Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dressing up the shelves and the mantle.




Shelly wrote this weekend asking, "What do you think? Too many 'things' on the shelves? Too cluttered?" to which I responded, "Maybe. But not too cluttered if you take the things off the mantle and put up a mirror or art? I think you need one big "thing" over the mantle to balance out the smaller accessories. Maybe?"

But what do I know?

Help Shelley. Please post your brilliant decorating advice below.

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, something large above the mantle. Too many smalls on the shelves. Books would be work to help break up all the plates and stuff.

So easy to help someone else; so hard to make my own rooms work.

Anonymous said...

Thats a great idea. One big thing would make the small items seem more purposeful and unified.

mary said...

It looks like Shelley like Chinese and Japanese porcelain. I would take everything off the mantle and place a a well-framed piece of Japanese Calligraphy as the single art piece above the mantle. This room needs a focal point to add interest and more energy.

Abbie said...

I think a starburst mirror, or something similar, would be perfect for that space above the mantle. Then, she wouldn't need much of anything on the mantle itself.

Anonymous said...

Going to be daring and comment on someone else's living space . . . shelves appear to be a mess. Any chance the items could be sorted to have some on display for spring/summer and others for fall/winter? Number of items on the shelves should vary with some variation in direction, i.e., come books on their side with taller items in between. Agree, something larger is needed over the mantel on the wall. How about artwork with a small mirror hung on the shelves - saw some designer do this and found it interesting. Now, for the furniture layout - something looks amiss from the photo - was it taken through a window/doorway. In any event, why not centered on the fireplace? Not going to touch paint coloring in context with the sofa since I'm hoping my screen is way off with regards to the coloration. Looks like a room with good bones - arched spaces, light and size - just needs a little TLC and everything will 'come to life.'

reclamationdesign@yahoo.com said...

It's definitely too much stuff for me. (Sorry, I always try to be supportive but ...) But the suggestion about a big piece over the mantle with the smaller pieces is a good one. Also some variety in shape on the shelves. Like maybe some books and some boxes mixed in here and there. And some serious things mixed w some cookey things. Something like that. So it's not just stuff, but more interesting to look at and linger over.

reclamationdesign@yahoo.com said...

Also, just less stuff.

dead after dark said...

Damn, the light is gorgeous in there.

More books, less tchotckes on the shelves. And yeah, a big picture or mirror for variety.

desiree said...

*disclaimer* I'm not a interior decorator or any thing close....but I do agree with one large item on the mantle to balance out the shelves. I think I would choose a circular shape...but that's me.

Quatorze said...

I agree, too many items of similar size and type; they are all vying for our attention to the detrement of each item. I think it would be hard to hang a mirror or painting on your hearth face as it seems to angle back. I would leave the mantle completely undressed, or perhaps just a pair of gutsy candlesticks or one central item, such as a clock or low wide vase/bowl or sculpture. You could also have a simple painting done right on the chimney breast, a wreath or something in a Venetian plaster effect or at least in partially sanded down paint.

You might consider a soft yellow or celadon green on the back wall of the shelves, to highlight what seems to be a pretty collection of blue and white porcelain. I would edit the collection and just keep the best items on display, giving them room to breathe and display themselves to best effect so everyone can really appreciate them, again, rather than being confused by so many similar items at once. A few books mixed in will give the objects something to play off of as well. Lovely, well-proportioned room and interesting furniture placement btw.

JoAnn said...

I agree -one big thing over the mantle would improve the look.

Also, I think the shelves are sadly bereft of books.

Wendy said...

I think you nailed it with the big mirror, but if you could see MY mantel, you might ignore my advice all together!

susan said...

First off- click on the pic so you can see it BIG!
I like all the tchotchkes, but you need more BOOKs to balance them out. Tchotchkes and books go together like peas n carrots! Second off- agree with Decorno- BIG statement over the fireplace and take that awesome amazing sculpture-y thing and put it on the hearth next to the fireplace. OR on the coffee table! Beautiful room! You're almost there!

Jill Seidner | Interior Design said...

I agree - one large piece of artwork or a mirror would be great to balance out the accessories on the shelves on either side. Maybe a tall candlestick or one or two accessories atop the mantle on either side, keep it minimal. Those are just my thoughts! The shelves look great! ;)

Arched Brows said...

I agree with you, Decorno.
Too much on the mantel.
My suggestion would be just to take it all off, there's enough on those shelves.
BTW, really like the seating area in the foreground.

east side bride said...

