As much as I loved decorating our home for Christmas, it feels like a breath of fresh air to return to our simple, pared-down decor. The living room is still a slow work in progress, but it is coming along. Nearly every piece used to decorate our mantel and built-in cabinets were items we already owned and had gradually collected. I’m actually somewhat amazed by how well each of the items fits with the character of our 1925 Craftsman house since we had no idea what our forever home would look like when we purchased them. Best of all, the mantel styling was a nice break for our budget after all our moving expenses and renovation costs.
I’m sure the mantel will eventually change over time, once I discover perfect pieces to enhance or replace what we already have displayed above the fireplace, but for the moment, things are working.
I love antique leaded glass windows and we purchased this pair for our home office while we were still living in the condo. The Forever and Ever sign was a gift I had purchased for Rob while we were engaged. I also love that I was able to incorporate several of the glass bottles we used as tabletop vases from our wedding.
The white ceramic pitcher and little votive holder with succulent look so sweet next to each other on our mantel and they add a little touch of life (even though the plants are totally fake.)
The mantel was pretty straightforward to style, but the original built-in cabinets on each side of the fireplace took a bit more planning and finesse. I knew right away that the cabinets were perfect for storing books, but I had underestimated how awkward the layout of the shelves was to work around. I initially tried to simply fill the shelves with books, but once I closed the cabinet doors the arrangement looked very choppy since the spacing of the shelves didn’t line up with the cross beams of the cabinet doors.
All of this meant that I needed to allow for additional space when I styled the cabinets, which is probably for the best because the fireplace itself makes this end of the room feel very heavy. Cramming every inch of the built-in cabinets full of books would have just added to the solid brown wall in our otherwise airy house. The sparse styling of bookcases and mantel helped to significantly soften this area, which is undeniably the focal point of the room.
Here’s the final styling of the cabinet with the doors closed …
And here is how it looks with the cabinets open. It’s crazy how much empty space remains in the cabinets, and I love how using a gentle touch with the decor and accessories actually allows the cracks and character of the cabinets to shine through.
The actual contents of the bookcases we a mix of functional, sentimental, and sophisticated. Best of all, it was budget-friendly because I styled the cabinets almost entirely with objects we already owned. One of the items I was most excited to put on display were a collection of machinery books that belonged to Rob’s late grandfather, Harvey.
Of course, not every book in the cabinets are sentimental. We also mixed in some old favorites of Rob’s, as well as a handful of books that I haven’t read yet, but would really like to get around to reading one of these days. It’s amazing how much more simple and classic books look arranged on a shelf after you remove the dust jackets. We said goodbye to all our books jackets a few years ago and our shelves have never looked better since we made the change.
With the reading material in place, it was time to sprinkle in a few accessories. I didn’t want to create a lot of visual clutter inside the cabinets, so I limited the type of accessories as well as the number of objects inside the shelves.
I started by including several framed 4×6″ and 5×7″ photos from our wedding day, along with an assortment of additional clear glass bottles from our wedding decor. The bottles added a little extra dimension and helped to fill the space without making the cabinets feel heavy or cluttered.
For several months, those were the only objects in our cabinets: just books, framed wedding photos, and glass bottles. I knew I wanted to add something else, but it took a while for me to find the perfect accessory. Then, one day this past summer, I found some simple mercury glass votives and mini (faux) lavender plants that I knew would be the perfect finishing touch. I tucked a faux succulent into each votive and added a few of my accessories into each cabinet. The mercury glass added a touch of sparkle and interest and the styling was finally complete.
We keep a lot of our favorite books in the shelves – as well as several other books that we reference often and the cover designs of the paperback books aren’t exactly fitting with the atmosphere of the room. To remedy this, I tucked a few of those books onto the bottom shelf of the more prominent bookcase on the left, where the wood at the bottom of each cabinet door is a few inches thick to help conceal some of the less attractive books.
Of course, not every book we read and love has classic styling that naturally blends right in to our home decor. For those books, I took full advantage of the fact that our living room sofa blocks the view of the right cabinet’s lower shelves. All of the not-so-pretty books are tucked into that corner.
There are so many things to love about our 1925 home, but the built-in shelves are one of my absolute favorite features of the house and it only seems fitting that the contents inside contain so many more treasures than just a pile of books.
Where I Shopped:
Many of the items purchased for our mantel and built-in cabinets were purchased in-store at local small businesses in southeast Michigan. Here is where I purchased many of the items on display:
Forever and Ever sign: Salty Bison
White ceramic pitcher: The Urban Merchant
Vintage style picture frames: TJMaxx and Home Goods (brand is Parisian Home)
Antique leaded glass windows: The Lamb’s Tail
Mercury glass votive holders, faux succulents & lavender: 28 Furniture Co.