Styling Shelves: The Art of Curation
We all have things in our homes which we’ve collected along the way. As a matter of fact —I can guess you almost feel overwhelmed by all of the little pieces that have come with years of great experiences, lots of mishaps and mis-chosen items, and various compilations of things from plenty of family members.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. Every home I go into has plentiful décor items that need a place. Despite the almost pressure in recent years to focus on the “look” of a display —it’s ok to realize that these things are more important than that. Namely, they mark occasions, milestones, or experiences we’ve had. So rather than just place things together because of a look you are trying to achieve, I recommend taking it one step further.
Let’s look at the word CURATE. It has long had a standing, mostly in the fine arts community and is defined as: to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation with care. Even though it has become the word du jour, it is still loaded with a thoughtful effort —or at least it should be. I see that as a very personal thing. As a designer it is my job to really understand my clients, who they are and who they want to be. You might not imagine a little bit of that can take place upon a shelf, but it’s all part of the bigger picture of making a house a home. Let’s linger on that….making a house a home…
Curation takes time. It takes understanding and culling and cutting through into what is important. When my team and I pull together a shelf, or any display space, it’s really an ode to the person for which we are creating it; an inspiration point for how they want to feel. It serves to delineate them and separate their home from anyone else’s. It’s meant as something dynamic. Something that grows, and changes and lives. Things on a shelf should be picked up, moved around and have stories told about them. They should be beautiful and attractive in the sense that they invite us to engage. They should generate visual interest in height and texture and playfulness so that one can easily imagine delving into collecting something and turning into a connective hobby with a child or spouse or just plain with oneself.
Our homes tell our story and if they fail to do so, they don’t feel right. Let’s take a look at some of the edits we’ve done over the years and why I arranged them the way I have.
Keeping this grouping clean on a black and white background, allows everything to be seen and all to be engaged with. While shelves should always look beautifully inviting, they should also be functional. Now, one can easily access all, while perusing the treasures that are on display. Among those, the glass floated butterfly species, provide subtle shots of color along-side a vintage glass bottle collection connecting this clear, bright material that keeps this collection of things visible and uncluttered.
I never seem to tire of books and as you can see, this library made that a dream. By organizing the collection as a whole, publications are easy to find. By arranging them each by color, they become a stunning site to see.
“Not everything needs to be a star,” is something I often say. This moment is entirely demonstrative of this. I’ll highlight one or two items to allow them to strike center stage, while choosing strong supporting artists to underscore my favorite finds. This shelving remains highly functional, peaceful to the eye and wonderful to look at.
Pantries should inspire - and for this chef, I designed custom open shelving that would highlight ingredients, bring color and delight, not to mention remind the user what they can do taste-wise. By placing beautifully packaged products front and center, cooking becomes a pleasure that is streamlined and undertaken with ease.
This art collage is meant to be on rotation. For this custom piece, I set out to create a space that encourages artwork change-outs and regular inquiry and conversation around my clients’ collection. Bright colors balance well with the clean-lines of the built-in and books intermingle to highlight origin or expertise where possible. All and all a wonderful place for enjoyment and discussion.
When wood comes into play, we have to be mindful that shelves are well balanced, so as not to overwhelm. Here I focused on a rich color palette, meant to pull the eye through the continuous space, so that one can see and enjoy the many facets of the space itself. Interspersed artwork throughout, give this study a wonderfully lived in (and enjoyed) look.
Shelving in a child’s space should be enticing to said child. I always ensure to have books placed front and center. They are often so beautifully illustrated, it’s one of my favorite ways to create engagement. Toys should have they own compartments, so the eye doesn’t have to strain to find too much. Playful moments like these benches, help make this a place children want to hang around for long periods of enjoyable time.
Don’t underestimate the beauty and practicality of an armoire with shelving. For this one, placed as part of a kitchen, I used the opportunity to gather a strong collection of cookbooks, along side favorite bowls and plates for playful service. By keeping this visually appealing, my client will use their beloved pieces more often, which is a very important thing.
Open floating shelving is always a great space saver and allows one to highlight moments large and small. This neon sign finds a perfect audience, while giving anyone in this room, the practicality to grab a drink when needed, or place a glass down during conversation. In a space by seating, there should never be a shortage of surface space to put down a beverage or a good book.
Whether I’m styling a beautiful hutch, a custom built-in I designed, or floating shelves, curation is key. The edits I make are what takes a house full of “stuff” and transforms it into a home full of inspiration that truly represents my clients and who they want to be.