massive surface and an ity-bity tray, things could look a little…off. Big table – Big tray.
  • Make sure when you style your coffee table that there is enough room between your styling for a guest to set down a drink or plate.
  • And finally, DON’T OVER STYLE! Know when to quit. Err on the side of less is more. What you really don’t want to do is make things look cluttered!

So thats coffee table styling! When you break it down into principles, it all makes sense! If you have any questions or if you want to show me your slammin’ coffee table I would be absolutely thrilled! Please drop me an email =)


Inspiration, Personal, Shopping, Tips

Epic Thrifting Day!

On Sunday I went thrifting at our local Emporium. This place is massive! Most booths are a treasure trove of really cool trinkets and very old furniture. Even though I didn’t even cover half of it I spent almost an hour and a half in there!

Some of you have seen my thrifting adventures posted on Insta or Facebook. Did you ever wonder, “Why did she take a picture of THAT?? Its junk!” Well today on the blog I am letting you into my thought process for thrifting! I couldn’t do every item, (if you saw my Insta Stories you’ll know why!) But these are some of my favorites

When you are thrifting you have to be able to look at something and take it out of context. So It might look trashy sitting with a bunch of action figures and old mugs but it might be world class when styled on a credenza in a chic Parisian flat. For this reason I am going to post these photos with a room that they might look good in, and I’m going to ask you to imagine what that vase, or painting might look like in that room. Ready? Go.

#1 Marble Eggs


These eggs were sitting on a shelf, interspersed with other nick nacks. The white marble one caught my eye first and then the yellow. As I talked about here, this mustard color and millennial pink look AH-mazing together! And when I found them in marble egg form?! I thought I won the lottery! I kind of regret not getting these but I don’t have the budget for them at the moment…*sigh. Try to picture them styled in a bowl on a coffee table or credenza in a room like this:



#2 Box


I really want to see this pattern in pillow form…I think it is so interesting that someone went through the trouble to make a peacock feather, blue and white box in a high quality material only to dedicated it solely to rotary attachments!?! This box felt beautiful and high quality, and it was in great condition. The juxtaposition of the beauty, and the mundane label tickled me! This box would be perfect to help fill out a bookcase:



#3 African Heads


These felt nice and solid. I love them because of the expressions on their faces. They are so chill about everything! Almost like the cover of a lifestyle magazine. They are also valuable in terms of styling because they are tall and of varying heights. When you’re styling you want to be able to give height and dimension to a vignette so that it doesn’t look too flat or boring. Not to mention the human face adds some really cool things to design which I talked about a little bit here. Each one was about $10 which is a great price but I couldn’t justify spending $40… These would look fabulous in a slightly Scandinavian room like this:



#4 Vintage Portrait


I really loved this portrait for two reasons. #1 the colors are phenomenal. I’m getting a little giddy just looking at them! The light pink, golden, and dusty navy-gray thing she has going on is stunning. #2 The style and attitude of the subject. This Victorian lady seems sensual, yet aloof. The word “flowing” comes to mind. She has a load of character. Admittedly, I don’t love the frame or matting so If I were to take her home I would crop and reframe. Easy enough with companies like FrameBridge. The only downside is a little bit of mula…This would be the perfect anchor piece to a gallery wall or on its own above a mid-century lounge chair!



#5 Busts.

ACS-0075 (1)

There were a lot of busts at the emporium. A lot. These guys stood out to me because of the cracked, crumbling, patina. They looked really old, regal, and solid. I could also picture that yellow lamp between them on a credenza although it being there was an accident. And again they are human figures (talked about here) I think I have an obsession with human figures in design….These dudes might go a little something like this:

thriftininspo3   thriftinginspo4


Source: 1|2|3

#6 Collection of Old, Blue Books



In case you couldn’t tell, I have this thing with collections. They take something ordinary, and make it seem really special. Ironically you start to see all the ways that this object is different and unique! Even though these are all blue books, they have differences in texture, shade, size, and age which makes each of them unique…and yet the same. There is a metaphor for life or the human condition somewhere in there…Anyway! I’m not totally sure if that makes any sense. Please let me know in the comments!
These are screaming to be styled on a table!



My belief about antique/vintage/thrifted things is that taking something old and giving it new life is a beautiful thing. We were all dusty junk sitting in a pile of naked barbies and rusting farm equipment until someone treasured US and gave US new life. I think you know where I am going with this…

Thrifting/antiquing/vintage is chock full of meaning.

Check my Instagram highlights under #thrifting for the rest of my finds!