The book shelf, invented by a French designer, Charles Andre Boulle around the 1700s was tailored to the libraries of the wealthy. Mr. Boulle’s rise to fame was his selection to outfit the Palace of Versailles as Royal Cabinetmaker. Boulle is often credited for his low bookcase design but today we know that bookshelves can come in all shapes, styles, and sizes. With a rise in technology, printed books are becoming depasse leaving bookshelves less about books and more about available shelf space.
The actual word “shelf” means ‘a horizontal plane used to hold items that are being displayed or stored.’ Common synonyms used actually reflect more traditional places to display art like the word “mantel” or “ledge.” So, let’s ask ourselves, is displaying art on a bookshelf really non traditional? The possibilities that await on the shelf are truly endless!
Our hand-selected artists enjoy displaying their works on built-ins found in their studio space or home. Painter Rhonda Deland shelves collections at a time to help organize her work and give her a space to see what she has created.
Abstract painter Hannah Dean’s larger “Landscape” is most commonly used as a statement piece in traditional areas like the mantel. But her favorite spot for art is tucked in a vignette on...a bookshelf.
Co-founder and artist Jan Daniels specifically created her most recent abstract series just for a built-in located near to her kitchen. Her series is a reminder every morning to be grateful for the day and realistic about her outcomes. She recently referred to her piece on Instagram saying “Sometimes days are like this, they go in circles.”
Brittany Nicole from Bleu Bee Designs reminded us that vignettes share the style of our own perspective on life without taking up too much space. She posted, “Making vignettes makes me happy, they’re the perfect way to express who you are and what you love.” Logan, of Logan Elizabeth Designs, agrees and says, “Styling built-in shelves is my favorite way to add personality to a space. I love to keep it simple, but adding little treasures that make the client feel right at home is what it’s all about.”
But none of these ideas are new. What’s now becoming a theme is using shelving for more than just setting something atop. Why not use it as an extension of your walls? Shelving in the traditional sense is a ledge, and there are infinite ways to utilize ledges around your home. Why not create a shelf from a windowsill? Create a shelf from a threshold? Bleu Bee Designs has recently designed additional shelving for a client by expanding the length of a fireplace mantel to encompass a set of recessed bookshelves.
Hannah of House Hathaway often extends her exposed shelving to the counter in order to display original work. This can prove to be both aesthetic and functional as you can store unseen items behind the art itself, like a hidden space.
Miss Mustard Seed author Marian Parsons shares her project on hanging art from her bookshelf versus her wall. For more information on how she did it and why click here. She says, “I think bookcases are tricky because they need to straddle the balance between functional and decorative. Yes, they are there to house things, typically books, but a bookcase this large is likely the focal point of a room as well. And, in my case, this bookcase is very visible from our foyer. I don’t want it to simply be crammed with books and office stuff without any attention paid to aesthetics.”
Having been inspired to take my own advice, I rediscovered all the “sills” in my own home and found a new way to display art. In one of my daughter’s rooms there is a cute yet small window, but as is with all very young children, the curtains are almost constantly closed. Now, I’ve given this space a new function. It blocks light for naps and evokes a fun sense of whimsy and play for my little dancers.
I challenge you to revisit your home, looking high and low, go and find the new sills and ledges, unused space to display your own art. Be Brave.