Um. Where are the books?? I'm a little disturbed by the lack of books. On the, y'know, bookshelves.

Anonymous said...

I think the room is really pretty, but there are too many items on the mantle and shelves. It looks a little knick-knacky. What if you put only one item on the mantle, offset to one side or the other, then take away about 25% of the items on the shelves. Only showcase the items that are the most special. Maybe you could leave one or more shelves empty (or nearly empty)?

I love the architecture of the room. There are too many small objects distracting from the beautiful structure of the home.

kristin said...

I agree with you that maybe one large piece over the mantle would help, maybe also using some of the larger items on the bookshelves on the lower shelves, they seem a little top heavy.

Can you help me out with a dilemma too?
I posted it on my blog today
http://appletreestaging.blogspot.com

theindistincthum said...

It is not just the mantle - it's all the stuff on the shelves (cluttery and similar in scale) on either side of the mantle. From the photo - which is a little dark - I would also have to say that the color in the room could use a little something something.

Editing is more important than adding.

Diane said...

She has beautiful things! The current effect if a bit too much like toy soldiers all lined up - which is exactly how my husband likes things!
I would prefer to go asymmetrical. Group things in odd numbers on the right side of the shelf and then jump to the next shelf and do an odd number of things on the left, and so on. Alternate tall with flat with round with fat. More white items on the left side to balance the right. I agree one large thing on the mantle and one larger thing on the hearth.

Amanda Calhoun said...

Tough... there are just so many... shelves.

Perhaps if you have a lot of books, but the shelves don't have a lot of space between them to show off your large collection well. I do see some themes however - you could stick with a series of vases and plates and remove the rest. You could also put one large plate above the fireplace or perhaps a few vases of differing heights. Good luck! You have a pretty room to work with!

Anonymous said...

I agree that a large mirror over the hearth could give more scale.

I also vote for a more balanced mix of objects and books. Most people have shelves too heavy on books. The homeowner should find one of those people, swap some stuff, and fix both shelving issues.

Anonymous said...

Take all the stuff off the mantle and hang a simple mirror or artwork. The simplicity of the mantle will balance out the tons of stuff on the shelves.

Anonymous said...

Also, take the stuff off the hearth.

David said...

You're almost there Shelley. Cull the shelves just a bit. There's too much now, but not way too much.

Take what's left and group things together so you've got some empty space in places. It's a bit evenly spread out now.

I agree with Decorno about the mantel, clear it off (Chinese warrior man can stay because I like them) and put up something big.

Anonymous said...

those are book shelves... she should add some books

Carol Ann said...

Ok...to cluttered, yes
No mirror over the mantel, just a piece of art 2/3's the width, and 1/2 the height above the mantel.
Ok...the shelves on each side should be vinettes of 3 pieces only on each shelf with a arrangements of books...
The trick is do the left side bookshelf, do it until it is great...take picture and you will see it better...
now the trick...just mirror the great shelf to the other side.
<<< ::: >>> this is what I mean by mirroring. www.kimberleyseldon.com has wonderful examples of bookshelves.
The way I look at it if you ask the question, you know the answer...when there are less pieces the room will feel so much better..have fun doing it, design should be fun...in scale, but fun...lol

Pieter said...

I agree completely. I think another problem could be that there's no depth. None of the items over lap. They seem too separate from each other. By grouping and staggering she'll create a more interesting composition. I think it would also help if she adds more books to certain parts of the shelf and places items on the books (placed horizontally) for more visual interest.

Ger said...

imho: I have a lot of tiny objects and art stuff and not enough space to display them all. That's why I change them often - every 2,3 weeks. It's refreshing. For this room: I would strip them all from the shelves and display not more that 5-6, and also I would remove the 1 and 3 shelve. They are to tiny, there is no space for the pieces to "breathe". I suppose that the owner loves beige but for me it's too dull and flat. I would repaint the two niches white or some other pale color. A big bright bold painting over the fireplace. Some color accents in the room. And I would change the coffee table. It just doesn't work for me. It's a lovely room, but needs some color.

Beth said...

I think you're on to something. A clean mantle would balance the shelves. Maybe a mirror... maybe. But only one! :)

Anonymous said...

Great advice, Decorno! I like the idea of one big piece over the fireplace. However, I think there are still too many pieces on those shelves. The homeowner could put away as much as half of them. She could put them in storage and rotate items based on the season or her whims.

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

I would paint or paper the interior of the shelves for a little punch of color or pattern. Also, I agree that one large piece of artwork or a nice looking framed mirror would look great over the mantle.

