secretary shelf styling

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My husband has had his grandmother’s secretary desk for years, long before we were married.  It’s always been with us, but in six houses (good grief we’ve moved a lot) this is the first home where it has been in a main room and visible.  I’ve never spent any time styling it, mostly because I never knew what to do with it, but finally decided it was time. 

I’m sure there is a formula that would make this a no-brainer, but I don’t know what it is.  I kind of created one on the fly.  I also didn’t want to buy anything new, so I worked only with what I had.  
Best way to start is with a clean slate.  Take everything out.  Even if you plan on reusing some of the items already in there.
I started at the top with my taller pieces.

Added books to the center shelf.  I didn’t want things too similar, so I laid some of the books flat on one side.

Added smaller pieces in with the books.  Instead of placing the turtle below the candlesticks, I flipped it to the other side so the white and metallic pieces on the two shelves are diagonal from each other.  
The bottom shelf is a little tricky.  Once the doors are shut, things get visually lost since our living room window reflects on the glass doors.  I used a grouping of white pieces on the left that would stand out from the dark wood and a photo with a lot of white space on the right.  The butterfly was a free image I downloaded from The Graphic’s Fairy.  I can’t find the exact one I used, but there are so many good ones!  I then added a cup with my grandmother’s collection of silver spoons for another layer.

And that’s it!
Wasn’t quite as scary as I thought it was.  The hardest part is always getting started.
SOURCES:  Ethan Allen secretary – family piece (similar here) // zebra chair – thrifted (reupholstered in this fabric) // sheepskin // perforated ginger jar – Homegoods (similar here) // brass turtle // coral (similar here) // milk glass (thrifted) // free butterfly downloads // silver cup (Pottery Barn, no longer avail)


  1. Mindy Avatar

    It's a beautiful piece of furniture. I'm diggin' the brass turtle.

    1. CrazyWonderful Avatar

      Thank you 🙂 The turtle might be my favorite thing right now. I just love him!

  2. Raul Raise Avatar

    Furniture are really great i really love these.

Meet Shelley

Hi, I’m Shelley! My belief is that with a little creativity and elbow grease, you can make your home look like a million bucks without spending it.

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