Residential Color and Style from a Certified True Color Expert.

Losing your Ledge

Compare the good-looking built-in bookcase, below……..

…… the Southern Living Bookcases, here, below. Do you know what I mean by “Southern Living” Bookcases? Here is what I am referring to:

This is my personal terminology. A Southern Living Bookcase. It is what I call a built-in with a ledge. Usually with a dreaded colonial curve in the panel and a not-so-attractive visible hinge.

This was the hot look for some, back in the early 1980s. Nearly every family room example in a 1980s Southern Living magazine featured a built-in bookcase like the one above. Everyone wanted to have a built-in with a ledge, which was generally used  to display a plethora of framed family photographs. 

Flash forward. This is a very dated look. Although about half of the houses I work with have Southern Living Bookcases, it took me half an hour to find an online photo of this look.  Here is a little decorating secret that I learned in True Expert Training with trend/color expert Maria Killam: if it has been a long time since you’ve seen something in design magazines, it is probably dated.

Are you holding on to a Southern Living Bookcase in your beautiful home:

a) because it’s been there so long you didn’t even notice it

b) because you don’t know how to make it better, or

c) because you don’t agree that it is dated.

If you answered a) or b), don’t worry!

There is help. When the bookcase is made flush from top to bottom, a dated-look suddenly becomes current. But, please trust me on this, you are going to have to lose the ledge, if you want to update the look!

This is going to require a carpenter.  This is going to be a retrofit job. But, it can be done, and it can be done beautifully.

You have several choices:

— remove the bulky bottom section and repeat the open shelving from top to bottom;

— maintain the section of closed cabinetry, but decrease the depth of the bottom section in order to bring the bottom section into the same plane as the top section

(there may be flooring constraints, so beware if you are working around wall-to-wall carpet that is not being changed, for example);

— or increase the depth of the top section.

Here, we simply added a pair of doors to the top section with some gorgeous antique brass French open-work wire inset. See how much nicer a flush line of cabinetry looks? How much cleaner the visual line running ceiling to floor looks?

Image ©Color Calling

Painting the interior of the back of the shelves in a different color can also be a good idea in some rooms. A darker color paint can add depth and elegance when properly executed. The three photos below show how a combination of open and closed shelving can work nicely. Notice that the open shelving is flush with the base cabinetry.

Shelves that are too thin look dated as well as skimpy. Your carpenter can beef them up with a custom strip of wood (painted to match) across the shelf to give an illusion of thicker shelves. This is the likely reason that the shelving below left looks so substantial:

Source: via Alyda on Pinterest

Then, what about adding some library lighting to really enhance the new look?

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

A good residential stylist can help you decide how to update your old built-in bookcases. So, are you ready to lose your ledge?

Now, what do YOU think? I'd love to hear from you!

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