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Waker Project Part 2: The Family Room

Often times when you decide to remodel one room, you turn around and look at the adjacent room and think, “Well then, what do we do with THIS room?!” You ask yourself all the questions: can we leave it? Is there consistency to the two spaces? If we were to change it, what would we change? Would the change make it better?

Family Room: Before

Whenever I look at changing a room, I try to think how can we improve it for the least amount of pain!

In the case of the Waker project, everything in the house was of that softer, calm grays and blues…except this yellowing old woodwork. First thought was: let’s simply paint it white to match the kitchen cabinets. But then, the more we looked at the built-ins, the more we started to question WHAT is going on here? The left was built to hold a huge TV which is unnecessary in today’s world, the right side contained inconsistent shelving heights (one of my pet peeves!) , the center columns don’t integrate into the mantel, and why is there the gap between the top of the crown and the ceiling?! Plus, that crown molding…it looks more like a digitized racetrack than beautiful molding. The answer was simple, especially since we had a talented craftsman already onsite to design and custom build beautiful integrated bookshelves to elevate the space and create consistency. Decision made. Let’s DEMO!

Family Room: After

How beautiful is this space now?! Balanced, proportional, a classic design. Now the items on the shelves are the important part of the design, not the weird columns and racetrack moldings.

Built-ins and Fireplace Surround

For the built-ins, we kept the same shaker style doors as we did in the kitchen (here). We even used the same hardware from Rejuvenation.

For the fireplace surround, we had 4 pieces cut from the original countertop quartz: 3 for around the fireplace opening and 1 for the hearth. The look of marble will always be in style. Marble is a stone that people have been using in interiors since… forever! Like, even before that Christopher Columbus guy.

When in doubt, choose marble. Always.

Product Details

If you build it, you have to fill it!

Filling a bookcase can be quite daunting… but it is something I LOOOOOOVE to do! My method takes place in two parts: first visit I style with as much “stuff” the client already has on hand: books, family photos, grandma’s china, souvenirs from trips, etc. Give me a pile to work with and I will artfully combine them into the existing shelves. On the second visit, I bring in decorative items that I think will go well in the space to give the whole composition balance and continuity.

For the Waker project built-ins, the first visit I used a lot of their existing collections which consisted of a lot of black and white and crystal. One item that really stood out and gave the shelves warmth was a wood carving from the couple’s honeymoon. Combined with the black and white, the warmth of the wood made it all come together. Therefore, when I as shopping for items for their shelves, I purchased items that had that same warmth: wooden mortar and pestle, a brass bird sculpture, a stone bookend, even faux greenery gave the shelves life!


One thing my client knows about is lighting! These LED lights are controlled by remote AS WELL AS voice via the Echo Dot. “Alexa, turn on the bookshelf lights!” and BAM! You have a lit-up bookshelf. I normally don’t photograph with accent lighting on but when we did, OH MY WORD–look at these! Everything just popped! And if that’s too much for you, the lights also have a dimmer setting. Oh yes. You have options, baby!

My Method

Seeing the left and right shelves side by side, you can really see my method of how I style a bookshelf: keep the top shelf large, sculptural and simple. Keep the bottom shelf accessible but consistent. Middle shelves: stacks of books, picture frames, and think in terms of 3’s.

When styling a lot of bookshelves, I like to put 1-2 decorative large items on the top shelves and utilitarian items like coordinating baskets on the bottom shelf.

In Conclusion

If you know me and you know my design style, you would know that I like to keep the hardscape design simple and classic. I like to fill a space with personal items that tell a story about the client and then fill in the gaps with things of interest that don’t cost a lot of money. All the filler for this project was purchased at Homegoods! Took 3 or so visits to different locations but in the end, look at the warmth and balance it created.

Need some shelves styled? 1-2 hours and I could turn your wall of junk into an artful wall that is a joy to look at without spending a dime (well…maybe a few added filler items 😉 at a reasonable price.). If interested, send me a note to and I’ll get you on the calendar!

Hope you are having a great day!

xo, Melis

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