Laura Rennie

styling shelves: Jessica’s built-ins

Laura R.17 Comments
contest update -- Caitlin won! thank you for entering!

I’m excited to share with you the first post in a series I’ll be doing on styling shelves! To kick off the series, we’re going to peek into the home of my friend Jessica. Jessica lives in a ranch-style home in Suffolk, Virginia, and has a gorgeous wall of built-ins in her family room. She sweetly asked for my advice on how I’d decorate them, and out of her request a blog series was born!

Here are those swoon-worthy built-ins:


The cabinets are being used to store DVDs, games and toys, and it’s time the upper shelves got put to work, too! She wants to use the built-ins as a space to display family photos, books and decorative accents, and would love to see some nods to Scotland, where she and Matt spent their honeymoon. She describes her decorating style as “relaxed, warm, lived-in coastal cottage.” Her favorite colors are earth tones. 

As much as I love a great vase or kooky decor item, I wanted to make sure I was also bringing in some pieces that will have a practical purpose. Baskets and boxes can store small toys, crayons, handwritten notes, loose photos, stamps and envelopes... the list goes on. I also imagined that some of the shelves could display pretty dining pieces, like a serving platter, cutting board or set of glasses. Below I share some of my favorite finds -- but as much as I love them, I see them more as a jumping-off point. I’m all about finding a bargain or waiting for a sale, and I tend to space out my “big” purchases. It’s worth looking at the home section of Goodwill, Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Michaels, Hobby Lobby... even Craigslist!


clockwise from top left: Scoop Ball Set (hide the ball in a cabinet) - $39.95 / Infusions Decanter - $1.97 / Amuse Serve Board - $19.95 / Kiwi Bird - $29.95 / Mini Heirloom Watering Can - $18 / Nate Berkus Snail Placecard Holder set (just for decoration) - $7.99 / Asst. of Three Essential Book Boxes, Navy - $29 / Whale Bookends - $45 / Mae Bud Vases - $5.97-7.97 ($20.91 for the set) / Blackwash Rattan Bin - $25 / Chalkboard - $12.99 / 4 inch Terra Cotta Clay Pot - $0.78 each (plus $0.77 for saucer) / Terra Cotta Vases (set of 4) - $27.99 / Rope Lantern - $15 / Navy Bisgo Marten Paper Drawers - $26.99 / Gold Quatrefoil Hurricane - $19.96 (but I found it at Marshalls for $12.99!) / Yuzu and Sea Salt Mason Soy candle - $14.49 (or buy pillar candle for hurricane - p.s. I have this candle and it’s amazing) / Clarus House Box - $34.97 / Blair Tall Vase - $6.97 / Glasgow Heart Print - $18 / Leone Blue Pitcher - $6.97 / Wood houses - $6.97-11.97 ($28.91 for the set)

Other potential items, not pictured: metal sphere, artisan botanical object, and of course, Jessica will want to find frames she likes to display family picks. For grouped frames, I’d suggest thin black frames with a white mat. For single frames to display throughout the shelves, she could do something that would give more of a statement, like this. I also bought Jessica two bowls — one brass, and one amber glass. They’re perfect for placing on top of a stack of books. (Also, I’d pick one of the two sets of bud vases pictured above. I chose to work with the set of four when I drew out plans.)

My top picks: Everything! But if I had to choose only three things, I’d go with the whale bookends, gold snails and the set of wooden houses. That kiwi bird is rather fabulous, too.

Please excuse my smudge-y and terrible drawn ideas for how Jess could style her shelves. I’m no artist! Also, I apparently don’t know how to properly scan paper. This is my first time doing this, people. Let’s play the game “guess what decor item Laura was trying to draw.” Try not to look at my watering cans and whales too closely. :)

Option one:


Whoops, I forgot the snails! I’d put them on the far left, second shelf up, in front of the vase. I put the set of wooden houses on the shelf above the entry. The far right top shelf decor item is an imagined low basket with bowl fillers, like theseHere’s a DIY for those triangle bookends. The two rectangles on the middle far left shelf are the rattan baskets. This option doesn’t have the kiwi bird, and has a potted plant on the bottom middle shelf.

Option 2:

For this option, I have a set of decorative plates on display above the entry. I have the snails (terribly drawn, lol) in front of the set of three plants.

Phew! Are you still here? I had so much fun with this project, and I can’t wait to get started on my next one! Jessica, thank you so much for encouraging my love for decorating and for giving me the opportunity to play with your built-ins.

Fun news: I’m doing a giveaway for a free design consultation! We will discuss a room or area in your house that you’re struggling to decorate, and we can communicate through Skype, e-mail...however you want! I can offer you the same service I gave Jessica, or tailor my service to your needs.

To enter: leave a comment below or on Facebook and include the phrase “I want to win!” Contest ends Friday, May 8th at midnight.