Our Living Room Shelves

This is our third month living in our 
San Francisco apartment 
(built in the 1920's)
and it's really starting to feel like home.
This a follow-up to the post
Here are our bookcases before 
they were painted 
and the shelves were uniformly placed.

My Method: 
1.  remove everything 
(sometimes fewer shelves can be better)
2.  start with art and/or
 large scale accessories
In my case, I started with my oil paintings.
Above is my cousin's painting of the apartment we had in Paris.

This painting adds color.

and a starburst mirror from Wisteria.

Then, I added two large, wooden baskets 
filled with seashells.
This one is an antique French farm basket.
The shells came from my travels, TJ Maxx and
and a wholesale aquarium supply store.
This one is an old Chinese rice bucket, 
placed on the other side for balance.
3.  add books 
(grouped by color can be nice), 

4.  fill in with small scale accessories
(like photographs, pitchers, 
coral, boxes, etc.).

Polished silver adds sparkle.

5.  Add something fresh like this orchid from the 
grocery store and tangerines
Our daughter was just here and helped 
me paint our powder room...
Not bad... but I will show you it before.  

Thank you for visiting!
Participating in 


  1. Replies
    1. You have no weak areas, Kim. But you are a master painter and bedroom creator.

  2. This looks fantastic! What a difference the crisp white makes too. Could you come to Germany to help me when I move in??? :)

  3. your bookcases have the perfect mix of STUFF! art, baskets, books, a mirror and i love the shells!

  4. I adore what you have done Mary Ann!

  5. Perfect as always... well-edited and just beautiful and perfect. love the starburst mirror the black really grounds the space!

  6. Beautifully done Mary Ann! I love the seaside painting!
    The Arts by Karena

  7. Gorgeous! Bookshelves are always to difficult to get right, but I love your mix of items, art and textures!

    Angela @ Number Fifty-Three

  8. It's looking great! Love that painting of your Paris apartment!

  9. I love that you made the shelves uniform and how the whole space feels so balanced.
    I was so excited to see your friend Debbie's home in Cottage Style yesterday while I was in line at the grocery store! It's beautiful and it must have been so much fun for you and all your friends to see it in print!

  10. You are so good! It must be fun playing with your new space(s)! I was up in your neck of the woods last weekend and as I drove over the GGBridge I thought of you and how much fun you must be having exploring the new neighborhood. I have a new client that lives on Ocean Beach - let's try to have lunch one day while I am working up there! xo

  11. looks so beautiful! its seems like there can never be enough good bookcase styling tips-you got the talent!

  12. Love this Mary Ann. I have a bookcase very close to yours and this gives me some good ideas. Especially love the art and the baskets. Just gorgeous!

  13. Mary Ann your home looks like it's been lived in for years! LOVE, love your styling and love that you didn't put a TV in that nook (which is what my husband would probably be doing first!)!

  14. How lovely! and how talented you are. I always find placing items on shelves is hard and I end up moving things around for months before it feels OK.
    Kind regards,
    Anneli in Sweden

  15. Your shelves look perfect! I have styled mine 100 times and I can't get it right! First, I have a television that has to be on one of the built in shelves and second, I can't find a collection of things I like to style the shelves with. I am going to shop my house for accessories and try it again with your step by step guide! Thank you!

  16. I am loving your new apartment! and Glad it is starting to feel like home to you and your family! xo

  17. They look fantastic. Perfect mix of books and art, mixed with "stuff", and they look calm and uncluttered. Perfect!

  18. Second post I have read this evening about styling shelves... I tend to over do mine. I am luving what you have dome and I thank you for the inspiration!

  19. Those shelves just couldn't possibly look any prettier, when you are good. YOU ARE GOOD! And thats you!

  20. Perfect styling! So well balanced and interesting. Love both of those paintings too, especially your Paris apartment!

  21. Your bookcase looks great! I am just redoing my guest bedroom, which has a bookcase in it, and I am trying to figure out how to style it. Your post is a great inspiration. Thanks!

  22. Your styling of your bookshelves is impeccable! Well done!

  23. Well…I think I love your shelves more than Debbie's!!! Each item stands out and together they make perfect harmony! You certainly have done it again!!! LOVE them!!

  24. Very beautiful. I love that it feels clean and uncluttered but very interesting.

  25. The look great! Love the center table arrangement.

  26. That was such a great idea placing the sofa in front of the shelves! Great meeting up today...check out coup!,

  27. You're the master at decorating bookshelves, Mary Ann. I've saved so many of the posts for inspiration. LOVE the sunburst mirror hanging on the outside.

  28. This is stunning. It is so hard to dress up book shelves. The line between beautifully decorated and overdone clutter is so fine. You do an amazing job. I just discovered your blog and it is giving me so much inspiration.


  29. Hi Mary Ann :)

    Quiet but long time reader with small question. Always when I look at this amazing bookshelfs with books organised by colour I am wondering if these are books that people actually read and by accident they match the styling or maybe they are specially bought for decorating purposes.

    I ask because my own bookshelf looks like a proper patch work and the only colour that I could group it by is black....

    1. Wiedzma, Mine really aren't so much by color...just a little. Each time me move it is SO costly to transport books...they are so heavy. I donated a lot to libraries. So these are mostly my favorite design or classic books...and there are a bunch of colorful cook books on the bottom that you can't see. Just in theory, it would look nice. I like the calming effect of seeing just the pages of books when you turn them around (in magazines)...but I could never live without being able to see the titles.
      Thanks for leaving a comment!

    2. Ahh it makes seans :) Thank you so much for your anwser. I really love your blog and all the pictures. Everything looks so amazing and beautiful!

  30. I love how you styled your bookshelves. We have ours chock-a-block full of books (mainly because we have so many books that we needed the shelf space), but I do love the paintings and baskets of shells and things mixed in.

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  32. Great symmetry! Looks beautiful!
    Can't wait to use your great tips!


  33. Very classy! Love the mix of things you chose. Great balance and design.

  34. It must be cool to live in something from the 1920's. I love what you have done with the shelves. My problem is I have too many books and so the shelves are full. Perhaps if I had a big unit as you do!

  35. Stunning you really have done an amazing job! Such a beautiful space! Do you mind sharing who the artist is behind the seaside painting? Your home is truly inspiring.

  36. You always do such a great job on your shelves. Love everything you styled it with. So pretty!

  37. The mistake I usually make, is to try to jam too much into my bookcases! More is not better, as you know. Beautiful job!

  38. Absolutely perfection Mary Ann. Well edited and balanced. You have the touch for sure:)


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