tips on styling a hutch

by | Jun 10, 2021 | Decorating | 26 comments

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Yesterday afternoon, after doing some computer work then some not-fun organizing in the basement, I decided I needed to do something in my house that was just for fun.  I didn’t have very much time, so I picked refreshing the styling in the antique pine hutch in the living room.  When I looked at it, I felt like I was just housing stuff, if that makes sense.  Specifically, the ironstone pitchers.  Instead of approaching styling the hutch from what would look best on the shelves, I was opting to store things that needed a home.  The result was something that looks okay but could be better…more balanced, more interesting.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

(The ironstone mold sitting in front of the door is to hold it open.)

I knew it wouldn’t take long, so it was a good project to start later in the day.  When styling (or restyling) something like a hutch, the best thing to do is clear everything off to give yourself a fresh start.  Even if you’re planning on using a lot of the same elements, it’s nice to have a completely clean slate.  It’s also nice to wipe down the shelves and give everything a good dusting/cleaning.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

The blank space can feel exciting and intimidating all at one time.  I think it’s important to approach hutch styling recognizing it’s going to be a process.  You don’t have to commit to anything ever.  Just try something, move, tweak, scootch, and try something else.  It’s never really finished, but just finished for now.  Finished because it’s time to make dinner or finished because you’re happy with it.  It should be a low-pressure, fun exercise.

Because it’s hard to talk through every tweak, here is a little GIF showing the progression from where it started to where it ended up…

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

hutch styling tip no. 1 | know where you’re going

I think it helps immensely to have some kind of vision of the story you want to tell through the styling on the hutch or open shelving.  What makes sense for the room?  What makes sense for the season?  What do you want to display?  What’s important to highlight?  What will make it personal?  The original arrangement, as I said, was about having a place to put a bunch of ironstone pitchers, but that left it looking a bit more like storage than an arrangement.  It wasn’t saying what I wanted it to say.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

When I came home from Isle of Palms with a large collection of shells, I knew I wanted to display or use shells I’ve been collecting over the years.  Two plastic bins full of shells have been hanging out in the laundry room closet and, really, what’s the point of that?  If they were important enough to collect and keep, they should be important enough to display.  The trick is, this isn’t a beach house and I want the shells to make sense.

Mixing them in with the ironstone, old books, and a few other pieces makes it look more like a naturalist collection, a gathering of curated items instead of kitschy decor at a crab shack.  This arrangement tells the story of three collections…ironstone, shells, and books.  And, to me, it works.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

hutch styling tip no. 2 | work big to small

Put the largest pieces you’re working with on the shelf first and then move to smaller pieces.  When the larger ones are visually balanced, it’s easier to figure out where the smaller pieces should belong.  This is also a great time to edit out pieces that make the vignette look too monotonous.  In the case of this hutch, I swapped out the pitchers with ironstone pieces of other shapes.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

hutch styling tip no. 3 | know when to stop

I sometimes have a hard time with this, but it’s important to know when to stop.  That is completely subjective.  Some shelves look great packed with pieces while others say more with less.  I think it depends on the pieces you’re using and how they relate to each other as well as the hutch.  Again, play with it until the arrangement looks right.  I sometimes change how much stuff I like on a shelf with the seasons!  You don’t (and shouldn’t) need to do the same thing or work in the same way all the time.  The most exciting and interesting decorating can happen by trying something a little off-the-wall.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

hutch styling tip no. 4 | it’s for you

Styling in your own home, even if it’s shared online, is not a spectator sport.  It’s not being adjudicated.  It doesn’t need a stamp of approval from anyone else.  It’s about telling your story, sharing what you like, and arranging it in a way that looks good to you.  It’s okay if other people don’t get it or it doesn’t fit their definition of what’s beautiful or worthy to be displayed.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

Even though working on my house is a part of my job, there are times when I feel uninspired.  Sometimes I don’t like something, but I also don’t want to take the time to change it.  I find that little refreshes like this are a great way to get the ball rolling.  Doing things makes you want to do more things.  Creating leads to more ideas, more inspiration, more motivation.  It’s like swinging the ball on a perpetual motion machine.  The energy travels, transfers, and continues to perpetuate the movement.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

So, if you feel a little stuck or uninspired.  If you haven’t done anything creative in your home in a while, you feel burnt out from bigger projects, or you’re stalling on the next one, try giving yourself the gift of a little refresh.  Pick something manageable and fun.  Even if you don’t feel like doing it when you start and I can almost guarantee that you’ll feel a little lift afterward.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

At the very least, you’ll have a new space to enjoy and admire for a little while.

