Home Decorating Tips: How to Style Bookshelves Like a Pro

If there’s one piece of furniture with endless style potential, it’s bookshelves. These spaces are often used for function only, but you can style bookshelves so they display your personality through meaningful objects and unique knick-knacks in addition to your reading collection.

“[Bookshelves] are the absolute architecture of a space no matter where they are on your wall,” says Ashlina Kaposta, a New York City–based interior designer and popular blogger on The Decorista. Kaposta styles bookshelves on a regular basis for clients and is never at a loss for items to fill them. “You can use anything,” says Ashlina.

Anyone can style bookshelves with Kaposta’s easy home decorating tips. Here’s how.

Begin With Empty Bookshelves
Move everything off your shelves and onto the floor. Group similar objects together to better see what you have: Try organizing books by jacket color (see below), by subject matter or by the years or places they were collected. Also gather unique objects and knick-knacks you want to display. See what fits in your plan and what doesn’t, and play with the placement of items. As far as the bookshelf itself goes, affordable units from discount stores will do just fine. But if you’re looking for showcase shelving, Kaposta’s personal favorite finishes are vintage chrome and brass, which will really highlight what they house.

Maintain a Sense of Balance and Symmetry
When you’re deciding where items should go, vary the placement to increase visual interest: Try stacking some books horizontally while lining others up vertically. Create balance and symmetry on your bookshelves by mirroring one placement pattern on an opposing shelf. Kaposta also suggests grouping things in odd numbers.


Credit: Emily A. Clark

Color Coordinate Books and Objects

Grouping items by color “instantly changes up the space,” says Kaposta. Line up book spines in a rainbow order to turn books into an eye-catching element from a distance where titles are indecipherable.

Group Collections Together
If you have a collection of similar items -- such as colorful rocks or sea shells -- keep them together in one area. Give order to your collection by placing the pieces on a lacquered or mirrored tray.  


Credit: Tim Barber LTD Architecture & Interior Design

Stack Boxes Full of Paperwork
Keep important documents within reach -- but out of sight -- by storing them inside chic boxes. Buy boxes in multiples and look for luxe textures and graphic patterns to make a stylish impact.

Include Travel Keepsakes
Remind yourself of fun getaways with objects from travels, such as volcanic rocks and carved statuettes. Mix them in with other treasures to keep it interesting.


Credit: SRM Architecture and Interiors

Use Mirrors and Artwork Sparingly
Remember, this is a bookshelf -- not a wall. Save most, if not all, of your artwork for a wall instead of hiding it away in a bookshelf. If you want one piece, that should be sufficient; use two small pieces at the most.

Make Use of Eye Level
A standout photo or detailed statuette is of no use to anyone on the top shelf of a floor-to-ceiling unit. Arrange objects that require a more detailed appreciation within eyesight.


Credit: Abbott Moon

Capitalize on Storage Opportunities
Your bookshelves can serve as functional storage for more than just your books. For example, a showpiece serving tray that’s too big to fit in kitchen cabinets can find a home among other objects. Plus, it can be appreciated at all times from this perch, instead of just a few times a year when you’re entertaining.

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Photo: Corbis Images

Window Treatments 101

Window treatments add a finished element to any room. But choosing the perfect window treatments for your space is a complex process. It’s not just about color or pattern; to find a window treatment that’s just right, you’ll need to take into consideration a number of factors -- as well as know some basic terminology.

First, let’s begin with some of the most common window-treatment terms:

 

  • Blackouts: Lined or coated window panels that are made from a heavyweight fabric with the intent of blocking light and insulating windows so that interior air doesn’t escape and outside temperatures can’t penetrate the rooms as easily. Blackout draperies may also be used to reduce exterior noise.
  • Blinds: Window treatments made of plastic, metal, wood or heavy fabric that come in horizontal or vertical slats, kept in place with string, cord or fabric tape.
  • Brackets: A piece of hardware attached to a wall or window frame to support a rod.
  • Cellular shade: A style of multi-layered or pleated shade that has a distinctive “honeycomb” fabric construction, and provides a high level of window insulation.
  • Curtains: Unlined, stationary window coverings made of lightweight fabric that are typically hung over windows using a curtain rod or decorative pole, and are often held back with tiebacks or holdbacks.
  • Draperies: Draperies -- not to be confused with curtains -- are made of heavier fabric. They can be stationary or mobile on a track, and can be paired with fabric tiebacks or fixed holdbacks mounted on either side of the window.
  • Finial: A decorative end piece that comes in a variety of shapes used to finish or cap the ends of a drapery rod or the top of a drapery holdback.
  • Grommet-top: Also known as eyelets, these are metal, plastic or rubber rings used to reinforce a hole in the fabric at the top of the drapery or curtain through which a curtain rod is placed.
  • Holdbacks: Used to hold curtain or drapery panels when pulled to the sides of the window so the panels can remain open.
  • Panel: A single curtain or drapery. Most window treatments require two panels, one for each side.
  • Rod pocket: A horizontal sleeve stitched across the top of curtains or draperies that opens to allow a rod to be slipped through.
  • Roll-up shade and roller shade: Flat shades made of fabric, plastic or vinyl that roll up onto a cylinder. Roller shades are spring loaded, while roll-up shades are drawn up with cords or strings.
  • Roman shade: The classic Roman shade has a fabric that forms pleats as the shade is raised; these pleats are formed by rings threaded with cords or tapes sewn on the back of the fabric that allow the shade to be raised and lowered. 
  • Shade: General term to describe blinds, pleated shades, roller shades and other opaque window coverings that can be adjusted to expose or cover a window. 
  • Sheers: Lightweight, translucent and finely woven fabrics.
  • Swag: A decorative treatment placed atop windows that features a soft, curving semicircle centered on the window top with fabric hanging down on both sides.
  • Tab-top: Fabric loops or tabs sewn across curtain tops through which a curtain rod is threaded creating a window treatment that hangs straight and flat.
  • Valances: Decorative window treatments that cover the top part of a window, used primarily as the top layer of a layered window treatment or alone as a decorative accent.

