Styling Built-Ins

I get a lot of questions on my Instagram feed about how to style built-ins. They are such a great architectural feature to have in a home!  I have to admit that when I walk into a house that has built-ins, I get pretty excited about it.  They are great for adding interest and coziness to a space.  They really are so nice to have, that is until you have to decorate them. Finding exactly the right pieces to fill them can be a huge challenge!  The time comes when you think you've finally found the right items, and you set out to decorate your shelves only to step back and realize they look CLUTTERED and are more of an eye sore than a pretty architectural feature. Today I'm going to share with you some of my tips to help you take your built-ins from cluttered to clean and chic!

The very first thing I do when I set out to style built-ins in my own home is to empty them completely.  It's so much easier to start with a clean slate.  The goal really is to clean up and simplify what is on the shelves.

The next thing I do is collect my items.  I start by coming up with a theme, such as objects of a similar style, type, or color.  You want your items to coordinate in some way.  You can take cues from what is in the room surrounding the built-ins. This really is a good thing to do because you want your built-ins to tie in with what is in the space around them.  This is a section of my office built-ins, and I chose my theme according to color.  I used mixed metals, aqua-colored glass, and pops of black.  

One of the most important keys to styling built-ins is BALANCE.  I tend to not add too many pieces to my shelves, but you can really add as much or as little as you like and still have a clean and appealing display.  The way to do this is by balancing your shelves and balancing your objects. Think of each shelf as a scale. You keep a scale level by balancing the objects that you put on it.  You keep your shelves level in the same way.  My rule of thumb is "do unto one side as you would do unto the other." You really can feel when your shelf is visually balanced, so if you're not feeling that, then keep playing with it.  You'll get there!

Another key to styling built-ins is to pay attention to the scale and color of your objects.  In my opinion, one of the biggest things that causes shelves to look cluttered is using pieces that are too small and combining too many colors and patterns.  I think it's always better to go with a few larger pieces than a bunch of small ones, and if you're going to use color and/or pattern, bring it in with a few key pieces, and keep the rest of your objects more neutral.  

Here are just a few extra little tips.  First of all, in order to add texture, warmth, and personalization to my built-ins, I love to bring in three things: old books, family photos, and something green.  I just love the warmth and coziness that old books bring to a space, and built-ins are a great way to display those. I like to turn my books different directions and face some of the bindings inward/pages outward to add a little visual interest.  Family photos are one of the best ways to bring a personal touch into your built-ins.  Every built-in in my home has at least one framed photo in it.  I love seeing those photos of my family, and come on, if you're anything like me you probably have hundreds, even thousands of photos.  Why not display a few?  The last thing I think every built-in needs is something green; some type of plant, flower, moss ball, whatever you want. The greenery really helps to break up the hard objects and adds some softness and texture.

A couple of other things that you can do to create more visual interest in your built-ins is to add things like paint, wallpaper, beadboard, reclaimed wood, or even mirror to the back of them.  It really does give you a lot of bang for your buck.  The other thing I really love to do to add interest is to remove a shelf here and there in order to vary the height of my objects. This can really set the stage for a more visually appealing display.  You can see that I've done that here in my living room built-ins.

That's all for now, friends!  I hope you found this to be helpful!  Happy styling!  Do you have any built-in styling tips you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear them!  Please comment below if so!