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

If you like the look of this arrangement, I gathered up a few items you might like…

hutch styling tips | miss mustard seed

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    1. Sandy

      A beautiful display. I really like the new placements.

    2. sandi m

      fresh, more balanced, love the added shells and blue book collecition…

    3. Mary

      Beautiful, I have wondered if you are left-handed, the way your awesome pitchers are positioned? I have noticed in the past they are all positioned to grab with your left hand.

      • Marian Parsons

        I actually meant to make a comment about this, because I get asked about it pretty frequently! I am actually right-handed, but I play a lot of sports as a lefty, so I guess I’m a bit of both. For some reason, I almost always style my pitcher handles to the left.

        • Carswell

          That’s interesting. That would be my single aesthetic quibble with your arrangement – that your pitchers all face the same direction.

          I would be inclined to turn the two on the top shelf to have their spouts facing the centre. the way they are positioned now makes me feel like they have their faces turned to the wall (the outer side of the cabinet).

          It’s a small quibble – your styling is lovely as always.

    4. Lisa P

      This looks great! I’ll try your advice about starting small when feeling uninspired to start a project. You provide such helpful encouragement. And I wonder where you put the other pitchers?

      • Marian Parsons

        I swapped out a couple with pieces in the butler’s pantry, but I do have three that don’t have a home. I’m sure I’ll find a spot for them, though…

      • Carole Prisk

        It looks okay now, but I prefered the arrangement with the cat.

        • Marian Parsons

          Well, naturally. She’s not very good at staying put, though! ?

    5. Rachel Harper

      So many clever tips! I’d love to share a link to this post to share with my readers on my Sunday, Dirt Road Adventures. I hope that is ok.

      • Marian Parsons

        Sure thing, thanks!

    6. Kimberly Westby

      What are the round stacked, shell looking things, in the cabinet? I did not find them referenced in your shelling post.
      Adding the shells to the cabinet is just the right touch of summer in your decor, refreshing.


      • Miss Mustard Seed

        I believe they are called mushroom coral.

    7. Kimberly Westby

      What are the shell looking, white items stacked on top of one another in the cabinet? I did not see a reference to them in the shelling post.
      Adding the shells into the cabinet gives it a touch of summer to the decor, refreshing.

      • Kimberly Westby

        Sorry had difficulty adding my comment, rewrote it and guess what? haha

    8. Jan Denzin

      Where did you get the opera glasses? I have the same ones and wondered about their story.

    9. Arlene

      Your styling is perfection! Makes you want to look at what’s inside.

    10. Kathleen

      Marian, Looking at the photos without reading the context first gave me some ideas- I know you opened the doors of the hutch to be able to clearly show what is inside, but having them open made me think of leaving them open and adding greenery.
      Think about how lush and gorgeous it could be for a dinner party- greenery from plants or arrangements spilling out and trailing down with flowers added to the mix…
      If the dinner party was themed, it could be a vehicle for subtly adding to that theme.

      Thanks for the great post!

    11. Cynthia

      Your shelves look fresh and I love the shells :).

      I’m going to dig my boxes of shells out and give it a try!

      Thank you~

      ps~ the never family room plans are very pretty and yet just right for the boys!

    12. Tracy A Schenk

      This is perfect! Looks fantastic. I love the one photo where you are showing stages and the cat keeps appearing. I know where the “curious as a cat” statement came from.

    13. Connie

      Love the story the hutch is tellIng and all the great tips and encouragement you gave! And I especially love that stack of square, flute-edged ironstone bowls on the middle shelve, and the blue books!

    14. Barbara H.

      Love the new arrangement and your explanation of how it came to be. A wise friend told me years ago “Action begets motivation” and when I am stuck I repeat that to myself. It’s the same thing you are saying and I find it to be very true.

    15. JC

      I love the new look especially the blue books and shells! It looks fresh and ready for summer. Small and quick projects make us feel accomplished mixed in with the big remodeling ones, don’t they? Thanks for this encouragement!

    16. Cyndi Brey

      Best inspiration to properly display items. It finally clicked!!! The animation brought it all together for me. Thank you again

    17. Christy K

      Your hutch looks great and the advice is fantastic. The cat in the gif made me smile – they are always such good helpers!

    18. monique odman

      Very nice project. I love to re position my visible items too. I got a shock seeing the white pot on the left edge thinking how a quick cat paw would move it down.


    1. Thistlekeeping - Thistlewood Farm - […] You can see it and tons of ideas for styling hutches here. […]


    Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

    I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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