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
Inspiration, Tips, Trending, Trends

What Does “Bright” Design Mean?

Happy Friday, everyone! Today I want to talk about what it means when people say “bright” in reference to the feel of a room. A few weeks ago I did a post about moody design, so I figured I would now go the other way and delve into what the opposite – bright, means. Similar to moody design, brightness is a ‘mood’ as opposed to a style in and of itself. This means that it can be applied to any style.

Unlike moody design, bright design is completely oversaturated (get it??) in the design scene these days, so I’m going to try to break it down into just a few key elements:

#1 Natural Light

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Source: 1|2|3

Obviously when talking about “brightness” the element of light will be the most important. Duh. This is one that in my opinion, you can’t have too much of, and I know you’ve heard that from every designer ever. Maybe one day there will be a deviant trend where dank dark basements become a covetable architectural feature, but I doubt that will happen and if it does, I quit.

#2 White

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Source: 1|2|3

Second most important is lots of white! One of the most common things I hear is “Not white! Its too sterile.” or sometimes “Really? Just boring white?” The truth is that white is the best equalizer that I know of. Period. Painting your walls white allows you to add 10X more color and texture than you otherwise would’ve been able to. To make a sweeping generalization (because who doesn’t love those), unless you are going for a ultra minimalistic, dramatic, or editorial look, white is always best for a functional home. Here I include some examples of homes with tons of warmth and color that are not boring at all, and also use white on at least the walls.

#3 Saturated Colors

_U1E4636_733   bd11e7d0b8db15ef88bde481624792f0  db3666781bad992ff4087aa78b371142whistles_women_annakarlin_39_004fe7803c05a3   db36d2e17fe1a4da916f5aba2d71e592

Source: 1|2|3|4|5

I debated adding this one at all because a bright and neutral colored home is entirely possible and absolutely lovely. The addition of saturated colors are not 100% necessary in order to a home to be “bright”, however the combination of natural light + white + saturated colors = something so utterly “bright” that I couldn’t NOT include it!

#4 Openness?

0a70300692963eb4562d5ce4f016543c  9536acd5f43684c7bf76fb6459914c89  d0177eee455df19bd81e07236375cfbb.jpg

Source: 1|2|3

This one is a little harder to describe. It could be an open floor plan, a sky light, large windows, or even just high ceilings (a combination of these would be total design porn)

Even though all styles can be bright I think that the styles that lend themselves to this “brightness” are Modern, Mid-century Modern, and Scandinavian styles.

So what is your take on bright design? What elements do you love about bright design?

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!


Design Board, Tips, Trends

Tips for Choosing Gallery Wall Art

Gallery walls! They were a huge trend few years ago and now some people want to hate on them but the truth -as it usually is- is somewhere in the middle. Gallery walls are a great option if done with just a little bit of thought. They can provide a quirky energy to a room and of course showcase some really special pieces.

Gallery walls can be added virtually anywhere there is open wall space. I find them particularly interesting in kitchens where they are unexpected (because of the typical lack of open wall space).

Today I want to walk you through the entire thought process of hanging a gallery wall as well as talk about how to combine different kinds of art.

I’m sure you’ve seen on Pinterest how to map out a gallery wall with painters tape or cardboard cut outs and while this is helpful for the physical hanging of the art, I want to focus more on how to choose colors and how to combine types of art.

#1 A lot of the art I am showing you can be ordered and printed with varying sizes which makes putting together a gallery wall much easier. If you have original art that you want to incorporate into a gallery wall I would suggest collecting and arranging it (with those helpful Pinterest tricks) prior to arranging your smaller pieces of art so that you can get all the scaling just right.

#2: The styling of the wall (colors, subject matter, shape, etc) is going to depend most heavily on the style of the rest of the room, so take a look at the architecture of your home as well as the colors you want represented in the room. If you have a minimalist studio then maybe some contemporary, monochrome art would be appropriate. If you have a french cottage, find some vintage inspired pieces. It is important to determine beforehand the overall style you are going for so that your gallery wall doesn’t look out of place with the rest of the room.

