A Celebrity Interior Designer Told Me 3 Tips to Transform My NYC Apartment


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(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

Alright, I'm going to let you in on a little secret if you promise not to judge me. I moved into my apartment six months ago (time really flies), and I'm still finishing up the décor. I started out with virtually nothing, so it's been a long journey on top of my full-time job and the seemingly endless list of my other commitments. But slow and steady wins the race. Out of a few particular areas where I felt stuck, my bookshelves seemed to be taunting me all of this time, as I had no idea how to get started on making them go from a place to toss random art or décor that I couldn't find a home for to a work of art. A colleague of mine introduced me to an app called Intro, and everything immediately changed.

Intro introduces you to experts and in-demand specialists who can solve almost any problem that you're facing, whether it's related to your home, career, style, health, or something else. Obviously, I need some help with my apartment, so I got to scrolling through the interior designers. Reading that Shawn Henderson has decorated the homes of some of my favorite actors, I quickly booked a slot on his calendar and got my home ready for the consultation.

A quick video call that felt as easygoing as one of the many apartment tours that I've been giving my friends led me to some major realizations. I showed him around my space, and we quickly settled on the area that I could use the most help with—my bookshelves. Although his advice was fascinatingly applicable to every part of my home, I ended up being able to completely transform the open shelving that had me lost for months in just a few days. Scroll on to read the three great tips that I just have to share with you all.

The process: 


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)


Tip #1: Sketch It Out


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

When I first introduced Henderson to my bookshelf dilemma, he let me in on a little pro tip. "So here's what I typically do when I do my interiors. When I have built-ins like this, I take a photograph, and I draw on it what I envision the bookshelves to look like," he says. I don't have a printer, so I took matters into my own hand and had some fun sketching on my Post-it Notes. It's crazy how my sketch is almost exactly what I ended up creating. That was definitely the best first step I could've taken while getting organized for this project and finding out what items I needed to order.

Tip #2: Asymmetry and Balance Are Your Friends


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

When I first began conceptualizing a strategy for executing this project, I wasn't quite sure of where to begin. I quickly realized that all I needed to do was focus on balance and asymmetry. Henderson suggested a very specific outline for my bookshelves that involved having the books take up three quarters of my top two shelves and have them lying flat on the bottom row. He also gave specific locations in my home base where I could find the items I need, which was super helpful. I plan on continuing to add more books over time, but we're off to a good start.

Tip #3: Choose Items That Have Meaning to You


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

This seems like an obvious tip, but it can really make all of the difference. If you're like me, you probably are able to attach meaning to any little thing, and all of the items I found for this space seemed to do that for me. I'm planning trips to Tulum and Italy this year, so these books just make sense. I kept fashion books on display to relate to my career path and future aspirations. A photo frame that I can swap my besties or family in and out of over the years as I find new favorite photos with them is a plus. A replica of my first ever Diptyque candle stands in jumbo size as well, which I feel marks my personal growth since I got my first one. Whatever means something to you will look so good on whichever part of your home that you are decorating.

And now for the fun part:

Now that we've gone over the basics of how to decorate your shelves, it's time for the fun part. Shopping! Home décor is such a fun category to dive into because it includes so many different micro-groups. Whether you're looking into candles, vases, or art, you can always find something that feels meaningful. No matter how long you've been living in your home, you will be able to find an opportunity to bring in something new. A quick scroll through the pieces below might reveal what you're missing from your special shelves.


(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

Obviously, we can't talk about decorating bookshelves without mentioning vases, so let's start there. The key to making your shelves look chic is layering as many fun accessories as possible, and vases take up the perfect amount of space, making them a great addition. A good mix of artful silhouettes and easy basics will do the trick. This is also one of the best places on your shelves to play around with color.



(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

I'm saying goodbye to all of my micro candles and having fun with these larger-than-life renditions on some personal favorites. Bookshelves are known to have candles filtered into them, but in my opinion, the mega candle looks so much better among my coffee-table books than a standard-sized option.



(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

I think the purchase that had the biggest impact on my shelves was these bookends. They really add a lot of excitement to my collection of books and take them to the next level. I love celebrating the female form, and these help me establish my home as a place to honor that. This is really an item that can become a true art piece.



(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

Coffee-table books are so much more than a pretty face. They are fun to read, put vases atop, and leave open on your coffee table for guests to explore. When Henderson suggested that I stock up on them when filling in my shelves, I got nervous about the cost, but after a quick trip to my local bookstore and a browse of its used section, I walked away with everything I needed. My suggestion is to invest in a few special ones like what you'll see below and have them on display while choosing filler books from your very own neighborhood spot. 



(Image credit: @_sierramayhew)

Whether it's photographs or artful prints, frame-worthy goodies make for such a great finishing touch on any bookshelf. Whether it's a photo of you and your best friend or a piece by your favorite artist, seeing it every day will make you smile. Quick tip: Photography with more negative space looks extra chic. Black and white really worked for me as well since I wanted it to feel elevated and timeless. You've got to try it.


Shop more home décor I'm losing it over:

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Associate Editor

Sierra Mayhew was always destined to work in fashion, but she didn't know it at first. Growing up with no choice but to wear a rotation of school uniforms and activewear, her love for fashion really blossomed when she moved away for college and was able to finally define her very own personal style. Shortly thereafter, she interned at Elle magazine and instantly knew that editorial was for her. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame, she worked for ShopBazaar, contributing regularly to Bazaar.com, and finally made her way to Who What Wear, where she is an associate editor. When she’s not working, you can catch her always trying to catch a flight, rollerblading through New York City traffic, or exploring the latest luxury vintage boutique.