Shelving Dilemma

Question:Bookcase and fireplace delimma

Dear Style Studio Team,

I desperately need your help accessorizing my living room. We have lived in our house more than 2 years and we still haven’t finished decorating the most used room in the house – the living room. We use it every day! My biggest design dilemma is the shelving unit. This is the first piece of furniture you see upon entering the house. It has 16 spots to showcase books and decorations on top. I almost wish we didn’t purchase this piece as I still don’t know how to make it look better.

I would also love suggestions for the fireplace/mantel and over the flat screen television too. Your suggestions for the room are appreciated. I have attached pictures for you of the room and adjoining dining room (to give you a feel). I am open to any and all suggestions. We are ready to shop and finish off this room once and for all!

I love your catalog but still can’t seem to figure out what pieces would go where in my room.



Dear Amy:

Accessories add so much to a décor. It is like the jewelry on a little black dress. A good rule of thumb is less is more. Choose wisely, don’t purchase a lot of little items when one interesting piece will do. Let’s start with the shelves. We have put together a drawing that will help you visualize the finished shelves. You have to be careful when planning what to put on the shelves as there are a lot of them and they can get very busy. Don’t be afraid to leave a few of them blank if filling them all looks overwhelming.

First we would like you to choose either leather books in the same earth tone color or you can cover the books with fabric for a custom look. Secondly, we chose our Indigo Seaweed Prints. There are 4 prints in total. Repeating the same frame and subject matter has a way of making the shelves seem less busy. There are a few pieces of coral – try choosing natural pieces rather than colored ones. We kept your cross and mask as we think they add visual interest. The rest of the shelves should be self explanatory. We did leave the pieces on the top as they are, and think they will look less overwhelming when you change the items on the shelves. Our Antiqued Mirror Sconce are placed on either side of the unit to balance out the wall.

Our next focus is the fireplace.  We love the wrought iron piece but think it should be moved to the wall above your flat screen.  Now we need you to clear off the mantel – the small items make it look cluttered and without purpose.  We love the large Italian Garden to hang above the fireplace and a Spiral Boxwood Topiary placed on either side of the Italian Garden, crating a vignette.

We do hope these simple changes will help pull your living room together, providing focal points throughout the room.  Please send us some pictures when you complete your project – we would love to post them on Style Studio.


The Style Studio Team

1. Indigo Seaweed Prints 2. Antiqued Mirror Sconce 3. Large Italian Garden 4. Spiral Boxwood Topiary


How to Decorate Team

We enjoy spending days interacting with How to Decorate readers. From answering Design Dilemmas to writing How To articles and working with guest designers, our passion is to provide informative and accurate resources to help people solve their design problems.


  1. Reply


    December 15, 2011

    Great ideas! I have the Italian Garden Print above my fireplace and love it. I also have topiaries on each side.
    My question is: how high should the italian print be hung above the mantle. Right now it seems a bit low to me.