'D' for Decorating Decorating Office Organization

Shelving it

Every day (or nearly), I sit in my home office across from my Expedit shelves. Truthfully, I’m kind of over them.

More truthfully though? They probably wouldn’t bother me so much if I could just keep the rest of my office neat. (It’s a mess in here right now.) Still, I do a lot of mental redecorating that revolves around those shelves. Here’s what I’d pick if I could wave a magic wand.

*Poof!* New shelves that didn’t cost anything or take any time to put together, that magically styled themselves, and fit perfectly in the room!

  1. Whitewashed Wood + Metal Shelves

  2. Emerson Shelf
    p.s. There’s more rustic industrial style in my post on Babble.

  3. Slim Étagère

  4. Lap Shelving System

Also, I pretend that if I had any of those bookshelves, that my stuff would somehow be condensed and look like this. Because it’s super practical to arrange one’s books with the spines facing in.

I assume the baskets and bowls shown are there to store the necessary pixie dust to make this configuration practical.

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

You Might Also Like...

  • Ashley @GirlyObsessions
    October 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I love all of these shevles!!! I need new shelves in my office but I’m having commitment issues!

  • Cara
    October 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Thank you for acknowledging that shelves that are actually being used don’t look like that. I personally love your Expedit because it’s stuffed with books!

  • Martha
    October 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Emily Henderson talks a lot about how expensive and difficult it is to style bookshelves on her blog, that is something I never really thought about. Your expedits look lovely but I love the Lap Shelving system you posted!

  • Camille
    October 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    This post showed up on FB as I’m sitting here with 10,341 tabs open, trying to find the perfect shelving unit for my home school room. I feel I should thank you, except now my new favorite shelve is not in my budget!

  • Veronica
    October 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Try purging some of your stuff – I think you are craving a little open space :-)

  • Jules
    October 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Win. Very funny, Nicole.

  • Amy Purple
    October 16, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I recently bought some Besta units so i could hide all the clutter/stuff behind doors.

    • Candice
      October 16, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      I fear that my space will feel blocky with all the doors. How are you liking your purchase so far? Is your unit all doors or a combo of open space and doors?

      • Amy Purple
        October 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm

        I love it, best decision ever! It’s all doors. We even did the height extension!

  • Heather B
    October 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    The Lap system is very lovely. I used to have my books arranged by color but my husband always had to hunt for whatever book he wanted. I seems that not everyone remembers what color a particular book is, go figure. It was another time when design-y and practical were not playing nice ;-)

  • Candice
    October 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I too am a victim of organization-by-cubing. I’m over cubes. I put the ones I used to wall mount in my office in my bathroom and utility closet. They work well in there. I want something modular, movable–that adapts to what I’m putting on or in the shelves. I have a jonesing for IKEA, I think.

  • Kathryn
    October 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    No, no your office is full of ephemera. That’s fancy for mess.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 16, 2012 at 11:51 pm

      Sure, if Zappos boxes full of kids’ shoes waiting to be returned count as ephemera…

  • Yelle
    October 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Love the one on wheels – super shelving envy at the moment!

  • Candice
    October 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Oooh, I just noticed those white boxes on the Lap system are boxes and trays. That speaks to me. I wish they were more drawer-like; but, they are on to something.

    • Making it Lovely
      October 16, 2012 at 11:51 pm

      Aren’t they interesting? I really like the idea.

  • Alison Burtt
    October 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I can so so so relate to this! As both book and design lovers, we are cursed. Cursed! It seems impossible to have both space for one’s books and other stuff and also have it look good. If you ever find the source of the pixie dust, we expect you to share.

    • Misse
      October 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Alison, I was the same way until I started swapping my books online at swap.com. Once I realized that I really didn’t need to keep every book, life became easier.

      I also donate books to this awesome nonprofit in Chicago called Open Books. They sell the books and raise money to promote literacy!

