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Designers Andrew Pike and Courtney Rogers share some of their best tips for putting your prized possessions on display.

Once banished behind closed doors as nothing more than an organizational necessity, shelving has since taken the design world by storm and propelled its way into the common areas of our home. And it isn’t surprising to see why: open shelving is a simple, cost-conscious way to fill a blank expanse of wall or increase storage space, and they’re well-suited to almost every room of the home. More than that, these adaptable home accents also offer an opportunity to mix function with form and create beautiful displays. Whether you’re looking to introduce open shelving into your home or breathe new life into existing ones, here’s what you need to know to style like a pro.

Start with Your Must-Haves

Open shelving presents a great opportunity to create a memorable design moment, but it’s important to begin by filling them with the pieces you need the extra storage space for the most. In the kitchen, this means starting with items like plates, bowls and cups before working in a few fun elements like a favourite cookbook or a stylish appliance you can’t bear to stash away. “Try to curate your collection of objects with some obvious connection, like colour, texture or style,” says Pike, Principal Designer of Andrew Pike Interiors. “Doing this will help you achieve a truly layered look,” adds Rogers, the Director of Design in Atlanta at Empire Communities.

The model home at our Hidden Lakes community in League City, Texas.

Consider Your Theme

The best home designs are the ones that have been planned right down to the details, and the same principle applies for open shelving, so be sure to give thought to your theme and colour scheme ahead of time. If you’re unsure of where to start, opt for grouping similar objects using a primarily neutral palette, working in a few small pops of colour to keep the look from feeling stale. Or, go the other way and display your collection of bright and colourful objects with a few neutral pieces mixed in to keep the look from feeling too overbearing.

Balance Form & Function

A beautifully-styled open shelf adds interest and intrigue to a space, and it can also serve as an additional opportunity for decor. When it comes to achieving that perfect balance between good design and function, incorporate things like lidded boxes and decorative baskets to keep clutter out of view and still look nice when displayed. “Combined with artful objects, the whole shelf will look more styled and appealing, instead of just another opportunity for storage,” says Pike.

The Honeysuckle model at our Avalon community in Caledonia, Ontario.

Be Mindful of How Much Space You Have

To ensure that you make the most of your open shelving space without overly cluttering it, work in small groupings and try not to fill the entire shelf. “Creating individual moments will help your shelf from becoming overwhelming and cluttered,” says Pike. “Work within the parameters you have to achieve balance. If the shelves are short, don’t overcrowd them; if they’re long, spread things out. A little air and space between groupings looks artful and chic.”

Use Repetition to Your Advantage

Rogers encourages using one or two objects in repetition to give your shelves some consistency. “A set of simple white vases can help unify a collection; small green plants can help add color and tie a look together. Be creative,” she says.

The Concord model home at our Harlow community in Alpharetta, Georgia. 

Vary Height & Size for Visual Interest

For greater visual impact and to create a look that feels full and finished, include objects that vary in height and size. For a layered look, start with larger staple items and accessorize with smaller pieces like photos, candles or bud vases. “Start with your larger pieces, and then fill it in with smaller accessories,” says Rogers.

Don’t Forget the Technicalities

Floating shelves are contemporary, but make sure they’re securely mounted before placing anything on them,” says Pike. “Without brackets or end support they need to be secured really well so they can take the weight. If they’re not properly fastened they can sag, and that looks awful”.

Visit Andrew’s Instagram page for more great tips on how to style open shelving.

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