Last weekend, my blog friend and high school classmate, Carrie, of Dream Green DIY, paid me a visit. A few months back, I had proposed a “service exchange.” I needed help stylizing the open shelving in the kitchen, but instead of monetary payment, I offered to teach Carrie something. In this way, each of us could maintain our relatively frugal lifestyles by sharing some expertise, thereby enriching our lives with the knowledge we gained from the other.
Recall that as part of our never-ending kitchen makeover, Alex and I tore down a corner cabinet unit and my handyman husband installed open shelving (read more here).
Uncertain about finding the right balance in open shelving between decoration and utility, for a long time those shelves were decorated like this:
Not altogether unpleasant, but I didn’t feel it reflected “me.” Further, I nearly gave myself a foot cramp every time I stood on my tiptoes to reach a frequently-used cookbook on the top shelf. It felt a little bit random; nothing was intentionally in one place or another.
But after Carrie got her hands on it, I think we’ve got a lot more pizzazz going on:
I especially love how the cookbooks are now divided amongst the shelves (and grouped my similar spine color), which gives the illusion that there are more of them, without looking like a crowded bookshelf. It magically feels more literary–more lived in, don’t you think?
As Carrie moved things around and stood back to assess each new arrangement, she shared with me her shelf-styling strategies and has graciously helped me share them for you here!
– Start with a clean slate. Carrie asked me what I didn’t like about my original arrangement. We talked about pieces that were essential (i.e., those that I used frequently), and which pieces didn’t really need to live on the shelves. We cleared everything off to start fresh and further evaluate what I had, in order to group similar items together and analyze color patterns.
– Move it move it. I watched as Carrie tried out the same pieces in different spots. It may sound obvious, but when you place and item on a shelf, it’s not stuck there permanently. You can move it around until you like how it looks. At one point, in describing what she was doing, Carrie said “I’m just playing around with it until I find something I like.” I liked that idea of incorporating play into something that I had otherwise considered on par with dull still life paintings. Definitely makes things more lively and enjoyable.
– United by color. Carrie says it’s ideal to work within a color scheme, and using similar colored accent pieces help anchor your eyes when viewing the entire “shelfscape.” Here, she’s accomplished that with the bright yellow which encourages us, from left to right, to anchor onto the tea kettle, to the lemons, to the decorative plate, to the pitcher, and down to the little Navajo chicken figurine I picked up on a recent trip to Scottsdale, AZ. (I didn’t notice this until writing the post, but Carrie’s shirt picks up that yellow too! Way to go!)
– Take things to new heights. Carrie recommends avoiding placing too many objects of similar height right next to each other. Mix it up! On a related note, books can be stacked to help display items at different heights.
This new arrangement is both attractive and practical. I feel more peaceful already, every time I walk into the kitchen. Thank you, Carrie, for sharing your design expertise! (Oh, and if you’d like to see how I taught Carrie to “clean green,” check out her rendition of the weekend’s events on her blog here. We even managed to squeeze in a little shopping adventure!)
Here’s the before and after one more time:
I had a blast reconnecting with Carrie and chatting about our hometown, home makeover plans, newlywed life, and the one-of-a-kind things we found at local thrift stores. We’ll be back in the fall with another project!
Do you have additional strategies for styling open shelving? What would you like to display on shelves in your kitchen? Or maybe you’re inspired to re-arrange shelving elsewhere in your home? Have you ever worked with a friend to host a “skill swap?” Do tell. (And remember to hop over to Carrie’s blog for the rest of the scoop!).