      • Making it Lovely
        October 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm

        Misse, thank you for sharing that link! I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Open Books before.

  • Misse
    October 16, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Honestly, I think you need a good purge. The shelves look a tad crowded. I could see a whole series of posts on organization!

  • Jenny
    October 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Thank you for admitting that shelves in actual houses will never look as good as the ones in catalogs since we actually have to USE the ones in our house. I wish I had me some pixie dust!

  • Rita
    October 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    ;) you make me smile. The truth is, sometimes the pretty shelves on pinterest and such are just that, pretty…Living life needs to be mroe than that most of the time :)

  • Christina W.
    October 16, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I think I could make a strong case for having #s 2 or 3 in my house. Seriously getting bookshelf envy over here.

  • Catherine
    October 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    I love your shelves because you can tell a reader lives there!

  • Danielle
    October 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    I am so over my expedit as well. I was thinking about getting rid of 3/4 of my books just because they really are clutter. I spent a couple of hours searching the web on how to repurpose the unit but the best ideas I could come up with these on ikea hackers:



    OR a very popular idea on pinterest, wallpaper the back:


  • Christine Drumgoole
    October 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Wait? You have those days too? I also have mental decorating projects going on in my head. If only everyone could see them in there.

  • the domestic fringe
    October 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    LOL. The other day I took all the books down from our bookshelves in the living room. Then I set out to make the shelves pretty. Then I decided we had too many books to make pretty happen, but really, aren’t books what bookshelves are for anyway?

    Sometimes, I just have to put things away and simply be glad they are away, whether they are pretty or not.


  • longgoneblonde
    October 16, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Agree! I am over the Expidit too. It is just a bit too deep and those cubby like shelves get easily layered (read crammed) with stuff.

  • Joy | Frock Files
    October 16, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    We just purchased some reclaimed wood wall shelves for our books and I’m in love with them — but we still have so many more books! I love the airy nature of these shelves, and the fact that they’re art in themselves.

  • Alissa
    October 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Best post ever! I am so glad to know that I am not the only one to do imaginary decorating… And who longs for the wave of a wand, click of some heels, or a sprinkle of pixie dust to magically make my possessions condense down into something that is almost spartan in it’s stylishness.

  • Krissy
    October 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I have a friend who turns books spine-in until he’s read them, so his shelves are part trophy and part masochism. I like yours better :)

    • Making it Lovely
      October 16, 2012 at 11:53 pm

      I like your description of his system.

  • nicolette @ momnivore's dilemma
    October 17, 2012 at 12:47 am


    I know some commenters have suggested to rid of some of your books. But, I know you’ve mentioned working at a bookstore…and I gather you adore them all…

    I don’t think books are clutter. My three expedits are loaded, but totally organized. They tell a story of my years of reading…from my epic summer of DFW’s Infinite Jest after college to my massive children’s book collection from years teaching…

    and I think many of those books probably written in, have photos/old letters in between the pages…Kindle’s got nothing on that…

    Keep em’. Maybe just throw a painting over the bookshelves to change it up. I saw it in this month’s House Beautiful…

  • Amanda
    October 17, 2012 at 7:35 am

    I really enjoyed the humor in this post. And those shelves? Aaah, so lovely!

  • Wanda
    October 17, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Have you heard of Benita? I follow her blog on Chez Larson. She recently updated her shelving units and I found them to be lovely. Thought I’d pass along the link:
    BTW, I love your blog and am thrilled that you finally got to meet Ms. Stewart! :)

  • Kristín
    October 17, 2012 at 7:59 am

    love the Slim shelves..

    and if you ever discover the pixie dust, please send some my way ;)

  • Audrey
    October 17, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I love the shelf you have! Maybe move the things on the shelf around? Arrange them by color? I think changing around what you already have in the meantime could feel refreshing and cathartic!

