Monday, August 18, 2014

one bookcase, four ways (yes. four.)

since starting this blog, i am beyond excited (and quite surprised) to report that the amount of texts, emails, and face-to-face inquiries i've gotten that begin with "can you give me some design advice for..." has increased exponentially.

i am serious when i tell you that nothing thrills me more. i've gotten to pick out counters, consult on lighting, and help out with drapery, to name a few, and next up on my to-do list are accessorizing a living room and styling a bathroom. but the one i'm working on today has been the hardest so far, and i decided i need to blog about it in real-time. this little corner of the internet really has become a way for me to journal out all the creativity and ideas swirling in my head and sharpen them into focus. and i've been doing a lot of swirling on this one, so it's time to get those ideas onto paper, er, screen.

the inquiry was from a sweet friend of mine, christie, and was basically "what should i do with this bookcase?" it is one of those tall, skinny bookcases with five square openings. besides needing to clear my head, i'm sharing this because i don't know anyone who doesn't have one of these in their house. and they are tricky to style! they have a lot of openings, all of which are very small, and they don't provide any privacy for your less-than-lovely possessions. they almost never look right on their own, but purchasing a second one or finding something to balance the height in your room will (duh) double your budget. not cool.
now, speaking of budget, i didn't even ask about it. i remember one time how christie's husband looked at me with mortification when i said i hoped our garage door would break so i could have a new one. seriously, i horrified him. (what? that sounds like a perfectly reasonable hope to me! right?!) and they just bought a new house. so i know they don't want to spend a lot to style a little bookcase in the corner of the dining room. who does? i'm going to want to keep this as wallet-friendly as possible. here is the bookcase in the room:

problem one: her style is "cottage...reclaimed barn wood, white and homey." his style is "the industrial look." hmm...ok. problem two: her colors are in the turquoise, navy and yellow realm; his favorite color scheme is restoration hardware (which, in case you don't know, is grey, grey, beige, and grey). problem three: "i currently have no existing accessories i want to use. i'm starting from scratch!" now, some might think this is a designer's dream statement. no no no. let me explain. not only does it mean there is no relief for your budget, but you have basically no direction or jumping off point. this can send even the most seasoned designer into option-overload.

the surrounding environment isn't offering any inspiration either. the walls are being painted grey, the curtains are white, and the table is black. so the sky's the limit. darn darn darny darn! (i know, i know. #firstworldproblems.) here's a look at the table, and a peek into the rest of her gorgeous house for some style clues:

try not to be distracted by overly adorable photobombing kid. alright. now you know why i have four (yes, four) answers to the question "what should i do with this bookcase." so here we go:

option one: stylishly styled

in option one, i'm going shopping with actual money, (ok, well, imaginary money, but you know what i mean). i'm trying to keep it reigned in and affordable though. admittedly, this look is a little more for the lady of the house, with these bright colors, but it's still got a nod to industrial-cool.

the ingredients:
1. hello sign (spray that baby bright white and add a tiny bit of antique glaze on top for a distressed feel)
2. emily jeffords art print, mid-summertime  (8 x 10, no mat, in a white frame)
3. geometric planter (the shape of this planter will take you to the trend-edge, but you can bring it back to cottage comfort with faux ranunculus stems)
4. industrial baskets (set of two, filled with some pretty table linens)
5. lovely-to-look-at books (grace at the big reveal has the. perfect. stack.)

the arrangement:

top shelf: hello sign sitting in front of the art print
2nd shelf: stack of horizontal books with geometric planter on top
3rd shelf: basket
4th shelf: vertical books and/or magazines with white spines, and maybe one turquoise sleeve if you can find it (check half price books!)
bottom shelf: second basket

wow! i love it so much i don't really need to move on. but yes i do. i found sooo many great diy's...

option two: showin' off your diy prowess

the basic idea here will be the same as number one, to have a 'stylishly styled' bookcase. but this will be the way-budget-friendlier option as every shelf will have something you lovingly (and cheaply) create for it. it will also suit the hubby a little better, with more muted colors and a mix of metals.

the ingredients:

