Follow Respaced Portland on FacebookRespaced on Twitter

The perils of open shelving — plus 5 ways to do it right

by respaced on October 23, 2013

open shelvin

Open shelving: So popular in all of the home magazines right now, but so difficult to pull off. (For those new to the term, “open shelving” is shelving that is not covered up by cabinet or cupboard doors. If it had doors on it, we would call it “closed shelving.”) The tendency is for people to cram too much stuff on the shelves, which turns your shelves from magazine-worthy to crap-on-display.

If you struggle to stay organized and you know you have a tendency to live with a bit too much stuff in your life, then open shelving is NOT for you. It will be really difficult to maintain, and you will feel bad about yourself every time you walk by. But if you really like the look (and it can look FABULOUS when it’s done right!) and you know you have the discipline to keep only a few select things on it, then open shelving can be a great addition to your home decor.

Here’s how to do it right:

1. Figure out what you are going to store on it, and stick to just that category of items. For example, you might want to stick to just books, framed prints and knick-knacks, like in the photo above. Don’t expand that category to include electronics, board games, DVDs, or empty plates and glasses. That’s when it starts to look like a catch-all.

2. Knick-knacks should be at least the size of a softball. In magazines, you will often see that the items on the shelf are even larger, more like soccer-ball size (think vases, plants, sculptures, etc.). The smaller the item, the more cluttered your shelf will look because you will need to group a lot of them together to have any sort of display.

3. Group items together rather than lining up everything in a row.

4. Leave at least 25 percent of the shelves EMPTY! That empty space is key to keeping your collection looking more like a display and less like the knick-knack aisle at Goodwill.

5. Don’t feel obligated to line up all of your books on end. In fact, they look more interesting if some are lined up on end while others are stacked on top of each, pyramid-style.

Follow those tips, and you will have open shelves that look stylish, clean and uncluttered.

Do you have open shelving in your house? How do you keep it from getting too cluttered? Share with us in the comments below.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: