Here’s an easy, step-by-step guide for creating balanced and beautiful shelving displays.
1. It’s best to start with a clean slate, so first things first, pull everything off your shelves and give the shelves and your items a thorough dusting. When wiping down the shelves, work from top to bottom to prevent falling dust from landing on already-cleaned surfaces.
2. Sort through the goods, keeping only the books you’ll definitely reread and the objects that truly inspire you or hold a special significance. (A tried-and-true trick is to “hide” a piece in a drawer for a couple of weeks and gauge how much you miss it.)
3. When you start repopulating your shelves, place your favorite objects first, spacing them out so each shelf gets a bit of love.
4. Add in books stacked horizontally and leaned vertically, arranging them by topic or by color. For the horizontal stacks, place the largest books at the bottom of the pile. But when it comes to the vertical groupings, keep the heights per bunch fairly similar (within an inch or two of each other) and alternate them, creating a slight peak and valley effect.
6. Mix in your remaining pieces, building balanced compositions by juxtaposing horizontal with vertical elements and solid, geometric items with softer, curvier ones.
7. Heighten visual interest by combining a wide array of textures and materials: a little glass here, a bit of ceramic or mirror or wood there.
8. Once you’ve placed everything, step back and give it a good once-over to make sure everything is balanced—that there are books on every shelf, that the left side isn’t busier than the right, that there aren’t two bright-yellow pieces on one shelf and none on the others.