We all want our houses, yards, and work spaces to evoke our personalities and to highlight our interests and energies, right? But I think we may spend so much time paying attention to the big items, that we sometimes forget the key to energizing—and personalizing—those areas may literally be in the small stuff.
A great way to infuse your home with real warmth might just be stacked right in front of you: your bookshelves. Instead of lining up best sellers and that old set of World Books in dust-catching formal rows, occasionally punctuated with a formal photograph, why not jazz it up? Add some light, color, small art objects, and yes, the occasional book, to create a sensational view of who you are at a glance.
It’s actually quite simple; make each shelf a little world of its own, by incorporating what you already have. You’ll want unifying elements for every shelf, such as candid group photos, unusual books, or at least books with interesting covers, found objects, little art pieces, and one or two colors you really love, which can be found in ceramic pieces or vases. By using the same sort of item in each shelf, you make it all look that much more important, even though the pieces you use are pretty small, and maybe not especially noteworthy by themselves.
But when used together, and in just a few shelves, they rev up your room and brim with warmth and personality.
Utilize photographs with settings and activities that are informal, ironic, or just plain fun, instead of showing formally posed subjects. Translation: if it’s a photo from Olan Mills or Sears Portrait Studio, you probably don’t want to use it.
Look around your house for small, insignificant pieces of art, crafted items, things you’ve picked up on vacation. And don’t forget unusual found objects. Each one can be a focal point for a shelf. I bet as you pick them up and place them on shelves the fond memories of the trip or purchase will come back to you, and these little artistic finds will become that much more special, that much more personal and vibrant.
Look at your books as sources of interest, and not just to read. This time, think about how that book can be used as something artful or interesting on a shelf. Old books, parts of antiquated sets, hand-me-down volumes, unusual titles, covers, or typeset are what you should look for. And you’re not going to line them up platoon-style, either. Lean, tip, stack, prop. Position your volume any way except the way it was lined up on the shelf before. And don’t forget a book can make a great riser for a little art piece or candle.
Find a single color or pair of contrasting colors to use in what you already have, such as vases, ceramic pieces, pottery, and maybe something you’ve put away and forgotten about. And don’t forget geological possibilities, either. That little fossil, crystal, geode, or even a lowly—but unusual–rock you picked up can make a powerful statement on a shelf, when placed along with a photo, book, candle, or other small object.
Don’t forget your decorating trinity; three objects make for the best design. And carry out your theme on each shelf. When you finish, step back and gauge your work. Does each shelf ‘pop’? When looked at as one piece, do your shelves all of a sudden make a statement? The same shelves that just a short while ago did little more than act as ordinary storage? If you can answer ‘yes,’ then I’ve done my duty. You now have another unexpected source of personality, color, and design, a place for your friends to admire and enjoy when they visit.
Chris Olsen is a nationally known home and garden guru, designer, author, TV personality and public speaker. In his book, Chris shares his landscape and gardening knowledge along with his unique flair for home decor and design.He is also a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. Learn more about Chris and all of his work at chrisholsen.com.