How to Style Bookcases

How to Style Bookcases

I want more bookcases. Actually, I need them. My bookshelves are completely overflowing and don’t look great. I’m desperate for something that will allow me to get my books neatly single stacked on the shelves. You see, I love to read. I need to read more. I used to read a book a week. Now, there’s this thing called the internet that sucks me in and steals all my free time. I want to get away from that and dive back into my one true love: literature.

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The Downstairs Bookshelf

The Downstairs Bookshelf

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a great holiday and got a chance to relax and spend time with family and friends! I spent my break at my parents house eating way too many waffles and drinking hot buttered rum. Lots of hot buttered rum! While I was down in the Bay Area, I also installed a project for a private client of mine. We’re about 95% done with their home and once we finish I can’t wait to go down and photograph the project to share here on the blog. It’s always such fun seeing things come to life from idea to specs to reality! Back home I’ve just been sorting through things trying to purge some of my belongings and trying to find a place for the too many books I accidentally bought at the local used bookstore in my parents’ town.

Speaking of bookshelves, back when I shared how I style my bookshelves full of books I mentioned I’d share my downstairs bookshelf, which, though it has many books, definitely holds a lot more “things” too! This bookshelf is a hand-me-down from my parents which my mother surprised me with when I moved to Berkeley. It needs refinishing and I’ll probably paint it black when I finally get around to painting all the things I want to paint black like my china-cabinet-turned-pantry and dining table. For now though, the bookshelf is a rusty brown shade that I rather dislike. Styled full of pretty things, however, it’s not so bad!

Bookshelf | Land of Laurel

The bookshelf sits tucked in the corner of the main living area next to the dining table and slider door. It fits this spot pretty perfectly and gives this spot some definition and meaning!

Dining Room | Land of Laurel

These days, Finley the Fig Tree hangs out in front of the slider about 3 feet in front of the bookshelf. She tends to hide the bookshelf from view a little bit, but it was the only place to put her!

Living Room | Land of Laurel

Anyways, this bookshelf is more styled than my stuffed-with-books shelf upstairs. This shelf holds all my pretty vintage books, too many of which I bought only because they looked nice (Shhh! Let me have my addiction!). It also holds my collection of German steins (somewhat touristy in taste) as well as a few plants (see above about addictions) and knick knacks.

Bookshelf | Land of Laurel

I can rarely let a surface stay empty so I nabbed a picnic basket I had to sit on top of the shelf and flanked it with two plants. I’d rather these plants live in a different color container, but these were already planted, so I stuck with what I had. Below that, a vintage collection of children’s stories is propped up with inexpensive candlesticks. On the eye level shelf is my collection of steins which I frequently pick up a flea markets and garage sales. I’ve always got an eye out for them. They usually have some sort of interesting pastoral or forrest scene both painted and embossed on them so they’re textural as well as colorful! Below the collection is a shelf with a few stacks of books, a heavy goat bookend I got from my Oma and a Burros Tail succulent I picked up on my birthday last year at a greenhouse in Half Moon Bay.

You’ll notice that these objects are all fairly symmetrical and centered on the shelves. This is very me. I love symmetry! If this shelf was located somewhere else I’d probably use less symmetry to keep things more interesting. Because this is a one-off bookshelf off-centered in a corner, a little lot of symmetry keeps things more orderly.

Bookshelf Upper | Land of Laurel

A lot of my viney plants ended up on this bookshelf. I’ve helped them grow in and around the things on the shelves and they don’t seem to mind sprucing things up a bit! This shelf below is my favorite. The plant really took off and loves that I’ve wound it around the items on the several shelves! Plus I love the stacks of red and blue books with little car on one stack and small box on the other. The car is actually a Christmas ornament my mother gave me, it’s a little truck of fruit though so I keep it out all year round. The box is also from my Oma and is full of little labeled rocks she picked up around Europe in the 1980s.

Lower Bookshelf | Land of Laurel

Below this shelf are just rows of books – tall ones on the bottom, short ones on the shelf above that. This photo made me realize that last shelf was put on crooked and has been crooked for nearly seven months. Whoops!

Bottom Shelves | Land of Laurel

So that is how this bookshelf is looking! Still holds a lot of books, more so than a lot of styled shelves on the internet, but holds a lot of less practical things as well! Hope that inspires you to straighten up your shelves and make them look nice too.

Happy New Year! Also, shout out to Steve!

