Decorating + Accessories
How To Style Your Bookshelves Like A Pro
Bookshelves add life and color to a room—they’re a cue to your personality and aesthetic, a place to show off your #shelfie chops and a great opportunity to meld storage with style. But getting the arrangement right is sometimes easier seen than done. Fear not, we’ve got some simple pointers to step up your styling game and make your shelves look Insta-worthy.
(Note: You don’t need all these elements; pick + choose what works with what you have.)
Start with books, mixing vertical rows with horizontal stacks. Leave room on shelves for accessories. Vary the placement of books on left, right and center of shelves. Skip the tattered textbooks and paperbacks and keep just your best volumes. TIP: Remove any dust jackets that look worn or too distracting; uncovered books often look more classic.
Add some tall, eye-catching objects to anchor your arrangement, whether vases, candlesticks or a piece of sculpture. TIP: These pieces can also serve as bookends.
Let some items stand alone; build out others into a small collection or grouping. It’s essential to vary the scale to avoid a mishmash of small knickknacks. Grouping elements of similar colors or materials will help create a cohesive arrangement.
Choose sculptural forms that will stand out against the background of the shelves. Rounded objects offer a nice contrast to rectangular books.
Vary materials, adding touches of shimmering metals or translucent glass to lighten up the look.
Layer in artwork and/or framed photos. Small paintings placed toward the back of shelves add depth and pattern. Alternatively, hang art right on the bookshelf frame, in front of your books.
Employ decorative boxes or baskets to hide + organize smaller, utilitarian items. These add texture, order and a home for things like tech accessories, votive candles, writing supplies + more.
Place smaller objects atop of stacks of books, or to fill in where needed. This can be anything from a paperweight or framed photo to a bowl or string of beads.
Add in a bit of nature, like plants or a piece of coral or driftwood.
Stand back and assess the overall effect as you arrange. Balance the mix of books and objects, and leave some breathing room so your shelves don’t look cluttered.
Need some help? Our Design Crew offers great FREE styling services, for bookshelves or your whole home!
- Don’t forget the tops of shelves! Add a few sculptural pieces, such as vases, planters or artwork up top to extend the height of your shelves.
- Consider painting or wallpapering the backs of shelves a contrasting color to make your books and objects really pop! For wallpaper, try this pro tip: Measure and cut pieces of Foamcore the size of the bookshelf backs, then cover the Foamcore with wallpaper and place in back of shelves. Much easier, and easy to change out!
- To color-code or not? Opinions are hotly divided on arranging books by color. Bibliophiles object to organizing books in a non-literary way, while stylists love the look (although it’s getting played out by this point). The styling trend that makes no sense (even though we’re sometimes guilty!): arranging books with the spines against the wall—which makes it obvious they’re just for looks and not for reading!
QUICK TIPS FOR STYLING OPEN SHELVING