Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Confessions Of A Frustrated Bookshelf Stylist

Like most people who enjoy the art of homemaking, I have a thing for beautiful bookcases. There is something immensely satisfying about arranging a set of shelves just so, with strategically placed volumes here and there, interspersed with interesting artifacts - vases, sculptures, framed pieces of art, interesting boxes, mementos, and other such treasures.

And there is an art form all its own for filling in the shelves of a bookcase to make them look extra balanced and beautiful. Call it 'styling' or 'staging,' I have a whole board on Pinterest devoted to this craft, and I drool over those lovely creations on a regular basis.

Now, I am very fortunate to say that I have a beautiful set of built-in bookshelves in my home. They fill up one entire wall of my den, and last Saturday night, I was overcome with a mad desire to strip them bare, clean them from top to bottom, and then style them to my heart's content. 

So that's what I set out to do. While finally making good on my promise/threat to rewatch the show LOST in its entirety, I yanked every dusty book and treasure off these shelves, heaped them in quavering towers all around the room - beware, pets!! - and washed away several years' worth of accumulated dust. 

So far, so good.

But right around the time that John Locke kills his first boar, I made a shocking realization.

My biggest obstacle to creating beautifully styled bookcases is that my bookshelves are full of books.

Yeah. The fact is that these shelves are first and foremost the home of a substantial collection of books, and I don't have room for a bunch of cutesy extras.

Now to be fair, over the years, I've accumulated a few special things that seem to be willing to squeeze in here and there amongst the books: a polka dot chest of tiny drawers, a pink vase, two wooden animal puzzles, a small collection of math awards, a Chinese abacus, and three carved elephants.

Oh, right - there's also that photograph of my second-born. It's kind of a wandering stray.

And I also added the large framed print by Paul Klee, recently fired from its job in my bedroom, to break up the predictable geometry of the shelves. 

But that's it. As much as I would like to fuss and putter over these shelves, trying one clever and artsy arrangement after the next, and maybe even justifying a few trips to the thrift store to buy something new, I have to admit to myself that staging my bookshelves is just something I can't do.

And while there may be a little voice inside of me that wants to shout in my best John Locke style, "Don't tell me what I can't do!", there is a much bigger part of me that smiles and thinks of a wonderfully happy thought.

My bookshelves are full of books.  Lucky me.

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