Living in SF means living with less space, and less storage space, than you'd find other places. To combat this, creative storage solutions are a must. If Carrie Bradshaw can store shoes in her oven, you can pretty much do as you darn well please.
IKEA makes many great storage products, but the Expedit, and its cousin the Kallax, are classics. Clean lines, easy assembly and their low price make them ubiquitous apartment items. I've had mine since sophomore year of college, and so far it's survived four moves (while assembled) and seven years of wear and tear.
My personal style aesthetic has changed and evolved, but the Expedit still manages to be both stylish and useful. After I moved in with my boyfriend, we also bought a giant IKEA Pax wardrobe, since our room has no closet. We were still able to find a spot for the Expedit! In fact, I wanted to go with white, but my existing furniture was in such good shape we stuck with the dark espresso finish.
The Expedit is great for storing just about anything, but we use ours mostly for books. My boyfriend is a graphic illustrator and I'm an avid reader, so we have a serious book problem. The Expedit is perfect for awkward size books, like art of coffee table books, since the shelves are both tall and deep. We also have a couple of Ikea baskets on the bottom shelves for personal items like my hair dryer, curling iron and straightener. We have absolutely zero bathroom storage, so making room for necessary items without creating clutter is key.
If you're having trouble with your own Expedit or Kallax, or any shelf for that matter, consider the following three tips:
1. What do you need to store?
For us it was books and a few personal items that had to be hidden away. For you it might be shoes, art supplies, or clothing. Then, clear the whole thing out, wipe it clean, and start with a blank slate.
2. How much stuff do you actually have?
Gather everything into one place that you think you might want to store in the Expedit. It's a good idea to do this right on the floor in front of it. This is a good time to double check that everything that you're trying to find a 'home' for is present. Take a mental inventory of everything and really look at it.
3. Touch, Sort, Store, Style
Touch each item. This is one of the pillars of the KonMari method, and it works here too. Take some time to go through everything, and really think about it. This is a great time to decide if you actually need it. Don't store things you don't need. Either donate or sell unwanted or unused items.
Next, sort items into piles. I sorted my books by color, but you could sort by topic, author, title, theme, whatever. While you sort items, place them in order by size, and think about creating visual negative space with items of varied sizes.
Store the largest and/or heaviest items. These should go on the lowest shelf for safety and stability. Big, heavy books, an art piece, or baskets packed full of stuff are all fair game. Do not place heavy items on the top--this makes the piece unstable and unsafe. After the heaviest pieces have homes, the rest can go wherever you like.
Before you add any accessories, be sure that everything that you needed to store now has a home. If you're actually using your storage piece for storage, that comes first. I'm all for beautiful #shelfies, but they have to be functional. I don't have room in my apartment to display things just because they look pretty. Try to leave space in each shelf. This can be above, next to, or between items. Don't ever wedge books in so tight that they're tough to get out. If you do, you'll probably never use them, and you could wind up damaging the books. Think about crating places for your eye to rest. Play around with how and where you place things. Even though I've worked as a visual merchandiser, it's rare to get things perfect the first time around. Feel free to try new things!
Once you have the bones in place, you can start styling. Shop your home by pulling accessories for other rooms. I'm a bit of a plant hoarder, so I always add a plant--or three. Plants bring life, energy and a free-spirited vibe to any setup. I also try to incorporate things that mean something, like photos or souvenirs from trips. You could also add a motivational quote, small art piece, or a fave fashion accessory. I like to layer accessories, but be mindful to not create visual clutter. When layering, try groupings of odd numbered items. Groups of threes make especially strong visual groups--and professionals use threes everywhere.
If you feel that your shelf is missing something, try adding something fresh, a pop of color, or a shot of something metallic. A little goes a long way.
Finally, don't be afraid to let it evolve over time. Personal and home styles change and morph as we grow. New experiences, new people, and new places all shape who we are and how we express ourselves. Don't worry if it's not perfect. Eventually you'll find a balance that works for you.