John Strauss said...

I believe decorating should be less abstract. If there are meaningful personal items such as photos of the family or awards or mementos that have significance go ahead and put them on the mantle. If you are lacking any of that - don't! A big mirror or art piece works. And don't put books in a bookshelf that you have no intention of ever reading. Just my 2 cents.

Bailey @ peppermintbliss said...

I agree with you about the mantle...And maybe if you just rearranged the shelves so that some shelves have a bunch of your smallers, and others have only a few bigger pieces, mix it up a bit?
But I ain't a designah, I just werk fer one...
Good luck!

Kathryn said...

I agree with Decorno here. I think you need to play with contrast and scale. Put a big ol' mirror or piece of artwork above the fireplace and I think you'll be good to go!

MoreSkinnyDays said...

What I see here is a lot of nice things with lack of focus; I don't know where to look. I'd remove everything from the shelves, the mantle, the coffee tables and the window seating area and put everything in piles on the floor, sorted by something unifying like color, or all the vases/urns together, or all the sea creatures together. I'd then do as Anon 5:24 said and decide to rotate on the season--so let's box up all the sea creatures and focus on the vases for winter.

Now that the sea creatures are boxed up and waiting for the spring rotation, let's place only the urns on the shelves. Nothing should be in the urns, they should be empty. Have the urns on one set of shelves and the foo things, Buddha guys, and anthropomorphic guys on the other, maybe adding some books as the other posts suggested. Live with that for a couple of days before committing to the print or mirror on the mantle.

Richie Designs said...

like the mirror idea, maybe a turquoise blue [pick up some of the color on the shelves] pillows on the chairs.

on the shelves, yes a few less things would be good. maybe use with actual books and pepper in a few of your smaller pieces.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Pieter regarding depth, and John Strauss regarding the meaningfulness of objects. Great advice. Unfortunately, this does look a bit like impersonal 'decoration.'

Decorno is right about the mantle. But don't forget the hearth. I would actually leave the mantle completely bare, and put a large vase with branches on the hearth (and remove everything else currently there).

Also, the window ledge to the left of the fireplace is adding to the sense of clutter. Is it a window seat? Can you put a cushion in it? That would be nice. If not, just leave it bare.

Shelley said...

Wow what a nice surprise I had this morning coming to this favorite blog of mine and seeing my living room photo and all the great comments you readers posted !

We rebuilt our home - it burned down 2 years ago in the Oct '07 San Diego firestorm. We changed a lot of things and this is not the exact same home that burned. We lost all our "stuff" and books and photos. The things you see on the shelves were mostly given to me by friends since we moved in 10 months ago.
I've now read all the comments twice am copying them off and will re-read them again and again.
You readers have such a wealth of knowledge. Thank-you so much- this is great and just what I needed. I knew I had too much "stuff" going on and this just confirms it. Your help is VERY much appreciated and I thank-you ALL !

-Shelley

Anonymous said...

Shelley... MORE BOOKS. Less 'stuff'.

Anonymous said...

Some random empty spaces on the shelves might be pleasing. Every room needs moments of quietness.

Anonymous said...

Adding "more books" just equals more stuff. If she hasn't already added books there, why start now? It's a lot like leaving around your copy of "I Married Adventure" just for show.

A lot of books don't look great anyway, so if she stores them elsewhere, great. Adding them just because these are called "bookshelves" doesn't make sense to me. Adding books just for the sake of it will look as "staged" as the current arrangement.

Quatorze said...

Hate to be a pill, but has anyone who has suggested a mirror over the fireplace taken a good look at the situation? The chimney breast is not plumb and vertical, it angles back somewhat. A mirror on this surface would only reflect an odd angle toward the ceiling.

Anonymous said...

"A lot of books don't look great anyway."

Can't disagree strongly enough.

Anonymous said...

I should say this: A lot of nice-looking books would look great. A lot of paperbacks and other junky trade books may not. So my point is, if she's not already proudly displaying books, then she probably has trade or other doggeared books (as many of us do) that are housed elsewhere. If she is hiding a collection of handsome books or stacks of design books, for example, then I agree with you. THOSE books would look great.

Anonymous said...

