Simple styling ideas Your bookshelves – and the rest of your home too

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There’s a reason we chose the word styling as the title of our last chapter: Considering decorate refers to creating a holistic vision for a space on a macro level, where the objects act as supporting characters in a larger story, styling is more about how you arrange things on a micro level, creating moments and vignettes that highlight the objects most interesting and aesthetic ways. You furnish a room; you style a plank. While the most ambitious interiors are admittedly both good, there are plenty of books on decorating, and this isn’t one of them. If you’re truly an object lover, it can feel like second nature to focus your efforts on your favorite possessions: “I’ve never opened a decorating magazine for inspiration in my life,” says Wary Meyers’ Linda Meyers. “First we find something and then we create a space to organize or display it. The interior is made to house the cool objects. You want to show it off, even just for yourself.

Here we share our own general thoughts on how to successfully integrate your objects into your interior, and ask some experts and homeowners for their best insider tips. The advantage of this approach is that unlike decorating advice, which is more subject to the vagaries of what’s in fashion at any given time, styling advice deals with spatial positioning and other concepts that exist outside the scope of trends, so this are ideas you can use for years or decades to come.

Let objects breathe

As Meyers said, if you really love your objects – and have invested time and energy into acquiring really great objects – you want to show them off. And the best way to showcase them the right way is to give them a little bit of breathing space so they look as unique and prominent as possible and can have a bigger visual impact. “I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but I think things need space around them to be properly appreciated,” London design writer Tom Morris once told the blog The Modern House. This doesn’t mean you can’t create clusters of objects where they make sense, such as a grouping of five modern vases with a similar lava finish, but if you have a particularly eye-catching piece you’ll want to highlight it by giving it an unobstructed view and not associate it too closely with another object that could affect the way it is perceived. This may mean making tough choices about how to allocate your shelf or table space if it’s limited, but that’s also an important part of the process. “In Donald Judd’s interiors, he brought in an object only when it was necessary and because it could hold space,” notes Alex Gilbert of Friedman Benda. “That’s a nice philosophy. You have to consciously bring new things into your space.”

Tiling and layering

Photography by Belle Morizio; Styling by Benjamin Reynaert

If you want the objects in your home to be all mid-century or all postmodern, we’re not going to tell you otherwise. But most of us can’t help but love objects of all different types and aesthetics, after which the fundamental issue of styling becomes a matter of how to make them all play beautifully together, in visual harmony. That’s where the concepts of juxtaposition and layering come in: a confident blend of the natural with the man-made, the vintage with the contemporary, the organic with the linear. There’s no way to do this; it relies on finding other kinds of visual connections, like shape or color, and trying things out until you find a combination that works. But the bottom line is that mixing dissimilar types of objects and artwork is a good thing and will make your interior look more sophisticated and thoughtful. Gilbert keeps a megalodon on the wall next to her best works of art. Kinder Modern’s Lora Appleton juxtaposes a $1 find from a flea market with a work by an up-and-coming creator. “There’s a conversation going on between them,” she says. “The mix of even having an object next to a plant, and how that changes the scale or feel of something — I think that’s how we live now.”

Find balance

Whether your objects are similar or different, clustered together or spread out and singular, determining their exact spatial placement in a room or on a table is all about creating the most harmonious visual balance, placing items next to each other. rendered don’t look completely out of scale, and one side of a room or mantelpiece doesn’t feel too heavy or crowded compared to the other side. For example, a 24-inch-tall vase often looks better next to a 16-inch-tall sculpture than a 2-inch-tall paperweight, and if you have an area where your objects are very evenly spaced and symmetrical, the adjacent area would benefit can have with a more asymmetrical layout. There are some rules of thumb you can use to achieve visual balance. Interior designer Keren Richter once described her approach to styling bookshelves as “triangulation,” where a visually prominent object on one shelf can be balanced by two less visually prominent objects on the other shelf. shelf underneath – but the process mostly relies on looking closely, using your intuition, and being attuned to the ways your objects can complement each other rather than fight each other.

Repositioning and repurposing

Once you’ve played around with the styling of your objects for a while and found a configuration that actually works, it can be tempting to leave everything as it is forever. But who wants to live in a museum? The point of integrating objects into your home is that they help breathe life and personality into your space, and that means letting things change and evolve as your interests change, or even just a moment when you feel like create new energy in a room. The process should be fun and flexible, not stuffy and static. “We have a picture rail around our dining room that we use for objects,” says Gilbert. “I wake up on a Sunday morning and my husband must have been up late rearranging everything. I’ll do it the following weekend. It’s really liberating not to be so preconceived about the placement of our objects. Even for large items like the couch, you might surprise yourself by flipping it over and having it face the windows instead. Giving yourself the freedom to revisit your object placements on a whim also makes it easier to incorporate new things and repurpose old ones: instead of getting rid of a vase that doesn’t work on the dining room table, you can recontextualize him by moving him to the bathroom instead.

The art of editing

If the question of how much is too much were easy to solve, Marie Kondo wouldn’t have built a multi-million dollar empire around answering it. But when your objects all have meaning and memories, the process becomes even more difficult: do our John Hogan glass paperweights bring us joy? Sure, but so are the 40 other objects competing for our limited shelf space. However, forcing yourself to edit is a crucial part of the styling process, as it’s the only way to ensure that the objects you’re exhibiting have enough room to shine. The first step is to address the number of objects you are purchasing in the first place. Can you post a picture of that new find instead of buying it? Can you think of where to put it when you take it home? If not, says Meyers, you may want to pass it by. Her rule during vintage shopping is, “If it doesn’t have a home, it shouldn’t be roaming,” she says. Second, you need to decide how much you want to display in a particular room or space so that it looks layered but not cluttered. A general rule is that shelves can be about quantity, but surfaces should be about quality, so keep that more intentional. Third, you need to determine when it’s time to completely sell or donate some of your items if your space fills up. Our feeling here is, if it’s something sentimental, ask yourself if the memory itself can somehow be enough for you without having to keep the object. If it’s something more aesthetically pleasing, put it in a closet for a month or two. If you don’t miss it, that’s probably all you need to know.

How to live with objects. Copyright © 2022 by Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer. Photos Copyright © 2022 by Charlie Schuck. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

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