I've procrastinated enough ... I'm finally writing to you for some of your always "right on the mark" advice. I wasn't really procrastinating- I was just truly at a loss on what to do with this ginormous wall unit in my family room.
We moved in about a year ago - I tried putting things in it that are meaningful to me - family photos, plates that my children made for me for Mother's Day. I looked thru many magazines and tried to copy the pros about stacking books sideways to add "height" to the shelves so the framed photos could rest of them. Still, this space does not do anything for me - doesn't go "wow! what a lovely collection of family memories." It definitely does not help me relax when I am watching TV in there. It just looks like I unpacked boxes directly onto each shelf without any thought or plan. I avoid spending time in this space, which is pretty hard since with a very open floor plan, you see this wall unit from every room on our main floor.
My specific questions are:
1. General rules for addressing the decoration of the wall unit. Should I mix up the height of the shelves? How do I achieve a "pretty space" but also use it as a display for my family's treasures? My style is contemporary - I usually stick to neutral colors but would love to add a splash of color like lime green.
2. I am remodeling the kitchen - and the cabinets currently have the same wood stain. I am thinking of going white in the kitchen with light granite. Is there a rule that these family room units should also match the kitchen cabinets since they are in one space (ie not separated by a wall)?
3. Just FYI - I am going to repaint also. I do not like the "gold" painted by the prior owners. I am probably going with a light tan or even the Sherwin Williams Ancient Marble that you mentioned in one of your prior blogs.
The lack of pizzaz in this space has made me realize how much the feel of a home affects my mood. So, please, for the sake of my kids, so that their mom is not grumpy when we are spending family time in there, I would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you so much.
I feel like teaching how to accessorize is one of the hardest things to teach. It is just so intuitive, and there aren't hard rights and wrongs like there are with so many other aspects to interior design. However, the principles are the same, and I appreciate the teaching challenge. Let me split it into steps.
Step 1- The wall unit itself. Should it match the kitchen? No- that is not a reason to paint it. However- the four white doors, (or are they speakers?), and the color pallet that you mention that you would like to go with, and the somewhat datedness of your current stain, makes me want to say, "Yes, paint it white."
To be a little more interesting than just that, I would do the opposite of the wall unit above. Paint the unit white, EXCEPT add stained paneling to the back side. Do you see the white paneling on the back of the unit above? Same thing, except reversed. Stain it with a grayed wash, maybe even add a white wax to it. I would also put on a larger crown while I was giving the unit a bit of an overhaul. I would also remove some shelves. Remove one shelf from each bay. Again, look at the unit above- notice how much larger the spaces are? If it were a bookcase, your shelves would be appropriate, but as a display unit- the spaces are too small. Now, with the center portion, I would move the back panel forward, only a few inches deep, so that I could hang a piece of art there instead of have more shelves. This act will give you a MUCH stronger focal point. It will also ground the room, having it feel less busy.
Step 2- The mom in me loves the idea of using your children's gifts, momentos, etc. Your room should make you happy, bring you joy and conjure up great memories. To start with, take everything out. You have a scale problem. The size of all of your items are small. There is nothing wrong with small items, but there is something very wrong with all of the items being small. Does that mean I am saying not to use them, no, but we do need to add some larger items first.
I would add all white items. I really like consistency in color in decorating wall units/display cabinets, etc. This will also make the items from your children be the color, the highlight. However, start by getting some large white items, like the set of glossy coral bowls above. In decorating these shelves, you want balance and some symmetry.
(set of three shells on stands) The balance between being symmetrical and not, is what gives the arrangement visual balance. Sometimes I like being symmetrical on just two shelves, perhaps the two top shelves, doing the exact same thing. There are MANY good ways to arrange your shelves, that is just one idea.
Divide the accessories on each shelf into groupings.
Let me tell you another way I like to do it. Check out the photo below from Houzz:
See how on the left, starting at the top and going down, there are three groupings, one grouping, two groupings, then, look on the right, there is one grouping, two groupings, three groupings. Balancing the look out in this way is an easy tool to use to create balance. Combine your larger white items with your children's items to make your groupings. To increase the scale of a grouping, add a tray vertically behind it. Use baskets to hold items like paperback books or card games, that are not necessarily pretty, but that you might want to have handy.
Step 4- For your center area... Now, (in my imagination, because you have moved the back panel forward) you have a place for artwork, a unifier, a nice strong focal point. Because this area is architecturally determined in size, it will look much nicer if the shape of your art is super consistent with the shape of the space. If you have a hard time finding a piece, you could always have something framed, and adjust the size that way. Find a piece that you love. This will change that "mood" you were referring to. The piece above is from Z Gallerie. From my guessing, it looked like a good size for you and had a splash of the lime green you mentioned, and will be a unifier between your white that you added and your children's things.
Step 5- Add greenery. I realize that this is not a good "growing environment" But when I do one of these for a client, I always add greenery (usually not living). One of my go-to items is this set of boxwoods.
You could get boxwoods that would go on the white pots at the top of the post. That would be perfect. (I know where to order them if you are interested)
Step 6- Now you want to add back in your meaningful items. For example, in front of the lovely white coral bowls, add a picture frame. Next to the boxwoods, add the vases your daughter made. Will you fit EVERYTHING in? No, but the new level of sophistication in the area will compliment the momentos. I love using expensive frames on artwork that a child made. I have a nice large hand painted box for swim team ribbons. When you elevate the items like this, you honor your children. When you maintain a good use of design principles, (i.e. scale, proportion, focal point, etc.) you bring a sense of serenity to a room. We can do both.