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to purchase your perfect window treatments. To guide you through this complex process, you’ll want to consider both function and form. Here, Sally Morse, director of creative services for Hunter Douglas, offers some tips to keep in mind when choosing window treatments.

Window Treatment Factor Number 1: FUNCTION

  • Energy Efficiency. Cold winters and hot summers are no match for window treatments that are designed to be energy efficient. Think about the direction your windows are facing and how much direct sunlight they receive to determine what level of energy-efficient coverage you might need.
  • Light. How much light do you want filtered in the room from the outside? Do you prefer to wake up to natural light in the morning or would you rather have an ultra-dark space that enables you to sleep in? Window fashions with rotating vanes or louvers can be used to direct light where it’s needed most, so consider this option if you prefer the appearance of slat treatments.
  • Convenience. If your windows are large or out of easy reach, you may want to consider remote-control-operated window treatments. Many companies offer a variation on the remote option, including Hunter Douglas -- their PowerRise 2.0 battery-powered remote control options are easy to use (and affordable), and they enable you to move your treatment to your desired position by shade, room, time of day and even activity (for instance, when reducing glare on the TV is an issue).
  • Noise. Window treatments can even help reduce noise. Consider treatments designed with features such as rear fabric air pockets that trap more air to provide sound absorption.
  • Privacy. Your home should be a private refuge from the outside world -- but not necessarily a dark cocoon blocked from natural light. Choose window treatments that provide both privacy and a view. Pair sheer fabric with fabric vanes to keep your view of the outside while maintaining variable light control and privacy both during the day and into the night.
  • Safety. Little ones running around? Keep their safety in consideration when choosing window treatments, including cordless systems.

Window Treatment Factor Number 2: FORM

  • Color. Color is always an important consideration in any home décor purchase. While white is a popular choice for window treatments, you can also add color with soft, light hues that expand the room. Coordinate your window treatments with the wall color, as low contrasts will keep the eye moving around the space. Reverse the technique to draw the eye to the window. You can also make the window or room appear smaller and cozier by using dark, warm colors and high contrast between the window and the wall.
  • Pattern. Pattern, like color, can add intensity on a large surface. Keep size and scale in mind when bringing pattern to your space via window treatments.
  • Proportion. The right window treatment (and placement of such) can help expand and enhance the feel of a room. Choose window treatments s within the overall scale of the space to maintain proper proportions. With a smaller window, try extending the window treatment higher or wider to make the window appear larger. For a window with interesting details, place the window dressing within the frame to keep the architecture visible. 
  • Texture. Texture is needed in every room, whether casual (rough, nubby or earthy) or formal (smooth, elegant fabrics). To easily integrate texture into a space, add it to your windows.
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Photo: Corbis Images

Decorating Inspiration: 5 Easy Holiday Centerpieces

When you’re hosting for the holidays, it’s your time to shine. The perfect way to show off your hostess-with-the-mostest prowess is by placing an “I-would-never-have-thought-of-that” stunner atop your table or in your entryway. Check out our five holiday centerpiece ideas for some decorating inspiration. They may move you to create your own unique showstoppers -- or just duplicate these and call them your own. We won’t tell.















1. Old is New Again

To create this simple centerpiece, interior designer Virginia Burney dug through her old and unused ornaments and found a hodgepodge grouping that looks like it came in a ready-made pack. Stick to two or three colors of ornaments so the display isn’t too jarring. Here, a couple shades of red are accented by gold and topped with fresh pine branches from the yard for the perfect Yuletide table topper (and the pine adds a nice, fresh scent too!).