1. the design*sponge classic faux porcelain vases
2. the genius herringbone platter by house of earnest (this plate will work nicely- no rims!)
3. stamped book covers from chloe moore photography
4. distressed wood box by shanty 2 chic (width shortened to fit your bookcase, obviously)
5. faux zinc ampersand (using this ampersand and this tutorial by stephanie hickox)

the arrangement:

top shelf: vases, a group of three (keep in mind the triangle rule and vary the heights!)
2nd shelf: plate (stand it up on a mini easel)
3rd shelf: 3 horizontal books with stamped covers, and go forage for a hefty and pretty rock to place on top
4th shelf: wood box (put those ranunculus in there- i love those things!)
bottom shelf: more covered and stamped books, this time standing vertically, with the ampersand in front

alright, now i like that one the best. sheesh, this is hard. moving on...

option three: shelve your serveware

you know, this is a dining room after all, so what better spot to house that less-often-used serveware than right here on shelves that need stuff on them? i don't know if you already have a serveware collection started, but you can. not. go. wrong. with. whiteware. it will always look classy and timeless, and this is by far the easiest way you could style dining room shelves.

the ingredients: 

2. soup toureen
3. pitcher
4. pierced cake stand
5. footed bowl

the arrangement:

see above. place them in that order, one per shelf, and you are good to go. wow, that was easy!

i realize that even though these are by no means the highest-end pieces out there, this is a bit of an expensive option when you add it up. the good news is, if you can spare the patience, it's a collection that is easily thrifted or found at flea markets (or your grandma's cupboards) over time. if you know what to keep an eye out for, it's quite easy to pull together as you're out and about and see deals. and a collection like this would be well worth the extra effort.

option four: think outside the bookcase

i have to mention this. i'm not sold on it, but i still have to mention it. i've seen a lot of pinterest-folk flipping these bookcases on their sides. you could give it a try and see what you think. you might end up having a lot of storage and a pretty perch for plants under that window. i'd put these grey flannel storage bins in there, and a whole bunch of house plants on top (so on-trend, you know). here's my doodle of the idea:

just sayin'. think about it.

not an option: balance it out

here's the deal. you just can't have this bookcase on its own. it's too tall, dark and heavy (and now gorgeously styled!) to be without a friend. my suggestion, if you go with option one, two, or three, is to do a tall plant, or a chair with artwork, on the other side of the window. i also suggest placing the bookcase flush against the window wall instead of diagonally in the corner. everything will feel better that way.

please forgive the poor man's photoshop butchered graphic. seriously i can't believe i even put that on my blog. but i really want to be helpful, so hopefully this gives you the idea. balance is good.

unsolicited extra: let there be light!

i came across this just now and almost freaked out when i saw it, and then did freak out when i saw it came with a yellow cord option. i mean, does it get any more industrial-cottage-resto-happy-colors blended than this?? and at a very budget-friendly 99 dollars, this pendant (or two) over that black table would be like, so super awesome.

well, christie my friend, hopefully this doesn't put you into option-overload! (anyone else want to vote on it for her??) let us know what you decide and send pics!! and thanks so much for inviting me to work on this one!!


  1. Can I pick all four? No? I really like the first two ideas best, but given her personal style, the last two may be more her taste. Another idea if you tip the bookcase on its side would be to add a nice cushion to make it a window seat and baskets underneath for storage. I especially love the idea of balancing it out with a pretty plant. Ikea always has fiddle fig leaf plants for $15 which definitely does not break the bank.

  2. Such a fun post! I think I love the first one but really they would all work!

  3. So I tried posting this comment via my Google account, but it didn't show up. I think Google is ashamed of my taste. All I was going to say (stupid judging Google) is that your option four BLEW MY MIND! Blew! My! Mind! Of course I have limited K-Mart taste, but I wouldn't have ever conceived of that as an option. So fun & unique! I love it! You & your creative genius never cease to amaze me, Laura! This is Holly BTW...signing off for now. Suck it, Google.

    1. best comment on a blog in the history of the world. :-D

  4. My first questions to them would be, "Is it absolutely necessary for this to go in the dining room?" If so, is there a way to get another one to place on the other side of the window?" And second, if not, I would definitley use it horizontally. I would paint it whitie maybe adding some reclaimed wood for the RH feel and some wheels to add some height. Your idea for baskets for storage is good and I would also love it for magazine storage and books. Anyway I don't dount you will make it look amazing no matter what you choose. Can't wait to see the final outcome!

  5. My vote is for option #2. I would also, as Laura suggests, place the bookcase flat against the wall and balance it on the other side with art work and a nice silk plant - or maybe an antique chair or narrow chest from a flea market would work, too.

  6. awesome ideas, all of you guys! pressure is on to pony up with an after picture, christie! hahaha....


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