 

 

Styling a Bookshelf with Actual Books

Styling a Bookshelf with Actual Books

So we’ve all seen them, the “How to Style a Bookshelf” posts, they’re everywhere! But have you ever noticed what’s most lacking in these bookshelves? Books! Almost ever tutorial, every blog post, every instruction manual I’ve ever read on styling a bookshelf maintains that you need many knickknacks and very few books. Well, for all my fellow bibliophiles, let’s take a minute to acknowledge how little that makes sense. If you’re anything like me, you have tons of books. You may reread them, they may be on your to-read list, they may sit untouched just looking gorgeous on your shelves, but doggone it, there’s tons of them! The joy of having too many books and not enough book storage has haunted me ever since I memorized the words to the Velveteen Rabbit and told everyone who would listen that I knew how to read. It has never been uncommon for me to have stacks of books sitting all over my home. After college, I stacked books 3 and a half feet high in my bedroom on my childhood dresser. Miraculously they withstood the 2014 Napa Earthquake.

Stacks of Books | Land of Laurel

Every time I see another “How to Style a Bookshelf” tutorial, I sigh, think, hmmm that’s pretty, and move on, because for me, that’s completely impractical. My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of years of reading material. They’re packed to the brim with thousands of pages of paper, trillions of words, hundreds of stories. And that’s how I like them: full of books. The bibliophile in me wants more and more, collects them even. The romantic in me dreams of home libraries packed to the brim and smelling of paper and ink. The designer in me pauses a minute and thinks, how can I make this collection attractive?

This past weekend I moved around the furniture in my room and this bookshelf got booted out and into the bonus room upstairs. I packed it full of as many books as I could, styled the top, and it’s beginning to set the tone for this whole room.

Without further ado, how to style your bookshelf with actual books! If you follow these guidelines, not only will you have an attractive bookcase filled with books, but you will also be able to store more books than you would normally. Booklovers rejoice! You can use any books for this, hardcover, paperback, falling apart, old, new, used! Is this the only way to style a bookshelf full of books? Definitely not. But this method is fun, fresh, and brimming with books!

First start with an empty bookshelf. The small hole drilled in the back for your childhood stereo is essential. Just kidding! Pretend it’s not there…

Styling a Bookshelf with Actual Books | Land of Laurel

Gather a stack of books in the same color family, you want the stack to be about as tall as your shelf when laid horizontally. Place that on one of the shelves.

Styling a Bookshelf with Actual Books | Land of Laurel

Gather another stack of similarly colored book spines. Place that next to the horizontally stacked books.

Styling a Bookshelf with Books | Land of Laurel

Add more books in this spine color to finish out this half of the shelf. Begin gathering books of other spine colors. At this point you might want to pop in a special books you have. For me, this means a collection of dilapidated books on top of the bookshelf and a three volume series on a shelf below.

Styling a Bookshelf with Books | Land of Laurel

Now things began to move quickly. Continue adding stacks of books vertically and horizontally until your shelves begin to fill up. Things will move around a bit as you adjust for different spine colors. Don’t be afraid to mix hard- and soft-cover books together! At this point your goal to to pack the shelves and keep your horizontal stacks misaligned for a more collected look.

Styling a Bookshelf with Books | Land of Laurel

As you continue on past the first few shelves, you may vary between one horizontal book stack and two per shelf. This helps keep you eyes moving around the shelves.

dsc_0542Styling a Bookshelf with Books | Land of Laurel

As you get further down your varying colored books help give the shelves blocks of color, creating a more appeasing and “styled” look over all.

Styling a Bookshelf with Books | Land of Laurel

At this point, your shelves are full, but don’t stop there! Add an arrangement to the top of your bookshelf to tie the entire thing together. I used an old printed wooden box I have which mimics the blocks of colors formed by the books in the shelves below. The plant adds some organic shape and life; it’s long tendril down the side of the shelf visually binds it to the books on shelves below. A candle, a little metal house, a silver stein, and a happy painted armadillo fill in the remainder of the space.

Styling a Bookshelf with Books | Land of Laurel

And that, is a bookshelf styled full of books! I love this because not only can I fit way more books on this shelf, but it looks clean, collected and modern rather than cluttered. There are many ways to style shelves, I don’t have anything against most of them. But for me, it’s important that my styled shelves are packed with the books I need them to store, and not just interesting objects!

I made a gif so you can follow along with this step by step as well!

How to Style Your Bookshelf with Actual Books | Land of Laurel

I’ll share the bookshelf I have downstairs later, to show you how I style shelves with fewer books too. And guess what? I need more bookshelves… I’m out of room and there are stacks of books everywhere around my house, eek!

Do you run into the problem of not having enough book storage? Have you styled your shelves full of books in a different way? Let me know your secrets!

The Moment We’ve All Been Waiting For…

I found new nightstands! Finally. Yup, that took a while. Before I jump into the new, let’s go over this again. You might remember my old nightstands? They were about 16 inches too tall for my bed and belonged to my parents. I’d promised them I would eventually return the side tables and when they bought a new bed for their guest room, I knew it was time. Their new bed is the perfect height for these tall, dark, and handsome guys.

