The Art of Arranging Built-Ins and Bookcases

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Here I am with Photography by Jim Collins – my cousin thrice removed on my mother’s side (that’s a southern thing and who knows what twice and thrice removed means anyway, but is sounds friendly and familial to me ).    When he took this photo I had been posing in front of the fireplace in a typical “here, take my picture” pose.  Then I asked him to take some photos of  my built in bookcases so I could share them with you on my blog.  I noticed some decorative accessories I had hidden behind some books to find a spot for later so I picked the pieces up to get them out of the way for the photos.   Well, Jim caught me in my element  pondering a special place for these unique pieces that I am planning to use for Independence Day – eagles and a patriotic candy dish.

By the way, this is a big deal!  I can’t stand to look at photos of myself let alone pose for photos.  I hear my mother’s story over and over in my head, “You were the ugliest baby.  It took me ten days to name you.”  Please, please never say that to your girl child even in jest.    Anyway, enough about me and my ramblings;  please enjoy Jim’s beautiful photography and the art of arranging followed by some simple design rules to follow so  that you can arrange your own built-ins or bookcases.

 This is in my great room adjacent to the fireplace.

Eight Simple Rules for Arranging

1.  Collect your favorite pieces:  framed family photos, artwork, glassware or pottery, greenery, candles, etc.

2.  Books are anchors for design.   In our case, we read all of our books.  If you are not a reader you can find books that have beautiful spines or colors that compliment your decor and style.

3.  Take some shelves out if possible.  You don’t have to have each side match in measurements.

4.  Hang artwork on the back wall of built-ins or even on the front facing if it doesn’t detract from the main part and works well with your arrangement.  Place something that is three dimensional on the wall such as a planter or sconce that has simple greenery.   Don’t over power with flowers or if using flowers stay with a muted color palette.

5.  When arranging your pieces use a pattern such as:  left , right, center.  You can accomplish different levels with your books by using them upright or by stacking.    A safe way to begin arranging is to start with your books in a pattern and then do the reverse for multiple shelves going down in a  right, left, center pattern  or mix the pattern up.

6.  Use larger pieces to draw your eye to the pattern position, but never repeat on the next shelf so that your focal point does not compete with the next focal point on the the shelf above or below.  In the case above, you will notice this  is accomplished on the right section with artwork center, left, and then right at the base of the shelf.

7.  Use glass to reflect light in any arrangement.  Glass will blend old and new pieces making them come together when they seem they come from different design styles or eras.  I love old and new and this sometimes can be difficult in new construction or the reverse in homes with age and character and trying to blend new styles and trends.  Glass has a way of bringing all elements of design together.  Candy dishes always draw me in because I can place battery operated tea lights, bath salts or colored beads to unite special pieces together.  Rarely do the candy dishes get used for actual candy.  They are my peace broker for all things.

8.  Add little details into the patterns of books or large focal pieces like framed photos on easels or decorative boxes, bottles, candle holders and then use further details such as tassels or embellished candles in or on the candle holders to add further dimension.  As I mentioned above, I am a fan of  electric tea lights for an amber glow in the evenings…just a little somethin’ somethin’ to add interest.

 As always, the art of arranging is to compliment the style and character of the home, but mostly to reflect the taste of those who live there.  When you combine the two successfully the art of arranging has been accomplished for everyone to enjoy.

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