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Home & Garden

5 Tips on Styling Open Shelving

One designer shares her advice on avoiding boring bookshelves.
By | |Elizabeth Lavin
jennifer adam littke family
Elizabeth Lavin

Jennifer Littke has an eye for functional beauty. Her former Oak Cliff kitchen shop, Set & Co., was a haven for pieces that looked as good as they performed. Inside her former Lakewood home, the interior designer artfully displayed personal treasures and found objects with enviable instinct and restraint. We asked her for pointers on how to style an aesthetically pleasing bookshelf.

No. 1 

Pride of Place

When thinking about what to display, Littke considers the function of the greater space. “The items on display are dependent on the location in your home and how they speak to the room,” she says. “It can range from functional—and hopefully, also beautiful—on a kitchen shelf to more colorful and playful in a place you spend more time with your family.”

No. 2

Keep it Cohesive

Having one like element helps to make sure the finished look isn’t overwhelming. Littke’s collection of curios and personal photographs are unified by a consistent color palette. “There are color schemes that I’m personally drawn to—anything made of natural wood or a texture such as basketry or clay,” she says.

No. 3

Find Your Mix

An object doesn’t have to be expensive to have value. Collect what speaks to you. “I find crafted objects calming to the eye,” she says. “I’m drawn to soft colors and unusual shapes.”

No. 4

Less Can Be More

Don’t be afraid to leave some negative space for a visual reprieve. “Minimal or pared down is best if you are mixing with books,” says Littke. However, if display space or object variety is limited, like in the case of a single collection, she says, “Go for it and pack it on.” 

No. 5

Better Together

Strive for a mix of shape, scale, and type. Assess each shelf individually, and as part of the whole. “Balance is everything,” she says. “Don’t forget to step back and look. Does it feel balanced? Does it feel full? Is it calming?”

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