Once you’ve determined the overall style of the wall, you need to first choose the focal piece or the “anchor”. This doesn’t need to be the biggest or the most colorful, it just means that the placement of the other pieces are determined by the placement of this piece. Here I am using this Randal Ford print from his Kingdom collection:

OB-Gallery Wall Post2

#3 I placed the anchor piece slightly off to the left in order to avoid the arrangement looking too perfect. If it was centered it would look like someone just made a star-burst of pictures rather than actually arranging them. One of the stylists goals is to keep things from looking too perfect.

#4 There are different types of wall art and you want to make sure you have a good mix so that you don’t veer toward looking flat and dimensional.

Different types wall art:

  • Photograph
  • Painting
  • Pencil Drawing
  • Mixed media
  • Watercolor
  • Mirror
  • Tapestry
  • 3D objects

Within these types (except for mirror or tapestry) are subcategories of the subject matter:

So for example, you could have an abstract painting, a watercolor portrait, an urban photograph, and a pencil drawing of a still life. The variety keeps things energetic.

OB-Gallery Wall Post3

The next piece added is a mixed media original abstract from my Father-in-law David Michael Slonim.

#5 Mixed media means that it incorporates multiple mediums. This one consists of cardboard, ink, acrylic, paper, charcoal, and a paint chip sample. As a result mixed media art tends to have a lot of texture and character.

This addition gives us some direction in terms of the colors of the gallery wall. Namely, warm grays and burgundy. From now on we will only have art on this wall that has either warm grays, burgundy, or an accent color.

OB-Gallery Wall Post4.jpg

The warm grays in this urban photograph compliment the rest of the colors and I like how the birds in this picture look like they are about the fly into the other pieces.

OB-Gallery Wall Post5.jpg

This next one is an abstract portrait painting from Chairish.

#6 Adding a human figure into design makes the design more relatable because the human brain is trained to recognize familiar shapes. We see something that reminds us of ourselves and that creates a personal and sometimes emotional connection. Stay tuned for a post and round up about using the human face in design!

OB-Gallery Wall Post6The next addition is a yellow and rust colored portrait paintingThe yellow compliments the rust color in the mixed media and it adds a little bit of edge to the composition.

I realized that the configuration of these needed to change for a few reasons. A) the bottom two pieces were both photographs and both landscape (which means they are horizontal) B) the top two pieces were abstract and portrait shaped. They needed to be separated. and C) the only piece that had any color was too much in the middle. It needed to be moved so that the colorful pieces in the gallery wall would be evenly distributed. So I noticed these things and changed the configuration accordingly. This is why you lay it out before hanging!

OB-Gallery Wall Post7

The next piece is a print of a mixed media by Krista McCurdy It has a rough urban feel to it and it hints at the colors in our gallery wall.

I am quickly running out of space on this wall!

OB-Gallery Wall Post8

The two additions to the wall are the light bulb print and the large abstract. The colors and bold lines of the abstract were too good to pass up, and the bulb is a very small but very anchored piece and I love the subtle yellow glow.

#7 When you have a gallery wall like this with a lot of variation in the texture, type of art, and size, you need a unifying factor that will help each piece relate to every other piece. In this one it is the framing of the pieces. Every piece either has a simple black frame or a white border. This helps the wall feel pulled together.

#8 Another iteration of the gallery wall is the themed wall. Themed walls can really make a statement and ground a room.



The subject matter in this collection of vintage seascapes is the same, however it still has energy because of the variation in size, and type/color of frame.

Another option is a wall of black and white photos…



Here the subject matter and sizing of the pieces change while the type (photograph) and framing (thin black frame) is the same.

This wall full of old portraits is eclectic in its mix of sizes and framing however it still feels unified because the subject matter stays the same.



A few other gallery walls that I love:



I love floor to ceiling gallery walls. They can sometimes give the appearance of wallpaper! Especially in smaller spaces like this one:



gallery wall brady


I simply couldn’t do a post about gallery walls without including my favorite gallery wall from Brady Tolbert for Emily Henderson. This is a black and white masterpiece.

The spacing of this wall is really cool. I love how everything is so tightly packed and eclectic. It has a nice mix of round and square framing as well.

What is your opinion of gallery walls? Are they overdone? Or classic? Let me know in the comments below as well as any questions you have!