I recently reached out to Aryn Guillory, interior designer and founder of her design firm, Oyster Creek Studios, to partner on some home-décor related content here on my blog. Aryn helped us design our master bedroom in our third home and I’m obsessed with her aesthetic and the spaces she designs (you can check out her beautiful home, here). Since we’re all at home for the foreseeable future, I asked Aryn if she could share design tips, tricks and advice each week so we can all learn how to make our homes look their best!
The first post is all about styling built-ins. There’s an art to it, and it can be difficult to master. I was so excited when I designed the game-room built-ins in our new home, but if I’m being honest, I’ve never been happy with how I’ve styled them. I’ve looked at so many inspiration photos on Pinterest and want to get that perfectly balanced look, but it takes time to curate and collect the objects. I think ours are too cluttered right now because I just took what I had and made it work. I got a few new pieces here and there, but after reading Aryn’s advice, I’m motivated to tackle them again soon.
Here is Aryn’s step-by-step guide to styling your built-ins. Don’t forget to check my blog each week for new home décor posts with advice from Aryn and follow her on Instagram, here.
All images in this post are by Harlow & May Studios.
Styling built-ins 101, via Oyster Creek Studios
STEP 1: TAKE INVENTORY
Gather all of your items and take inventory of what you have. Items I typically use on my shelves:
ARYN’S FAVORITES ITEMS & OBJECTS:
- Coffee table books – make sure to have various sizes so you can stack appropriately. I like to use bright colorful books to add color to my shelves and then I also like to use ‘used goodwill books’ and cover them in white linen paper (see Aryn’s Instagram stories for this!)
- A few framed family photos – I don’t like to use too many photos but just a handful. Prefer them in either brass, white or acrylic style frames
- Something green – either boxwoods, dried moss bowls, a plant, succulent – just something green!
- Boxes – marble, woven, bone, brass, lacquered style boxes
- Sculptural type objects – ie geo rocks, driftwood branch, coral shells, glass knots, book ends, pottery/platters
- Larger pieces like large ginger jars, vases or jugs
- Small framed original (if possible) art
- Acylic blocks/stands for your objects to sit for height elevation and also just cleans up the look.
Style Note: Items I don’t like to see on shelves are too small of pieces (these pieces look junky). You want to have a mix of larger scale pieces and small scale pieces but not TINY objects. The more items you have on a shelf, the less of an impact each individual item is going to make. Having a few small decorative objects you love is okay when styling shelves, but make sure you retain a healthy mix of decor and keep nothing beyond what you need.
STEP 2: START WITH A BLANK SLATE
Before you start to style your shelves, take everything off first.
STEP 3: ADD YOUR ITEMS ACCORDING TO SIZE
- First, add your larger style pieces near the bottom to help anchor the space – like the big ginger jars at the bottom of the shelf
- Then, I like to play with my books and stack them on various shelves and then I start place one object on the books. (I don’t put multiple objects on the books). Not every shelf needs to have stacked books. I like to balance the books out.
- Depending on the size of your shelves, I do groups of two or just one single group. Meaning on one shelf I may have 2 coffee table books with a coral shell on top of the books and one piece of art next to these books/shells OR I just do one longer object like a piece of driftwood. You don’t want to overcrowd your shelves. You want you shelves to still feel airy and not too crowded with too many layers.
- Your shelves should also have symmetry. symmetry between the top left and right shelves and the bottom left and right shelves. Also on my top shelf, I typically always do one long linear piece like a long basket or linear bowl or standing books with book ends on each side. I rarely ever do a grouping on the top shelf.
- I don’t like to angle my pieces. Keep the pieces straight on if possible or leaned back against the back wall. If possible either stand up your artwork or lean it against something (as straight up as possible) some lean is okay, I prefer my things more upright.
- Be sure to step back and distribute the heights of vases and objects. Vary height amongst your shelves.
- Try to find balance when looking at your shelves. Think about the material and color and where it is placed- gold/metal, wood, ceramic, glass. For example, if you have a few gold objects you’ll want to spread them out so that your gold objects are not styled all together.
- And finally play and walk away if needed. It takes time to style shelves! I’m constantly tweaking mine. It honestly took me about 2 years of tweaking to get my shelves the way I wanted them!
Budget tip: From my experience, people don’t realize how much it can cost to style built-ins. I feel like it’s more money than people think. I tell my clients to budget between $2k – $3K when budgeting for décor for their shelves. However, it ALL depends on the size and quantity of shelves you have. I like to mix high-end pieces with budget-friendly pieces like décor from homegoods. But definitely invest in good art pieces or good ginger jars. Also, use meaningful pieces. When we vacation and go on trips, we like to find something to put on our shelves back home. The main thing I tell my clients, DON’T JUNK IT UP. If you don’t have good pieces to start off with, keep your shelves bare until you find the right pieces. I would rather have empty shelves than junky cluttered random pieces on a shelf that are collecting dust!
- Veronika’s favorite coffee table books here.
- Veronika’s favorite ginger jars that you can buy online, here.
- Greens: super moss, Spanish moss, moss balls
- More greenery options here, here and here
- Gold plam leaf
- White glass objects
- Wavy bowls (see my tutorial on how to paint them here) more options here
- Wood welcome beads
- Gold bamboo frame
- Wicker scalloped frame
- Staffordshire dogs
- Large coral piece
- Blue and white planter
- Dried grapewood branch
- Large clamshell
- Cane tray
- Rattan tray
- Acrylic tray
- Gold object
- Decorative objects
- More decorative objects (and here)
- Acrylic display block
- Driftwood branches
- Coffee table book
- (and here)
- Rose medallion antique plates via Jessica Lev Antiques (find her on IG, here!)
I hope this post was helpful and inspired you to transform your space! Thank you Aryn for the wonderful tips!
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