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Create the perfect shelfie

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Create the perfect shelfie


Shelf styling, otherwise known as “shelfies,” is a great opportunity to show yourself and your style. Whether you’re accessorizing a large custom built-in or a small, “big box” bookcase, here are some styling tips to achieve a thoughtful and curated look.

Aim for equilibrium

Balance is soothing and somehow satisfying. It’s “right.” We naturally tend toward equilibrium in our interiors, from our rooms and the furnishings in them, right down to our bookshelf accessories. Start by arranging larger pieces, such as books, photos and art, toward the back of the shelf. Then, layer in your smaller pieces in front. Furthermore, you’ll want the overall display to be balanced, as well. Evaluate the visual weight of the large items and the overall arrangements. Is the display too top-heavy, skewed to one side or evenly distributed?

May the odds be ever in your favour

Taking balance a step further, odd-numbered groupings of items are pleasing to the eye and the mind, allowing us to naturally create symmetry that people are naturally drawn to. Arrange your collections in groups of three or five on shelves, or on any surface for that matter – tabletop, desk or mantle.

These groupings create little “landscapes,” and when done correctly, they become landmarks in the room. The eye naturally gravitates to the largest item in the centre and takes in the details around it.

When it comes to the items you choose to display, I believe in the holy trinity of shelf styling: Books, art/ accessories and plants. These offer an effortless and intriguing mix of colour, texture and shape, which keeps the eye moving from one grouping to the next. Alternate your accessories to keep your shelves interesting. This can include seasonal additions, trendy new buys or a rotation of existing collections. Just remember: For every new item you bring in, take one out. You don’t have to display everything – rather, be selective. In the case of a bookcase, less really is more.


Can you actually see the items that you’ve carefully selected and thoughtfully arranged? Or are these treasures hidden in the shadows? If you’re designing a room from scratch or renovating a space, plan your shelves and display areas together with your lighting plan. A built-in bookcase with strategically placed, focused pot lights can instantly elevate your collections from mere accessories to artfully displayed treasures.

If you’re styling an existing bookshelf but want to enhance the light around it, consider adding sconces or overhead upper embedded shelf lighting (electrician recommended!) or, as a DIY option, small table lamps or light strings arranged on your shelves can do the trick.

Shelf styling is an art, and it takes time. Experiment with existing items, display pieces you love and think beyond the cubby, so to speak. The bookshelf is not just for books anymore.

Jennifer Backstein is the Creative Director and Principal Designer for Jennifer Backstein Interiors. The firm offers a diverse range of full-scale design services in the GTA and across Canada. jenniferbacksteininteriors.com


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Open shelving

Open shelving and why it’s worth taking a closer look

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Open shelving and why it’s worth taking a closer look

We have been seeing the trend of open shelving in kitchens for a few years now, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon. We love the open shelf look in kitchens and try to incorporate often in our designs. It’s not a look that necessarily works for everyone, or for every space, but when possible, it’s a nice way to inject a little modern vibe to your space.

There are many benefits to introducing open shelving in your new kitchen plans. Eliminating stretches of closed-door cabinetry can visually create a more spacious and brighter look in your kitchen. Removing cabinetry, especially those around windows, can often allow for greater natural light to fill the room and produce a lovely look and feel. This all helps to create a warm and welcoming feel in your kitchen.

The one resistance I always encounter to open shelving has to do with clutter and the dust. However, once you commit to open shelving in the kitchen, you will likely quickly commit to decluttering and keeping them looking pretty. Closed door cabinetry hides your mess, so basically you end up not really noticing how disorganized and cluttered your kitchen really is. Clients often initially object to open shelves in the kitchen, then end up loving the simplicity, organization and functionality of their new approach. There’s simply no longer a hidden junk zone.

When planning your kitchen design, one thing to keep in mind also is that open shelving is a great budget friendly option to full cabinetry. It’s also useful if you just want to give your kitchen a quick facelift. Removing a few cabinets, introducing some open shelving and applying a quick coat of paint can be an economical way to add new life to your space, if a full renovation isn’t in the budget or part of the plan for a while.

If you’re a collector or have special mementos, the open shelving option is for you. Why keep your grandmother’s pretty serving pieces hidden in a cabinet, when you can see and enjoy them daily? Create stylish little vignettes on your shelves by incorporating heirloom or collector pieces with plants, artwork, glassware and your everyday pieces to personalize your space giving it a look all your own. You can also change these vignettes according to the seasons… A vintage Christmas cookie jar on display with some fresh greenery and various other festive pieces is the perfect way to add some holiday cheer to your kitchen.

Open shelving is also a great way to address functionality or any issues with odd corners and unusable space in your kitchen, instead of instead of trying to fit an awkwardly shaped, and likely under-used, cabinet. It also allows you to efficiently use a lot of wasted space that may not be conducive to cabinetry, especially when considering small space kitchen design. Open shelves can be installed just about anywhere to afford you additional storage space, for example, over windows and doorways.

Yes, open shelves are a trendy look in the kitchen, but its a look that affords many benefits. Take the opportunity to bring out those pretty dishes from behind closed doors to give your kitchen a personal touch!

Linda Mazur is an award-winning, nationally publicized designer and Principal of Linda Mazur Design Group.

With almost two decades of experience this in demand multi-disciplinary design firm is known for creating relaxed, stylish spaces and full-scale design builds within Toronto, the GTA and throughout Canada.



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