 

Left Nightstand | Land of Laurel

 

I’d been checking craigslist, yard sales, and estate sales for about 8 months now, searching for anything that I could substitute these guys for. I needed something about 20″ – 26″ high and no more than 24″ wide. The width was a major issue, as I truly only have 25″ on either side of my bed. Any nightstand wider than that simply wouldn’t fit in the room. The deeper, the nightstand, the better, as I am lacking in storage. I hoped for something with lots of drawers I could fill up. My love of symmetry demanded there be two identical ones. After months of looking, I finally landed on this somewhat promising looking ad:

 

Craigslist Nightstand Ad | Land of Laurel

 

The nightstands looked functional and the drawer was much needed, plus there were two of them and the price was decent. I didn’t love the color, but I figured I could always paint them green or white or blue. The fact that they only had one drawer, deterred me slightly, but I had yet to find anything else that would come close to fitting in my space. Plus, I could always stick a basket there and fill that up. I figured I might as well give it a try. I emailed the seller to see if he’d take $50 for both of them. He agreed to the price and I met him the next day with cash. When I took a look at the nightstands in person, I was disappointed. His measurements from the ad were completely wrong. The nightstands are 20 inches wide, 14″ deep, and 24.5″ high. It may seem like only a slight difference, but when you’re lacking storage and need incredibly functional nightstands, every inch counts! My plan to paint them would still work, however, the wood finish was in such good shape, I was hesitant to even do that!

 

I turned to the seller and told him that the nightstands were a lot smaller than what I was anticipating and I didn’t want them. He was surprised, but he really wanted to get rid of them. He offered me $40 for both. Now, a normal person would simply have walked away. They didn’t really fit my needs, right? I am not a normal person. This was such a deal! Two solid wood, matching nightstands in great shape with dovetail joints? This isn’t an everyday find. Maybe I’d learn to love them. At $20 each, they were significantly less expensive than anything else I’d see. Most people on craigslist were asking for $200 per nightstand. Way out of my budget. So what did I do?

 

I handed over two twenties and left with the nightstands of course.

 

I have no will power. None. At all. Whatsoever. Just ask that bar of chocolate in my kitchen… Oh wait. You can’t. I already ate it!

 

I brought the nightstands home and wiped them down with Honest Multi-Purpose spray. Once they were clean, I moved them into my room. I didn’t want to buy baskets for them just yet, so I filled the bottoms with what I had lots of: books. They looked… okay. Sigh. Not exactly the magical moment I was hoping for…

 

New Nightstands with Books | Land of Laurel

 

Even if that photo had been taken when the weather was sunny and the lighting cooperative, they general idea wouldn’t change much. The new nightstands just didn’t look right in the space. Dang! The books certainly were not helping. The color of the nightstands contrasted both from the red tone of the fir woodwork in the house and the espresso finish on my headboard. This was not good.

 

I tried one more time to make things look a bit better and filled the nightstands with blue and green books in tones similar to that in my bedding. This helped things, but honestly, the nightstands were still not doing it for me. Sure, the book storage was great and I could even slip my laptop in there among them, but I lost tons of storage overall and this just didn’t look great.

 

Nightstands with Blue Books | Land of Laurel

 

I was somewhat surprised that I had enough books in these color tones to fill the other nightstand. I have a lot of books. Possibly too many, but whatever, I love them. And I re-read them! Also does anyone else see a monster peeking up out of the floor in the shadow outline of the bottom of the nightstands in between the feet? Just the top of his head, two little ears sticking out?Just what I need, right? A monster hiding in my bedroom. As if I don’t already have enough stress dreams!

 

Nightstand with Green Books | Land of Laurel

 

Still this look… wasn’t working for me. I thought, maybe if I lived with them I’d learn to love them. So one month later here I am. What have I decided? Nothing. What have I created? A Pro/Con List.

 

New Nightstand Pros

  • They’re the right height for the bed, making turning on or off the light at night easy
  • They are wide enough to fit the space by the bed, but skinny enough to not overwhelm the space or make it look stuffed in
  • I can store books here!
  • I can paint them green or white
  • I have a great excuse to buy cute new pulls at Athropologie or the Alameda Flea Market

 

New Nightstand Cons

  • The wood tone is awful, but the finish is in such good shape, I’d feel guilty painting them
  • There is not enough storage
  • The drawer is too shallow to fit some of the taller things I’d like to store in it (like vitamins!)
  • I could fit wider nightstands for more storage
  • I don’t particularly like the curvy look

 

Conclusions? These nightstands work in some ways, but not others. If I didn’t need more storage they would be okay. I don’t love the look, so why keep them? I’ve already started looking for new ones on craigslist. I also have high hopes for a nice sunny spring day hitting up some Santa Cruz yard sales too. My Aunt Pat is the queen of Santa Cruz yard sales and we could make a fun day of it. If only it would stop raining!

