This Decorating Hack Will Instantly Pull Your Shelves Together

published May 16, 2020
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Credit: Apartment Therapy

The Small/Cool Experience at Home is bringing 20 trends to life by 20 designers—all in less than 120 square feet. Check out the whole virtual experience online and at @apartmenttherapy on Instagram from May 15-17. Thank you to our sponsors BEHR, Amazon Handmade and Tuft & Needle for making this experience possible.

Figuring out how to style shelves without your space feeling cluttered can be tricky—especially in small spaces, where maximalism can sometimes feel overwhelming. But design couple Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus have a tip for creating a unique and beautiful display: choose something meaningful from your travels to collect and show off.

For today’s Small/Cool Experience at Home event, Brent and Berkus treated Apartment Therapy viewers to a “show and tell” of one of their favorite design elements at home: a collection of handmade pottery bulls from Peru. The bulls are said to ward off evil spirits and protect the homes where they reside; they’re often found, Berkus explains, in pairs on the roofs of countryside homes. But for the couple, the collection reminds them of their trip to Peru, where they got engaged.

“It is a trigger memory for us that takes us back to that moment in time, the joy that we had around celebrating our new engagement,” Brent says. (Berkus adds jokingly to Brent, “So when you look at them, it just reminds you of how much you love me every day, right?” Don’t worry, Brent says yes!)

In showing off the collection, Berkus spilled a secret: Not every one of the pieces was purchased on that Peru trip. Some were ordered online after the couple returned home—a great hack for anyone short of suitcase space, or wishing they’d picked up a particular souvenir on a past trip. Check sites like Etsy and eBay for both artisan and vintage decor.

The reason this collection works so well for a small space? All of the pieces are the same basic size and general shape, though there are plenty of small variations that come from their handcrafted nature. That gives the collection a cohesiveness that makes it feel like an intentional display, not a cluttered afterthought.

Credit: Danie Drankwalter

You can see the style strategy at play in the room designed by Brent and Berkus for the Small/Cool Experience 2020. The space, which showcases “Contemporary Classics,” features a collection of ceramic vases in varying shades on the console table. So chic! Best part? These weathered vases came from Pottery Barn, so you don’t even have to hop on a plane to get them. Click over to see the rest of the products and paint colors featured in this room, and stay tuned for more Small/Cool tips from top designers.