Open shelves are so very cool, but what to put on them? A designer offers two solutions ...
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The Purist - How spare can you get? This look is all about the essence of form, achieved by editing down till you can edit no more.
Be choosy about cookbooks
Keep a special few close at hand and shelve the rest somewhere else. Book jackets? Get rid of them for a cleaner look.
Simplify the palette
Too many colors in a small space can get visually chaotic. Repeat a few hues; let others retire, at least temporarily.
Vary heights gradually
A motley mix of tall and short items can look busy. Think of their heights as a wave, not so much up-and-down, up-and-down.
Provide breathing room
Don’t crowd pieces together or pile them all the way up to the shelf above. Empty space provides balance and makes shapes easier to “read.”
Think neat, but casual
Pieces don’t have to be positioned with military precision. Letting the stacked flowered mugs go slightly askew (and asymmetrical) keeps the look informal.
Vary shapes and materials
Look at your pieces’ silhouettes. If they’re all different, the look can seem jumbled. Too similar, and it’s static. Mix hard and soft: bouquets of fresh herbs make a pleasing contrast with harder-edged items.
Pay attention to containers
No matter how much coffee you drink, bags of beans
don’t need to be in view. Transfer bulk food items, including spices that you use frequently, to attractive jars. Boxes of cereal and bags of chips? Straight to the pantry.
The surface below your shelves is an important part of the view.
Stash small appliances in cabinets, potholders in drawers. And learn to see what you’re not seeing—that dish soap looks so at home next to the sink, it’s practically invisible. Except it’s not. Hide it down below.
Clear glass, white china, and metallic touches make a cool background for a
few pops of color. Chic restaurants tend toward this quiet palette for their tabletops—it makes food look luscious.
Be an artist
Think of your pieces as art and the shelf as a gallery.
If something isn’t contributing to the look, banish it. Shop for the perfect wine glasses or espresso cups
to complete the effect.
Keep it uncomplicated
Simply stacked plates and elegantly spaced cups and glasses have their own minimalist beauty. Symmetry can be soothing.
Photography: Nathan Kirkman