Styling Bookshelves Revisited

By Kate Riley August 2, 2017

I was helping a friend rearrange her bookshelves in her family room and I was going through my step by step process with her. How to style a bookshelf is something people genuinely struggle with, asking themselves. “Oh God and open bookshelf, what do I put there that actually looks good?” Bookshelf styling is a little bit science and a little bit art.

The science part is achieving balance through scale and calculated use of negative space. The artistic part is what objects you choose, and they are completely subjective. The decorative objects should be a combination of the the things you love and the books you can’t part with. Incorporate the textures that speak to you, the small works of art you’ve collected, that little antique vessel you picked up on vacation, etc.  My favorite way to style open bookshelves follows this process:

1. Start with the Bulky Items. Heavy or large scale objects work well on lower shelves to provide visual weight. Consider using a series of matching baskets or bins across the bottom shelf.


If the open shelving has closed hutch storage below, lucky you, you can store those bulkier or unsightly items behind the closed cabinets.


dalliance design

2) Use Books as Filler. Stack your favorite books in groups both horizontally and vertically, varying the stacks shelf to shelf. Use bookends or heavy objects to flank vertical books. Stack a small sculptural object on top of the horizontal stack of books.


amber interiors 

3.) Include Artwork. Use just a few pieces or multiples. Framed artwork fills the vertical space above and between shelves adding balance to the display.



4) Layer with Decorative Objects. This is always the fun part, playing with decor. Pick objects with varied shapes, sizes, and textures. Incorporate round cylinders, stacked boxes, shapely vases. Group objects with similar finishes together to form mini collections.


studio mcgee

5.) Allow for Negative Space. Leave room in between the books and objects to give the eye a place to rest. This helps the display feel less cramped so the individual pieces don’t compete for attention.


bethany nauert

6.) Add the Organic. Botanicals help a display feel less sterile, so do natural objects like shells or branches. Succulents in pots or terrariums work well on shelves since they don’t need frequent watering. You can always add a good fake so you don’t need to worry so much about watering, just dust the leaves from time to time.


curated interior

That’s my basic approach to bookshelf styling. Got any other great styling tips to share?


Why I Love Teenagers

By Kate Riley July 31, 2017

I’ve been in and out of airports all month. First to Las Vegas to work on the flip house, then to Atlanta for the Haven Conference, then to Savannah to visit my brother’s family, and I just got back from Boise, Idaho late last night. It’s been a lot of traveling, it’s exhausting but I love it.

One of the most relaxing days I spent with my brother’s family. My nephews are 17 and 15 and my niece is 14. I love them so much. We spent a day roaming around Savannah and then spent an afternoon at Tybee Island, and it was one of the best days I’ve had all year.

I was thinking about it on the flight home, why was that day so enjoyable? Sure it’s nice to have a change of scenery and spend a day at the beach, but mostly it was hanging out with those teenagers.

I think teenagers get a bad rap. I heard it a lot when my own kids (now 11 and 13) were young. “Just wait till they’re teenagers.” Yes I’ve heard and seen stories of teens messing up in so many ways. I did too, so did my siblings. We’ve all known some bad apples. But my experience with teenagers so far? It’s been really great.

My 17 year old nephew just graduated from high school. He managed to get a year of college credits under his belt, he is dating a lovely young lady, and in the fall he is headed to nursing school. He is intelligent, witty, thoughtful, and has a great sense of humor.

My 15 year old nephew is super tech savvy. He has his own YouTube channel and in just a few hours taught me the basics of how to use Adobe Premier for making videos. (Yes, videos are coming to this site soon!). He is extremely creative and he lives in the moment and he makes me laugh with his crazy jokes.

My 14 year old niece is the loveliest person. She is curious about the world but hip to what’s happening in it. She has a beautiful heart and wants to work with special needs kids someday.

My 13 year old daughter is confident and funny. She has a passion for baking and theater and new adventures. She’s always sharing amusing memes with me or making me take silly pictures with her.

My stepdaughter is 25 now, but I remember her teenage years with fondness as well. Her friends were always coming over and always hungry, so I was always happy I remembered to grab a few frozen pizzas and extra drinks knowing they’d descend on the house at any moment. Teens come in and out of your home at all hours, their lives filled with school and activities and social events, and it’s the best when they come home and sit with you and tell you stories about their day.

Today’s teens are so savvy with technology, but I loved seeing that my nephews and niece were not always on their phones. On our family’s ride out to the beach, we shared jokes and stories instead of silently scrolling through phones. During our meals at the restaurant, we would had conversations about food and movies with no phones. I found it so refreshing to experience teenagers demonstrating real etiquette in this world where it seems so many millennials spend every waking hour taking selfies and sharing every.single.moment of their lives on social media. Funny that my nephew was on his phone when the above picture was taken, but he was talking to his grandmother so he gets a pass :)

It saddens me to read about so much bullying among teens or the stories about teen suicide. When these issues come up I treat them as an opportunity for real world discussion about depression, substance abuse, etc. These are hard issues but necessary topics to tackle.

I love teenagers because they are blossoming real people with thoughts, ideas, dreams, goals, passions. I listen to the way they talk about everything in the world and in their world. I find them funny and interesting and doing so make me feel connected to the younger generation. I see them as young adults, still learning and growing, not always having the best judgment or sense, but watching them navigate the world brings me joy.

They are the next generation. They need our support and to know we believe in them. They need a safe place to land after they’ve spent their day standing up for themselves in this world. They need to know we will always be there for them even when they mess up. They need us on the sidelines, always cheering for them.

To those of you who have small children, don’t panic. Give them a good foundation of love and encouragement. Listen to them, guide them, and call them out when they’re acting like jerks. If there is good groundwork when they are young, they will bloom into amazing people. Just watch.