Tips for styling a cabinet


Dan once joked to an acquaintance that on my days off, I could spend the whole day puttering around my house, tweaking each display, “rotating everything a quarter of an inch” until it was just so. I would have given him a nudge in the gut for that, if it wasn’t a tiny bit true. I do love crafting intriguing displays that help tell the story of our home and our lives, especially in a large cabinet like a bookcase or hutch. These bold, beautiful pieces of furniture are a statement all by themselves, but when you fill them with head-turning displays, they make the room. Now sure how to style your cabinets? Here are a few tricks we use.

MIX UP THE CONTENT

In what room does your cabinet reside? Let that begin to influence its content, but not dictate it. If you have a hutch in your dining room, style it with some beautiful serving pieces, dishes and glasses. Similarly, a bookcase in your library should include volumes of books. But don’t stop there. Stretch beyond the practical and include a few unexpected pieces, because this piece of furniture shouldn’t just work hard, it should provide some eye candy, too.

The cabinet in the photo above is in the master bath of my friend Julie’s house. Check out how Julie styled it. In addition to beautifully displaying towels, bath salts and soaps, she has also included interesting displays of shells. Can you see how she placed a piece of coral under a cloche and poured an assortment of shells into an apothecary jar?

TUCK IN ARTWORK

Intriguing cabinet displays are kind of like a one-act play. You’re telling a story using a few carefully chosen props. So start your drama by creating a backdrop. A piece of artwork is a perfect pick. Prop up a framed print or plate in an easel.

SPOTLIGHT YOUR TREASURES

I think the best displays in cabinets spotlight interesting treasures. They may be photos of your family, mementos from your travels, pieces of a collection or family heirlooms.

INCLUDE A VARIETY OF SHAPES AND SIZES

To be visually interesting, displays in cabinets need to pull together items that are different sizes and shapes and finishes. Lisa used this cabinet for stylish storage of her dishes and serving pieces. The collection of different types of dishes, pitchers and glassware work together to create visual artwork that draws you in.

When I style my cabinets at home, I do it step by step over several days. I start by gathering the pieces I think I want displayed together and experiment until they are grouped in ways that please me. Then, over the next few days, I go back and tweak them, sometimes replacing items, sometimes adding, sometimes subtracting. Remember, the only person you have to please is yourself!

ADD SOME LIGHT

If the cabinets are so dark you can’t see a thing, it doesn’t matter how beautiful your displays are. So if the shelves cast shadows, consider adding some lights. My friend Cynthia propped a small lamp in her dark wood bookcase to add illumination. As tacky as it sounds, you can also bring in light using adhesive-backed battery operated lights. We learned this trick during a photo shoot for one of my books. We were shooting a cabinet that just faded to black in the photos. So we had a lightbulb moment: tuck in some quick lighting. It worked beautifully. You can also brighten the shelves by painting the back, or sides, tops and bottoms of the bookcase a light color, like cream or soft gray.

———

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

‘12 Strong’ infuses heart into war
‘12 Strong’ infuses heart into war

If you’re doing your job right in the U.S. Special Forces, it likely means no one will ever know. It’s a tough, elite and highly classified position, where acts of incredible heroism never get the ticker tape parade, and that’s kind of the point. These soldiers are supposed to slip into and out of secret missions without making the...
‘Forever My Girl’ doesn’t stray from Southern romance formula
‘Forever My Girl’ doesn’t stray from Southern romance formula

Romance novelist and screenwriter Nicholas Sparks cornered the market on a subgenre he essentially invented — exceedingly pleasant, Southern-set epic romances (between young, attractive, white, Christian, heterosexual couples). But this is a genre that overwhelmingly appeals to a female movie-going audience, so it’s about time female creators...
‘The Final Year’ of the Obama administration hard to watch
‘The Final Year’ of the Obama administration hard to watch

Maybe you think you had the worst 2016 election night party in America — you know, the one that ended early. But no, that distinction belongs to then-U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, as evidenced in the new documentary “The Final Year,” about foreign policy during President Obama’s last year in office. Power decided that it would...
‘Den of Thieves’ kicks off bad-movie season in style
‘Den of Thieves’ kicks off bad-movie season in style

So this is how it works: In the fall, movies are intended to be good and usually are. In the summer, movies are intended to be bad but profitable, and they’re usually both. But in January and February, we get the special season. That’s when the movies are intended to be great but are horrible. But not normal horrible. We’re talking...
‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ shares last-gasp romance
‘Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool’ shares last-gasp romance

In light of a résumé skewed toward male-dominated thrillers, Scottish director Paul McGuigan might seem an unlikely choice to guide a fading-siren weepie from page to screen. Yet “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” a real-life romance adapted from the 1986 memoir by Peter Turner, reveals an unexpected fontanel of sentiment...
More Stories