Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Project House Update: Sense of Shelf

In a first step to claim the den for myself, I staged a coup of the built-in shelves. About once a year, I attempt to reorganize and style them. However, in spite of all that effort, they always ended up looking something like this; crammed, cluttered, and Tetrised into place.

After reading Emily Henderson's Styled and Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it was time to upgrade my shelves to 'vignettes'. So, everything came down, was evaluated, and organized and restyled.

It took several days and several attempts, but I'm really happy with the results. Over time, I developed a handful of rules that kept me on course. Hopefully, these rules will help me keep them nice in the future. My new rules are:
  • Keep the space functional 
    • Be aware of the shelves goals - Before the reset, this was a drop spot in our house. Have something that's kind of pretty without a home? Just put it on the shelves. A random book you haven't finished? Shelves. Basically anything that needs to be kept out of reach of the cats? Find a spot somewhere high. This turned out to be a recipe for disaster. Now, we've defined their functions and only certain things can be added without consideration. These serve three separate functions: 1) helping the den function as a home office, 2) housing books I love, and 3) displaying our pretty, delicate knick-knacks. Each shelf has at least one group of books and one pretty thing.
    • Understand placement for usage - Because the shelves are mounted on the top half of the wall, anything on the top two shelves is out of reach to me without a step-stool. So, the shelves are less functional as you go up. Knowing that, here are some of the functional elements I made sure to keep low.
      1. Paper organizers for Dan: it's where he stores receipts, papers to file, and papers to shred. They need to be at arm's reach when he's sitting at his computer. 
      2. Cat spot: I left a spot my boys because they grew attached to being tall. And it keeps them out of our hair when we're working. 
      3. Candles: They're on a low shelf so I can reach them, but they're on a tall, wide shelf so things don't catch fire. 
      4. Record player and records: Because sometimes you just need to listen to hair metal when you're writing. 
  • Spread out themes - In the past, I thought it would look/work best if I grouped all of Dan's car stuff together on one shelf. 

Turns out, that approach didn't really work. The shelf was crammed so full that it was impossible to add new items and it didn't show off any of his cool stuff (and some of mine, too). After reading this article, I learned how to spread it out and incorporate it in a manner that's more styled. Now, rather than a single shelf, our books and models live on almost every shelf.

  • Be mindful of unintentional accent colors and their placements - Once I began placing and styling things, I became aware of how many white, porcelain knick-knacks I have and how they stood out. White may not seem like an accent color, but when I got going, any white pieces near each other seemed heavy. It was too much. To keep it balanced, only one white piece per shelf and not on adjacent shelves if I could help it. 
  • Don't overcrowd - Let's take a look again at the 'Before'. They were filled to the brim. Waaaaaaay too much stuff. Books, knick-knacks, CDs and records, games, and all sorts of other random things. Once we set up the new Ikea shelves in the front room and moved the board games out of the den, it freed up a lot of space. However, we still did some editing.

After removing everything and carefully selecting what would go back on the shelves, I ended up with two big piles of stuff to house elsewhere or to donate.

  • Minimize small objects - small objects can make things look cluttered very quickly. Previously, I had placed lots of small objects together and thought it visually equaled one larger object. It didn't. It just looked messy. So, when everything came off the shelves, all the little bits and bobs went into a large ziploc bag and only a few things migrated back onto the shelves. Like a tiny plastic tiger hidden in a Corvette model. 

A few other little tricks I used to style these shelves:

   1. Take all the dust jackets off and store them in a filing cabinet
   2. When in doubt, group things in threes.
   3. Stack similar books together, largest to smallest, and top with a knick-knack.

A lot of these styling tricks and tips bother me for high-use spaces with high-use items (like large illustrated books on coffee tables), but they work well for a curated space like my shelves. We'll see if all of this helps me keep it nice longer than before.

UPDATE: I completely forgot that I did a similar post about shelf styling and organizing in the first month of my blog. You can read it here. It's not good. I won't say this post is that great, but this old one is definitely cringe-worthy.

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