Open or closed? Yes, please.

Apr 15, 2022 | Tips & Tricks

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time in the house I grew up in. It is filled with possessions that are deeply meaningful to my parents. Things they saved from their parents and grandparents – china, tins, linens. Things that they made – stained glass art, carved wooden birds, handmade lighting, walking sticks whittled from fallen branches. Things that they bought on e-bay or at estate sales. On shelves in every room, in glass-fronted china cabinets, all their treasures are on full display.

Living among and displaying your possessions is an art form. One person’s clutter is another person’s cozy abode. I love personal artifacts and their stories as much as my parents. I just like a little less. Open display with closed storage is a great solution and provides balance.

If your idea of spring cleaning is like mine – less hosing off window screens and more organizing and decluttering, start with the end in mind. Often in the spring, we just want to “freshen up”.
Like rotating our wardrobes and tucking away tweeds and boots and heavy sweaters, remove anything that feels “heavy”. Adding in more negative space will always result in a fresher space.

Bookcases Edited

In the first image, new construction built-ins are styled with my favorite combination: hardcover coffee table books, pottery, plants, artwork, and “quirky” objects. In the design world, we call these things “objet” because it sounds more sophisticated than “quirky”. I like mixing in reflective items like glazed pottery or glass-protected artwork or photos and removing the dust jackets from coffee table books because I like the softness of the cloth bindings. The closed storage areas here hide puzzles and games, and possibly even construction paper and markers. These clients are well-traveled and have collected beautiful objects, and I knew I wanted to be friends with them as soon as I walked into their family room and saw the knight.

Custom Bookcases

The family room in the second image highlights my favorite solution for custom built-in shelves: instead of plastic pegs or fixed shelves, these shelves easily slide in and out and add an architectural detail that fit the craftsman-style home. The “shutter” style base cabinets not only keep the linear detail going, but the louvers allow for airflow to home electronic equipment.

Furniture | Open and Closed

The last image shows a more contemporary take on closed storage and open area for display. The contemporary furniture piece is wall hung, creating a light and spacious feel despite its size. Here the closed areas store more beautiful pottery, décor, and books that rotate with the pieces on display. Moving decorative pieces from time to time keeps a space fresh. A fully open cabinet with everything on display might feel a bit cluttered. The negative space gives a visual break and lets your eyes rest on each object a little longer.

I think both serious minimalists and maximalists can handle full on open shelving. For the rest of us, a combination of both open shelving display and closed storage is the solution for feeling fresh and light.

Happy Spring!