2. Understated Elegance

Want an elegant holiday centerpiece for your table? Let your table sparkle and shine with white tulip arrangements adorned with pretty ribbon and sparkling silver ornaments. This one, created by Laura Trevey of BrightBoldBeautiful.com, looks crisp and classic. Placing a few identical arrangements atop mirrors adds extra sparkle. Flank the arrangement with taper candles to further add to the ambiance.















3. Centerpieces of a Feather

This centerpiece by interior designer Candace Volz is particularly attention-grabbing, but it’s a style that can be used year round. Find a beautiful display box at a vintage store, fill the box with craft Styrofoam (sold in blocks at craft stores), then stick feathers throughout the foam in your desired arrangement. Try peacock feathers for extra color!















4. Simple Style

Want a contemporary centerpiece? Go the route designer Megan Crane went by filling a tall glass cylinder with water and floating a single stalk of orchids in it. Use glass stones to anchor the flowers at the bottom. “To make it more dramatic, try adding multiple containers to the table or try different heights and sizes,” she suggests. “The result will be a custom-designed floral arrangement that is sleek and unique!”















5. Fun and Fruity

To create this colorful display, interior designer and artist Carole Meyer used artificial fruit placed in shapely glass containers. “I try to buy the most real-looking artificial fruit I can, which is a bit more expensive but the look is worth it,” she says. To add extra color and contrast, place green moss at the bottom. These fruit displays can work year round. For a look that screams holidays, use pine cones and Christmas decorations. “Let your imagination go and have fun!” Meyer says.

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New Uses for Old Things: 10 Ways to Repurpose Old Items

Our landfills are growing by the second -- but there’s plenty that we can do to help, while also adding some extra functionality or style in our homes! Find decorating inspiration in these five unique ways to reuse items you already have. Mother Nature will be pleased.

Bottle Beauties

Instead of tossing empty glass wine, beer or soda bottles, take a look at them from a different angle. Many bottles have a beautiful shape or color, and could easily stand alone as decorative vases. For a modern look, consider painting the exterior of a bottle in a color that matches your home décor.

If your bottle has a label, soak it in hot sudsy water (use dishwashing detergent) for 5 or more minutes until the label becomes soft. Gently peel it away; use a scrub brush to remove any leftover residue. Before use, clean the insides of the bottles too -- fill ¾ with warm water and a bit of dishwashing liquid. Cover the bottle with your finger or hand and give it a good shake. Rinse until the suds are gone and place upside down on a towel or dish rack to dry.

On a Roll

Empty toilet paper rolls are tossed in the trash faster than you can flush. Give them a new shot at life by using them to organize and store extra cords (the ones you’re not sure what they go to but you’re too afraid to toss them) to keep them from getting tangled. Wind a single cord into each empty paper roll and store side by side, standing up in a shoebox.

Book It

Do you have a pile of old books that you can’t bring yourself to get rid of but are just gathering dust? Opt for this unique idea: Purchase shelf brackets that are slightly smaller than the width of your favorite hardback books (from spine to opening). Secure the bracket to the wall and place the book on the bracket to create a decorative shelf. Stagger a few favorite tomes in a cohesive display and top with bud vases or small decorative items.

Display Case

Do you have an old cutlery tray that no longer has any use? Line the inside of the tray with pretty fabric or paper scraps -- or paint it a favorite color. Attach small cabinet knobs and/or tiny hooks within each segment of the tray and use them to hang and organize favorite necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Mad About Mason

Empty mason jars have so many reuses you might find yourself overwhelmed with the options. Here are some of our favorites:

•      Fill the jar part way with sand or rocks and top with a tea light candle. A grouping of these beauties will provide lovely candlelight for an intimate gathering.

•      Use them as single bud vases, grouping three or more together for extra effect.

•      Use them as drinking glasses at backyard BBQs -- and save the planet from more tossed-aside plastic cups.

•      Store useful items such as sewing kits, colored pencils, ribbons, office supplies or any other items you find yourself stashing away in your junk drawer. The clear view allows you to easily see what’s inside so nothing ever feels too lost.

•      Create a hanging vase or candle holder: Wrap sturdy wire around the opening of the jar (under a ridge so it’s secure). Then use another piece of wire to wrap through that first wire at two points to create a handle. Hang from a wall or garden hook and fill with flowers or a tea light candle.

Bonus Round!

Looking for even more ideas? Try these five quick-and-easy reuse ideas for everyday items:

•      Turn old picture frames into cute little serving trays.

•      Use old shower hooks to hang purses in your closet.

•      An old hanging shoe rack can easily organize your pantry. Hang it on the door and separate snacks or spices in the pockets.

•      Need more jewelry organization? Use a cupcake tray to hold small items.

•      Use large clamp binder clips to keep computer and phone charger cords handy. Clip them to the edge of your desk and pull the cord end through the metal clamp hole.

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