It really isn't a matter of too much clutter per se. The room itself is rather minimalist and the things on the shelves look like they were all purchased on the same shopping trip to fill that space. They seem like an after-thought selected merely to fill the space. Also they are all the same scale. I would add a large something or other over the mantle, add books to the shelves, edit the existing stuff, and add more things of varying scale. Or edit it way down but add some larger objects--hopefully with an aura of meaning about them. It depends on your own taste. My own shelves are packed with collections of American art pottery, nicely arranged by color and style--you bet it is "cluttered," but it really works well and makes a big statement. And I like it. And it fits the room. This is a nice minimalist room with a random-seeming collection of stuff that somehow seems sad in total even if the individual items are good in and of themselves.

Shelley said...

I do like Chinese and Japanese porcelain. The round plate on the top left is the only
Imari platter that I have replaced so far. I have not yet replaced my design and art books
that the fire destroyed. I have replaced some other books and these are stored in
my office- at the other end of the house. I have now begun removing 'stuff' and am going
to do as several suggested - store it in boxes in the garage and rotate it periodically.
I felt, since much of this 'stuff' was given as heartfelt gifts since we moved in, that I was
obliged to display it all. And it's just way too much. And not all to my taste either.
My husband thought it looked very cluttered & 'staged'. I just now took everything off the mantle and hearth. And I took a lot of stuff off the shelves. I moved some other stuff around too. The chimney face does angle backwards so I am afraid a mirror won't work there. It's a good start ! I feel much better about it already and I'm not even halfway done, removing & rearranging. Thanks to you all & to Decorno once again. You've helped me more than you know!
-Shelley

Anonymous said...

I take your point, Anon 12:37, though book shame still depresses me. Some of my favorite books are cheap and beat-up old paperbacks from my youth.

BTW, here's a good recent discussion on book shame in decorating:

www.doublex.com/blog/nicksdreamhouse/books-looks

Holly said...

Fewer, more interesting, items. And make them larger. Playing with scale is fun. Lots of small things looks "nervous." Books, but only if they mean something to you. More color. A dash of black. A little sparkle. Ta-da!

Kelly@TearingUpHouses said...

I like all the pieces of interest on the shelves, but agree that a larger focal point on the mantel would be good. It could still be surrounded by smaller things, though!

Kelly

Anonymous said...

I really hate to be this person, but I have to say it: The thing above the fireplace is a mantel, not a mantle. Since this is a design blog I just thought you might not mind being told. Thanks for an excellent site.

Shauna said...

Dear pretentious people who get mad there are no books on fancy shelves -

Suck it. Quit making judgement calls on the placement of books in other people's house as though they don't read. This is such a tired tired - SO TIRED - argument.

I love books, I have a TON of them, I make my living as a writer, but books are not on display on my fancy living room shelves.

They're in my office.

In ones own house, you can put WHATEVER YOU WANT ON YOUR BOOK SHELVES as long as it looks good!

Decorno said...

anon 5:15. god bless you. like "dental" molding, right?

I wish I could afford a copy editor. But I can't because you cheap bastards don't pay me a damn thing to maintain this illiterate design blog. (I kid, I kid...)

Anonymous said...

That large metal piece could be mounted and centered. the buddha & warrior to one side. Then maybe think about reversing those color values, it seems the darker tone in the shelving makes the items just go bleh. Also group those pieces by color and arrange them in little groups on each shelf interspersed with books and plants.This will make my your eye travel from top to bottom and side to side and show case those things that have meaning to you. Those are some beautiful things she has, they should be celebrated.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shauna,

I think people want to see books because without them, the shelves look like store displays.

home before dark said...

Shelley: I admire your pluck. After going through a devastating fire, you rebuilt and then had the courage to submit your living room to Decorno's famously opinionated crew! I think you received some great ideas. I'd just add: do what makes you happy and don't feel you have to do it instantly. I think the advice about playing with scale is an excellent one. And the comment about the beautiful light in this room is spot on. I wish you all the best, and again I admire your bravery.

Melanie said...

I think that she should take all the stuff off the mantle and, as you suggested, put a mirror up there. Not a piece of art- the shelves are already too busy for that.

If she wants to keep an asian theme, then get a mirror that has some amazing wood working around the edges- I have a few round mirrors from south east asia that are absolutely fantastic.

I would also take some of those things off the shelves- it just looks overstuffed.

My .02...

Anonymous said...

HI
Just my two cents,,, but I think if you removed the second shelf up that might help a bit- part of the problem is that the shelves are all the same height so you have the tin soldier effect, then you could place a few taller objects. I also think fewer objects and paying attention to how their shapes interact would be good.
I think it would be hard to hang something above because of the slant. If you do a round object would be make more sense as it would great a vanishing point rather than push the taper out visually. You could try just the large dark oriental tree in the middle with one object on either side. Good luck and ultimately what makes you happy is right.

