Accessories are definitely the way to transform your space from looking cold to looking chic, but it's tricky to find the right balance between comfy and lived-in versus cluttered and cramped. A little can go a long way when it comes to styling a wall unit with a combination of books, pictures, and objects.
I'm happy to report there are a few proven tried and true ways to achieve just the perfect placement. So often, people tell me that they don't know how to "arrange" things. They want that cool look they see in catalogues and stores, and they're not sure how to do it themselves. One way to get that look is to literally look at a shelving unit you think looks fantastic in a catalogue or magazine and simply try to duplicate it.
Here are some tips on how to get started:
Take everything out of your shelving/wall unit. This will give you a fresh start, as well as let you clear out some items that it might be time to get rid of (like that mug you got from Disneyland in third grade).
Separate objects into piles, such as a book pile, vase pile, candlestick pile, & framed picture pile. This gives you perspective and allows you to begin using each pile as a layer.
You'll most likely want to thin down the piles. Donate old paperback books and just keep the good looking hardcover ones, or ditch the funky candlestick with all the wax melted on it. This is going to help give you a fresh take on the shelving unit and rethink the items you already have.
Now slowly begin grouping books together in groups of three and five, and place them alternately laying down and standing up in various shelves. If you have books with beautiful covers, stand them up and let the covers face out. This will add depth and dimension. But don't put them on every shelf. Skip a few here and there to allow some open space. The books are the backbone or building blocks of your look.
If you have a shelf with more vertical space, consider creating a little makeshift bar. Use a neat tray and fill it up with all sorts of liquor, carafes and bar accessories; it will anchor your shelving unit as well as put it to good use when you entertain.
Next, start to add in vases, candlesticks or small decorative boxes. Place them on shelves alone or next to a few books that are standing up. Don't forget to alternate shelves and start out sparsely. Your wall unit will fill up before you know it.
Now it's time to make it personal and add in a few photographs. They can be family pictures to warm up the feeling of the space or you can use black and white pictures of objects or landscapes to add an extra hit of upscale style. Consider 8 x 10 and let them stand alone on a shelf or you can rest smaller frames like 4x6 and 5x7 on top of some books that are laying on their sides…now your unit is starting to come to life!
Stand back and look at the over all mixture of items. Does one section feel heavier or more crowded than the other? Does one section feel unbalanced? Move pieces around one at a time until it starts to feel even and just remember that it doesn't have to feel symmetrical (one book on this side and one book on the opposite side) it just needs to feel balanced.
It you have the space, consider putting a small green plant or two in your wall unit; green plants are your subliminal friend in a small space (or any space for that matter) they give us a grounded feeling and add just that little zip of color that always feels like the perfect finishing touch.
Keeping it clean
Now comes the hard part: keeping it that way! Avoid junking it up with all kinds of stuff (like the mug that follows you back from Disneyland).