Dining Room Update: New Finds for the Bookshelves

Thank you for your birthday wishes!

The dining room has been on my mind all week… it’s making such progress! We have the new light fixture installed, the buffet was made over and now it’s time to tackle the bookshelves on the opposite wall.

Looking at the buffet the bookshelves are actually behind you, leaning up against either side of the arches facing into the living room.

Here’s a ‘before we moved in’ to give you a really clear idea of the wall space available there (that second door is now sealed up and a part of the new bathroom, and that older kitchen you see in the first door is now here):

This was a hard spot to figure out how to utilize. Big clunky bookcases would stick out like a sore thumb but I knew the wall space could be so much more than room for hanging photos. This was also right about that time when the leaning bookshelf craze was in full effect, and I really liked that they were backless, the depth narrowed from the base to the top, and that they were much less obtrusive than your usual variety.

When I found a set of leaning C&B bookshelves on Craigslist I knew they would fit perrrrfectly. Here’s a slightly awkward, coming in to the dining room from the guest room shot to show how these bookcases fit:

The leaning bookcases hold just enough storage – I keep wine and beer glasses, cookbooks and extra dining dishes on these guys – plus they’re lean enough to allow plenty of walk around room.

I had first styled them like this:

We didn’t repaint, those are just grainy, washed out pictures from last year. Darn camera settings that I must conquer.

And after yesterday they look more like this:

One day I will master the focus on the camera. One day.

A few of my new goodies include pictures and prints that I’ve collected over the past year.

It was hard to get this shot without a horrible glare, but this black and white is a photo that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas – she had taken it in college as an art major and had framed it for me for Christmas. The juxtaposition is amazing (the ‘Beware of Dog’ sign in the foreground and the kind looking observer just a few feet behind) and I can just picture Eileen at 20, stopping to see this ironic pose and kneeling down to get closer to the dog’s eye level, hair flipped back in some feathered 70’s do.

The next shelf up holds a picture of Bodie when he was just a couple of months old by my mom with his big sweet nose close against the camera lens, and next to that a Mother’s Day print that I picked out when we were at Balboa Park. The arboretum there is one of my very favorite buildings and I was thrilled to find a local artist in the park selling his paintings and prints.

I chose a warm wood frame that compliments a handmade cup from our wedding from Kevin’s best man. My little silver bird is attempting to hide a candle wax stain that discolored the bookshelf! Bummer. Ha, in this particular shot it kind of looks like something else…

The other bookshelf is home to my new favorite vignette which includes a cloche (a thrift store find and a gift from a friend who knew I was dying to find one) and a water color by the etsy Honolulu artist behind Pineapple Bay Studio.

The colors provide just the pop of contrast this space needs!

The cake platter and pitcher are Target finds from way back, and I’m pretty sure the white ceramic water lily is from West Elm. The galvanized metal letters at top are from Anthropologie and that picture on the same shelf as my square basket (to hold votive holders and what not) is a poster of giant magnolias that I cut apart and framed – sometimes framed art is as easy as taking apart packaging or gift cards!

There’s something about filling in a backless bookcase with sporadic art and height that keeps the shelves feeling airy, but brings in enough content so that it doesn’t feel sparse and lonely.

My favorite suggestions are to work in odd numbers, keep a variation of height on each shelf (with at one least one over-sized or tall piece) and mix up the colors while keeping some sort of consistent theme throughout (in this example I’d say it’s my white ceramic dishware and vases that show up frequently throughout both bookshelves, and maybe a basket or two).

One more item checked off of that list. Next up is a new rug, new curtains, reupholstered chairs? or maybe cushions? plus some huge piece of art or a mirror for that big blank wall where that extra door used to be. But in no particular order, it’s all part of the adventure :).

Read the full dining room story by starting here: a buffet-over, upgrading the lighting, the before

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  1. Tasha says

    Do you have to attach the leaning bookshelves to the wall? I live in an apartment where i cant drill into the wall but am a little nervous putting dishes/breakables on these shelves without having the bookshelf secured to the wall

    • says

      Hi Tasha, We have braced ours to our wall (the hooks are sort of built in to the back of the bookshelves so it was an easy process) because we live in California and I worry about earthquakes. Ours are also super heavy bookcases (not all leaning bookcases are, I’ve noticed) and would probably stay against the wall just fine without the braces. That being said, if you have kiddos around I’d definitely brace them.:)

  2. says

    Those bookshelves can hold a lot! They are the perfect for the space. I love seeing your posts about San Diego, I have never been to the new ballpark, shame on me right? I am just not a fan of baseball, but that looked really fun to sit on the grassy area. Happy belated birthday! Looks like you are well loved and celebrated it in a fun way. Love those cupcakes!

    • says

      The ballpark is a neat place to have a picnic, venture out into downtown or enjoy a warm, starry night. And the grassy area is too fun with kids!

  3. franky says

    LOVE the bright turquoise! where did you get that or did you revamp it yourself?

      • Morgan says

        The bookshelves are from the leaning bookcase line over at Crate & Barrel a few years back – we found them on Craigslist :).

    • Morgan says

      Hi Franky! We actually found that beautiful buffet at an antique store already turquoise – I love the bold color, too!

  4. says

    Well-styled shelves! It truly is a talent and you’ve got an eye for it. I have to ask…how is your little one about grabbing things off open shelves? I have a similar shelving unit that holds dishes & glasses and my friends with children laugh at me when they see it. They say I’ll have to get rid of my open shelves when I have children.

    • says

      That’s a good question! I used to keep more glassware and dishes on the lowest two shelves and I’ve slowly migrated most of the more fragile pieces up. Now the bottom two shelves house a basket of extra linens, a row of cookbooks, a stack of bowls and heavy wine bottles (that she can’t lift). She has yet to be interested by or play with the bookshelves so I’m crossing my fingers that that sticks! But if it doesn’t, I’ll probably have to keep migrating the glass up or into the blue buffet completely.

      I think it definitely depends on the child, you may be able to keep your open shelves after all!

  5. says

    A great CL find- the shelves are perfect for that spot. I love that so many of your pieces have a story behind them. Great job giving the shelves movement and interest! Funny shot of the bird and his “shadow.” If the stain is just wax residue, try placing a piece of brown paper over it and ironing with a warm iron. :)

    • says

      Thanks Sheila! The mark is actually from when we pulled the wax up – it also pulled stain from the shelf :(. I think it will be an easy fix with a little bit of touch up paint! Such a bummer.

  6. says

    OHHHH – I love!! Can you please come to my house and help me decorate? It’s brand new (just 1 year old) and a blank canvas! I need help!!!

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