  • Megan F
    October 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I went home last night after seeing this post and turned the paper backs in my sun room around. It’s a rare occasion that we pull them off the shelf anyway and most of our reading is done electronically these days- or, we make the effort to buy the nice hard-bound version. You’re right, it’s not a practical way to display books but I like it for a little change of view. :-)

  • Elena
    October 17, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Hey Nicole. Just a random question. Are the books in your office of a totally different genre than those in your library? For instance, are your office books crafts, design, etc. while the ones in the library are novels, bios?

  • iris
    October 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Centsational Girl redoes some other Ikea shelves that look similar to the ones you’ve posted (an example, here: http://www.centsationalgirl.com/2012/07/ikea-shelving-modified/) buuuuuuut that would really be so, so much more work!

  • Little Gray Pixel
    October 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Oh! But don’t you see, that shelf is on wheels! So you can have your pretty decor, and all you would have to do is wheel it around to see all the book titles. Win-win.

  • Andrea Howe
    October 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    The last couple of lines remind me of something Jules would write. No wonder you guys are friends ;)

    • Making it Lovely
      October 17, 2012 at 11:05 pm

      I think I must have been channeling my inner Jules a bit. ;)

  • Kari
    October 18, 2012 at 12:39 am

    The Expedit ones have closed sides, though.. and that’s good. Open-sided and open-backed shelving units are horrid. Books falling over, cr*p falling behind.. lol

  • Kati
    October 18, 2012 at 2:43 am

    Your choises have similarities with these String-shelves:

    My absolute favourite!

  • julie ciriello
    October 18, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I wrote a blog post about dressing up your IKEA furniture and when I was doing the research, I recall a number of ways to dress up EXPEDIT bookcases on sites such as panyl. Here is my post


  • Honor Roll | Making it Lovely
    October 19, 2012 at 2:06 am

    […] became available in the US. Here are my favorites from the brand.I was already wishing I had one of these bookshelves, and now look.Etsy can help prepare you for Halloween.Ah, gold. So pretty for office accessories. […]

  • Jennifer @DreamingofJune
    October 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I love the shelf with the wheels, but I have to say, with the quantity of books you have, the existing shelves look amazing. I personally love a wall of book shelves with glass doors.

  • Amy Hackworth
    October 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Nicole, it was so nice to meet you last night, and I wish I’d seen this post before we spoke. The Room and Board etagere is on my wish list and I have also loved the shelf from World Market. We’re bookshelf soul sisters.

    Hope you had a great stay!

  • Jessica @ Team Wiking
    October 21, 2012 at 1:54 am

    I love all of those shelves. I have the white Expedit 4×4 in my office with those same baskets. I wish mine were full of books though. I’ve got a printer, an external hard drive, and a sewing machine in the mix. Gag.

  • Chrissi Holt
    October 21, 2012 at 4:29 am

    I like your shelves to be honest with you .. :) But that’s OK everyone has clutter ! Mine is in the cupboard (for the time being) we are renovating so this is to be expected !

    Love Chrissi xo


  • Christine
    October 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I have the Room & Board Slim Etagere in green and love it. The space between the shelves is massive, and small books can look awkward on them. Here’s a link to a picture of the etagere… http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/christines-kitsch-conservatory-room-room-for-color-contest-178739

  • Danielle
    October 26, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I just found this!


  • Emily
    November 6, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    I totally agree that those choices are more fabulous than the Expedit series but who has that kind of money!? I think your space looks fab! I’m in the same boat as you and needed mega storage for my workspace but no cash so I went with the same option as you. I’m super happy with my purchase but holy moly do those baskets smell weird! Did you have that musty straw/farm smell to deal with when you bought them? If yes please tell me it goes away. Keep up the awesome blog! You’re such an inspiration to me.

  • A Bit of Brooklyn
    November 20, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I love your Expedit arrangement there! It looks great! That being said, I understand that sometimes a girl just wants a change. I’m looking for a shelving system for our little place right now, and this post is such an inspiration, thank you!