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Our Dos and Don’ts for Dressing Shelves


Throughout our hotels you will see pockets of treasures from far and wide. Whether these are jewel coloured apothecary vases, shell covered trinkets, old watering cans or chinoiserie urns, these are on display in a thousand different ways. Here are our top tips for styling your shelves.

Do treat the display as if you are designing a scheme…

It is key to think about colour, balance, texture and weight. Piling too much on one shelf will immediately allow objects to get lost. Choose a main feature, even if it’s a small one and work round it.

At our pop up at Bergdorf Goodman in New York  last summer, the walls were lined with Mythical Land from my latest wallpaper collection for Andrew Martin. The shelving was painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Ointment Pink’ to blend in beautifully, allowing the contents of the tiers to pop out. Sharp, fresh greens of the books, electric blues from the cardboard theatrical displays and creamy hues from the linen cushions.

In the Reading Room at The Whitby Hotel, a montage of boats and fish are set within the bookshelves which surround the walls. A collection of whimsical glass domes encasing palm trees transport you from New York to a tropical island.

Do think about balance…

Using objects which are all the same size will look too uniform and military. Instead, opt for a varying range of heights and position these so that the space has a more natural balance.

Shelves do not need to have perfect symmetry, but make sure one side doesn’t over power the other. Place books next to sculptures, ornaments next to plant pots. This is a collection of your treasures, have fun with the stories.

In this Chelsea project we have dressed the shelves exactly how they should be – full of love.

Just because you have a thousand treasures to display, doesn’t mean they should all be in one place. Think about the colours, think about the material they are made of – pair light coloured glass with heavy stone pieces; pair darker wooden frames with spindly metal ornaments.

On this stunning antique dresser in The Orangery at The Whitby Hotel, we have placed old glass bottles in front of a backdrop of mirrored glass. A varying range of heights, glass colours and floral contents creates a beautifully soft and romantic feel.

In this Crosby Suite we have placed two standing candle sticks at either end of the mantel piece. This cleverly reflects the chandelier in the mirror behind.

If you have a collection of a certain item – get them out. Whether you have three of something as a centre piece or if you use a collection of 12 on the top shelf, using multiples is a great way to create your own mini shelf art.

Here at a mews project in Chelsea, we have arranged 6 glass orbs, again of varying height at one end of the mantelpiece. This harmonises beautifully with the bronze sculptures by Spanish artist, Ramiro Fernandez Saus.

At our Covent Garden Hotel, the sumptuous wood panelled drawing room is the perfect backdrop for wild flowers in different heights and shapes of pots.

In Crosby Street Hotel’s lobby, a monochrome set up sits underneath a Francois Bard painting. A collection of ceramic pots in creams and blacks are placed in a relaxed way, with sharp bursts of greenery

Don’t be too stuffy…

A library should feel well loved; relaxing the angles of books to make them higgledy-piggledy immediately creates a calmer feel. It also makes it seem as though you have read every book… Always a win win.

Incorporating smaller frames on your shelves rather than on the wall breaks up a row of books beautifully.

In one of our top floor duplex suites at Ham Yard Hotel, a cosy nook has been created for you to while away the hours reading or writing. The walls are lined in my ‘Ozone’ fabric for Christopher Farr Cloth, which contrasts against a colourful collection of books, each placed in different directions to add interest.

Dressing shelves is something any of us can do, no matter what room you are in – try it at home, at work or pop in to any of our hotels for a burst of shelving inspiration.

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