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A study in design – modern coastal style

The space

As this is a smaller study, the focus was skewed heavily on the bookcase and what it can do for us in the space and the function we need it to perform. For me as a stylist, I pictured how I would use this room and furniture piece. I imagined it would create a space to store all my books and countless magazines as well as paperwork in the drawers. It is also a space where I can show off my collections of decor and personal items, with the addition of plants to enhance the entire space with a “living” element.

Due to the busy nature of this bookcase, we only needed a small amount of additional decor in the space. A beautiful, textural chair and timber side-table with the perfect coastal artwork become the front cover of our story. Now how did I put this room together?


First up, we need to decide what items are going to be used to tell your modern coastal style story. One of the first things I like to do is create a mood board to see how the items on my “wish-list” will work together.

The pieces

Let’s start with ten key items that I think will inspire your bookshelf styling. They are tried and tested and are ready to be the focal point of any good coastal bookcase.

  1. Blue and White Ginger Jars (starting at $15)
  2. Table Lights in coastal inspired colours or patterns ($179)
  3.  Wallpaper behind (POA)
  4. Rustic timber, white or silver photo frames (starting at $16.95)
  5. Leather items for that masculine touch. (books, detailed vases or boxes starting at $34.95)
  6. Sea inspired decor, coral, blue glass bottles etc (starting at $49)
  7. Books that inspire a coastal theme (boats, style, cooking all can be coastal inspired)
  8. Summer fruits like Pears and Apples ($19.95)
  9. Plants that are summer seasonal (artificial if you are not a green thumb) From $49
  10. Suitcases or storage boxes that have a woven texture

Please remember you can use all of the items we have listed. Although, if budget is a concern simply adding a few key items to your existing decor could be all you need to set the coastal scene.

The process

Next we use our six elements of style to create the small stories or “vignettes” that you see dotted around the bookcase. They are balance, repetition, colour and texture. Let me explain these a little further and see if you can spot each of these elements by using the image above as a reference.

Balance: highs and lows, peaks and troughs basically meaning smallest to tallest, left to right using the most focal item in the group as the centre piece.

Repetition: this can be as simple as the same colour or texture being used repeatedly. It’s not necessarily the exact same product but starting there is the easiest when it comes to learning how to dress your shelves. Can you spot the repetition used above? (Navy and apples and pears.)

Colour: this is the perfect time to look at your usual decorating colour mix and take out what doesn’t relate to the coastal style. To get the coastal feel you should be concentrating on shades of blue, white and red. There are some variations but this will be your base colour mix. For our “modern” look, we have added in the very on-trend colour of grey and softened the red to more of a hint of pink.

Texture: this refers to the feel of your items. Do they feel like ceramic or do they feel like a woven basket? To use the image above as an example, the textures include timber (candelabras), porcelain (ginger jars), fabric (duffle storage bag) and paper (books).

Style trend: these are items that refer to being “on-trend”. For 2016/2017 it will be metallic and concrete decor, with soft pinks and pastel blues. Style refers to the style that you are decorating – so coastal would mean coral. Now mix the two and we have the inclusion of blue coral or metallic or concrete pears.

Function: let’s look at the piece of furniture and the room we are decorating. It’s a study so we need to ensure we have allocated space for our books, magazine, files and folders. You can stack your books on top of each other to form part of your groupings or side by side to make the maximum use of your space. We are now on the home stretch with our styling …

Finishing touches

The next component of our bookcase styling relates to placement. Item placement is where most of us tend to lose confidence, but by using our new skills we can put all our newly created “vignettes” (groupings) and start to fill the bookcase along with the functional items. We take the focal point of the space and as our image above shows, the most focal point of this room is the right hand side of the room as we enter through the door, at eye level. This is where the busiest and largest decor item has been placed. The lamp is a piece that draws your eye and this is where we start our “vignette” journey. On the shelf we added a combination of our six elements being balance, repetition, colour, texture and trend and, of course, our functional items. We then repeat this process for each shelf.

Finally, we step out of the room and have a break from the space. This will allow us to walk back in with fresh eyes and see what needs tweaking. This could involve swapping some items or simply moving whole vignettes to make sense with what is on the shelf above.

Where to now?

Bookcases are not the easiest space to show style, function and ensure it looks full but with these tips you are going to have the best start. If you would like to get real life inspiration by viewing this space for yourself, you can visit the First Home Owner’s Centre display home at Golden Bay this weekend.

16 copyThis stylish project was created and copy provided by Kristie Castagna from Elements at Home. Kristine is a Design Professional who has more than 15 years experience between her blog, own projects and ongoing residential clients. This has given her a wide range of practical experience and understanding of design in its many forms.

You can find many more inspiring projects from Kristie on her blog here.

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