Pretentious Book Person said...

Books vs. tchotkes:

Books are something you take out and handle and use--intimately, for long periods. Tchotckes just stay there, being pretty. You look at them briefly, then move on. You don't touch them, you don't use them.

Having both on your shelves is just a matter of providing a variety of experiences, which makes the room more complex, more layered, more interesting. More of a place you want to linger in.

loubeelou said...

Lovely room. I would paint back of shelves same colour as chimney above mantel. One big item on mantel. Group all likes items together. Like all animals together, or all vases. I would make a shelf with all the smaller items grouped. And above all, add books.

kassy said...

I like your objects, there's just too many of them, try going by the 3,5,7 rule and throw some books on the shelves as well. Rotating pieces in and out every few months keeps things interesting. And I agree with painting the inside of the shelves to highlight the jade and blue pieces. Not sure about hanging something above your mantel since you do have that slanty wall. Maybe you could put a single jade plant on the mantle. The furniture looks like its focused on the piano, could it be spread out a little more to focus on the fireplace as well?

Anonymous said...

The are too many shelves for the size of the book case. She needs to remove two of the shelves, add some books, and a couple of wooden boxes for interest and different texture, and remove ALL of the small stuff. I don't understand the look she is going with here. The room looks like it was built during the "tuscan phase" and it has tile floors. The furniture needs to be centered around the fireplace as it is the focal point. Where is the couch? I agree that a large mirror (no art) should be on top of the mantle, not hung, but just sitting on top of it. I LOVE the large statue on top of the mantel. Other than the blue and white, it is the nicest thing in this room. The furniture is trendy modern, the floors and bones of the room and fireplace are "tuscan" and the chinese porcelain is traditional. It just looks like she put everything she had in one room. The color is not right either. The shelves look like they were painted a darker brown on the backs. Too dark and doesn't showcase her objects.

Anonymous said...

I love that even though the correct spelling has been pointed out, everyone still keeps using "mantle." It IS a better spelling. Are you listening, Merriam Webster?

Anonymous said...

There's a "3,5,7" rule?

Shelley said...

Thanks again to you all & to Decorno - your help is appreciated more than you know! I took a lot of stuff off the shelves & then moved other stuff around too. The chimney face does angle backwards so I am afraid a mirror won't work there.
There is another sitting area you can't see in the photo - it's 2 big chairs & a
metal-round- coffee table in front of a view window. That is why the sectional
seating area is not centered around the fireplace. I wasn't going for a "Tuscan" look - it's more of a 'California ranch style' house in spirit.
There is one wide, long hallway and all the rooms are off this main hallway.
We worked with an architect on the design. His idea was the arches - I wasn't sure I
would like them--but I really do. Yes the floors are tile. Lots of new and many not-so-new Southern Calif homes have tile. I don't think tile is strictly a "Tuscan" thing-is it?

You can't really tell about my colors from the photo. The main color is not
beige-it's Meadow Pink 1011 by Benjamin Moore.

The kitchen and niches behind bookcases
are done in Taupetone 1013 by Benjamin Moore . Kitchen, dining and
"buffet" area are not visible in the photo but they are all open & visible to each other.
So the color consultant thought the kitchen and niches behind bookcases
should be the same. The dining room is Caramel Pink VM70 by Ralph Lauren.
There are other colors - mauves & softer browns- in the other rooms so the
overall effect of color is soft, rosy, creamy, serene and peaceful. I tried TO DEVELOP AN OVERALL DECORATING CONCEPT BASED ON COLOR, THEME & FURNISHINGS SO THAT OUR HOME IS COHESIVE AND 'UNITED' FROM ONE ROOM TO THE OTHER.
I did not buy all NEW or matching furniture. Yes the modular seating came
from Macy's but I have had fun mixing old with new. All the furniture that burned up was not new.
For this new house, I liked selecting pieces that compliment each other as I think it makes for a better effect. I shopped at department stores yes- but also at consignment shops, thrift shops, Asian stores, estate sales - everywhere.

Quatorze said...

the 3 5 7 rule is used in gardening; odd numbers of plants of the same type read better than even numbers when planted in a bed. In decor, the same often applies, except in the case of "pairs", as in chairs, vases, candlesticks, consoles, etc. when used to create formal symmetry within a room.

Susan said...

I agree--easy to comment here---but more difficult to figure out your own space. I would say add books to the shelves--quite a few of them. Something larger over the mantle.