 

Yay for mistakes! Someone told me once to be proud of your failures, because how else do you learn? In fact, she told me to yell it out. So, here it goes. I FAILED!! These nightstands were the wrong choice.

 

Moving on. What have I learned? Sometimes, you should just wait it out until you find something truly perfect for your space. Once I find new nightstands, I’ll sell these guys on craigslist and hopefully make a small profit. Someone else out there must be looking for matching nightstands right? Fingers crossed! It certainly has been a rough design rollercoaster in 2016. I’ll share some other not so great things I’ve bought recently later this week. Oops!

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

Hello everyone! Guess what? Working crazy long hours is not conducive to blogging. Like, at all. I’d apologize, but my time card at work says it all. Plus, women apologize too much. I’m trying to break the habit. What’s everyone been up to? Ready for the Oscars? I’ve watched several of the movies this year, but didn’t quite make it to all of them. Room blew me away, though. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a movie, but so fantastic and heartbreaking. The acting is phenomenal. I want it to win… everything! The Revenant’s been getting quite a bit of publicity, but I was sorely disappointed. I found it boring and very ridiculous. It was mostly a movie of someone walking and then every ten minutes something insane would happen, like he’d be thrown off a cliff or a bear would attack or something would be on fire. It just got to be a bit much…

 

Moving on from the Oscars, I recently read a fantastic book! It’s called My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss the author of the Wednesday Chef blog.  I hadn’t read her blog before and simply liked the idea of a book about Berlin when I saw it at a used bookstore. The book ended up being quite wonderful! Luisa grew up in Berlin and Boston. Since I went to college in Boston (Tufts, the same school Luisa’s father worked at!) and studied abroad in Berlin, I felt a connection with many of the places and foods she mentions. Her sweet story about finding love and where one belongs in the world really struck with me. Afterall, she basically lives my dream: travel the world, speak many languages, find amazing German man, marry him, live together in Berlin, raise German-speaking babies. Ahh… if only! Plus, the many recipes she includes are incredibly inspiring!

 

She mentions a Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad she learned to make from her mother and had me craving it right then and there. I had next to none of the ingredients she included in her recipe, but I did have bell peppers. Always one for innovation, I decided to plug forward on my own and give the Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad my own little spin. It was so incredibly easy and delicious! Peeling the bell peppers does take some time, but over all, it’s so quick. It may still be winter, but this recipe has me dreaming of hot summer days, barbecues, and long, hot hikes. The mix of sweet bell pepper and salty olives is invigorating. Topped with feta cheese, the whole thing is just perfect for a summer picnic… or a cold February day! I’ve made this three time in two weeks! It’s just that good!

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad | Land of Laurel

 

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

3 large, organic red bell peppers (or several small ones)

1/2 cup organic, pitted kalamata olives

1/4 cup artichoke hearts

2 teaspoons olive oil (truffle olive oil is particularly good)

1 clove organic garlic

Organic feta cheese in brine

Breadcrumbs (I used a piece of German Steinerbrot that I toasted and crumbed myself the first time I made this, and whole wheat panko crumbs from Berkeley Bowl the second time. Both were delicious, so use whatever you have on hand!)

salt and pepper

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad with Feta Cheese | Land of Laurel

 

First pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash your bell peppers well and place on oven safe cookie sheet (lining this cookie sheet with compostable parchment paper will making cleaning up easier). Place the cookie sheet in oven and roast the bell peppers for 45-60 mins. Turn bell peppers (I just use my fingers on the stems) every 10-15 mins as they roast. Slow roasting this way (as opposed to quickly over open flame) makes the bell peppers sweeter and more delicious. While they roast in the oven, chop up your artichoke hearts, olives, and garlic in to fine pieces no larger than 1/4 inch. Place these into a medium sized bowl and stir well together. This won’t take long, so you’ll have time to clean up, before moving on to the roasted bell peppers.

When the bell peppers are well roasted (black in a few little spots with crumbly skins), remove them from the oven and let cool until you can handle them easily. Then begin peeling their skins off. Rubbing with a clean dish towel may help with this. Drying your hands frequently will help you peel more easily too. As you peel them, shred the bell peppers into thin strips with your fingers. Place peeled, shredded bell pepper into the same bowl as the olives, garlic, and artichoke hearts. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss together and serve sprinkled with feta cheese (I like quite a bit!) and bread crumbs.

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad with Feta Cheese and Bread Crumbs | Land of Laurel

 

Hope you find this as delicious as I did! Look for My Berlin Kitchen if you want to try the original recipe. Have a great Oscars night, y’all!