Beach up a Bookcase

Jean Allsopp
In just a few hours, give humdrum built-ins shoreside panache.

Use these ideas to make a coastal display as interesting as the stories on your shelves.

Feel the rhythm. Mix items of different heights, shapes, and visual weight. First, vary horizontal and vertical stacks of books on each ledge. Fill voids and balance the arrangement with favorite accessories.

Shelve it. Create a gallery for coastal collections. Here, boat models, shell art, and antique globes gain prominence. For impact, group small items of similar subjects. Larger pieces may stand alone. Art hung in unexpected ways adds a decorative element.

Double your storage. Baskets in a variety of shapes, weaves, and colors hide CDs, magazines, blankets, toys, and more.

Dive deep. Give your shelves depth by adding color or texture to the back wall. Paint the rear surface to coordinate with the room's wall color. Or, for design flexibility, cover cut-to-fit foam board (purchased from an art supply store) with fabric or wallpaper. Choose one style, or mix and match for loads of personality.

Take a seat.
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