Before you throw your hands up and walk away, you should know that achieving functional and visually pleasing shelf storage and display can be yours in four easy steps:
1. Identify Goals: The first and most important task is to identify how you want the shelves to work for you...i.e.will they simply be decorative, or do you intend to use the shelves to store and access your frequently used possessions. These considerations will impact your arrangement choices.
Using my own office as an example, the goal is for the shelves to hold items and books I regularly use, as well as personal items and photos that inspire me. More specifically, I need:
1. Hidden storage and easy access to desk paperwork.
2. Display inspiration for family history writing and research
3. Hidden storage for family history items (photos, memorabilia, etc.)
4. Display personal memorabilia
5. Display inspiration and books for photography.
6. A place for children's play "office" supplies and other objects of desire.
2. Gather Items: Second, gather the items you want to put on the shelves. I always think of the William Morris quote, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful," when I'm thinking of what I'll include in my displays.That's a lot to cover but I've got a huge wall of shelves to fill.
3. Assess Items: Review the items you've gathered and consider: a) their decorative value; b) how easily and often you'll need to access them; c) consider the size, shape, height and color of the items to be shelved in order to achieve the proper balance among the composition.
4. Arrange Items: Start placing the items on the shelves setting less-used items higher up and frequently used items in easy to reach spots. Then evenly disperse your items among the shelves by shape, color, height, etc. to achieve a pleasing "balance."
In our example, we'll work from the bottom up. But first, note the very top (and hard to reach) shelves hold framed vintage maps that have personal meaning for me. Just the sight of them inspires me in many ways.
The very bottom shelves will hold storage for family history items; four baskets...one for each line of our families. This system allows me to just toss items into the appropriate basket as they come my way, then deal with them properly when the moment presents itself and, at the same time, provides hidden, yet easily accessible storage.
Label your storage boxes for quick identification and storage.
The two next-higher shelves are dedicated to child's play. If you have small children, or even just children who visit often, try to provide a spot where their own things are within reach and they can be near you when you're working in your space. It's been my experience preschoolers love to "work" alongside a working adult. Click here to link over to a more detailed explanation of the arrangement of these shelves.
I like having family photos and memorabilia mixed in with the family and local history reference books I use...
The storage book boxes have their own shelf as these will be accessed daily. Above that are photography books as well as a vintage camera for interest.
The center section of shelves is used for more family photos and then filled in with other odds and ends I've collected. The finished result leaves me with everything in its place...
and now I can even use the desk!