Built-In Inspiration: Shelving

Custom millwork is a great way to maximize your existing space. Whether it be built-in storage, open shelving or seating - we collaborate with custom millworkers to create classic, functional pieces that utilize every inch of space.

Open shelving is common in our built-in designs as they provide a place to store and showcase our client’s own collections, pictures or memorabilia that really personalize the space.

A few things to keep in mind when planning built-in shelving:


Styling bookshelves, especially a large wall of them, requires planning. Empty shelves feel boring and cluttered shelves are overwhelming to the eye. We like to use a mixture of objects and books in styling bookshelves. Many people will arrange their books based on size but you can also arrange them based on color.


Plan to light your shelves! This truly takes planning because as you’re working with a contractor, you’ll need to make lighting decisions early on, so they can wire accordingly.


You know we love wallpaper! Custom shelving is a great place to add it! If you don’t want something with a print, try grasscloth or keep it simple and go with paint.

With these tips in mind, here are a few things for you to think about:

  1. With any shelving that currently exists in your home, how can you make it better? i.e. lighting, paint, wallpaper, styling your shelves with books and other decor.

  2. Is there a space in your home that would be more effective with custom shelves? Be intentional.


Practical Lighting Tips to Use Right Away

Ever get the sense that the lighting in your home just isn’t quite right? A lot of people feel that way at some point in their home design. Here are some helpful tips next time you’re thinking about lighting and when in doubt, add a dimmer!


A general note is that each room should include 3 layers of lighting:

General lighting, which is typically an overhead light

Task, like floor or table lamps

Accent, such as low level lighting like candles

Here are some specific thoughts about types of lighting:

Ceiling lights:

In an open space where people walk, you need at least 7 feet from the bottom of the hanging light fixture to the floor. For high ceilings, add more height. For example, 9.5’ ceilings should have a distance from the floor 7’6”.

Table lamps:

For a lamp placed on a side table, the bottom of the shade should be at about eye level.

Floor lamps:

Place these in corners or next to sofas. Make sure it’s at a height so the bulb is always concealed.

Wall sconces:

Wall sconces should be at about eye level, so anywhere from 5-6’ from the ground. These should also have a little space between items they’re placed next to, so plan for about 3-5” between the sconce and a piece of art or whatever else you may have hung.

As you make selections, finish up with these tips:

Add color and texture with the bases and the shades should feel almost matched

Be sure the scale matches the size of your room (and your furniture)

Space Planning in Your Living Room

One question we are often asked is: How do we plan our layout? This is especially the case with living rooms. We wanted to address it here in case you’re looking for a quick fix, you have some tools to help you.


Here are some few big picture things to consider before you begin:

  1. First, think about the function you need from the space. What will you be using the room for? Once you answer that question, decide the pieces of furniture you need. For example, storage for games, toys, books, etc., optimal number of seating, etc.

  2. Think about the focal point in the room, i.e. TV, fireplace, artwork.

  3. Create a central point in the living room. This is usually the coffee table. If you have a large living room, it can be helpful to create two central points with an additional seating area or play space.

Now, here are some specifics to work with:

Seating: Begin here as you place items. Remember to make your living room livable and cozy. Create a space where conversation and living is easy.

Sofas: Start with a sofa or sectional and add an additional sofa across from it or a pair of chairs. In smaller spaces, try adding one accent chair.

  • The sofas and chairs don’t need to match entirely, but have them relate in some way. Maybe the have a similar arm shape or the same fabric.

  • Be sure to consider the scale of your room. Don’t buy an overly large sofa if you live in a small space.

Chairs: If you have a pair of chairs, you ideally want about 40” of space between so that you can place a small accent table between them. In a smaller room just place chairs next to one another. Consider swivel chairs because they can be faced in any direction!

  • After you add the bigger pieces, add smaller accent seating like benches or stools. These are so versatile and easy to move around as you need them.

Coffee table: This should be at least half the length of your sofa because you want the two to relate to one another. It also shouldn’t be more than a few inches lower than your sofa’s seat height and if at all possible, it shouldn’t be higher.

  • Placement: about 18” from your sofa

  • Selection: round or square if you have a larger living room with seating across from one another. You can also choose this shape if you have a sectional. Go with rectangular or oval in other layouts.

  • Remember that this is a good time to think about function. Add storage here if you need it.

Side tables: these shouldn’t be more than 3-4” lower than your sofa’s arm height. Ideally they’re 1-2” lower than the arm height. Make them easy to place a drink on!

  • These should be placed anywhere someone sitting down cannot reach the coffee table.

Sofa console table: If you choose to have one, ideally, it’s a few inches shorter than the overall height of your sofa. The width of the table should be slightly smaller than the width of your sofa with 3-6” on each side.

Area rug: Get one large enough so that your sofa’s front legs are on it and any other furniture like chairs, can also be placed on top. You want the room to feel like it belongs together. In most cases, the edge of the rug shouldn’t be too close to a wall. Allow for at least 2’ so you create negative space.

Walkways: Allow for 30-36″ of a walkway between large furniture pieces, but if your living room is smaller, try for about 20”.

TV: Hang or place it at about eye level of your seated height. The distance from your seating to your TV should be about 6-7’.


Now for the finish: Add dimension to your living room. Think about textiles with accent pillows and throws. Add artwork, framed photos, mirrors, and lighting. Don’t be afraid of color! This is the part we really love to have fun with! Choose a main color and then add accents to compliment it.

So, go take a peek at your living room. How does it match up with things we’ve listed for you here? If you don’t love your space, try readjusting. Still not happy, send us an email so we can space plan for you!