I like to think of bookshelves as a giant puzzle. How can I fit all my favorite finds into one cohesive design statement? The endless possibilities can seem overwhelming, but don’t be discouraged. If you take your time and have fun with it, you can transform boring and cluttered into a design masterpiece. Plus, I change mine all the time and even rotate items in and out seasonally!
To start you on your styling journey, here are some of my favorite items I use when styling a bookshelf!
P.S. There will be a lot of moving around of items until you get them just right, but even then, as your collection of mementos increases, you will find yourself constantly updating your shelves with ease.
I admit it. I am a reader. And not a Kindle or iPad reader. A real-deal, book in my hands, reader. I truly believe you can never have too many books, especially when you are styling a shelf. In my opinion, no solid, horizontal surface is complete without them! Try not to use just any books, though. I recommend investing in books you love and represent your interests, removing dust jackets (unless they are First Editions!) and focusing on those with color coordinated spines or organizing by content.
As you can see in the photo below, I also like to mix books in with valued collectibles. Also, invest in some stellar book ends. While it seems like a splurge, you will not regret it!
Then go crazy! For added dimension, lay some books flat and stack them one on top of the other. You can use these stacks as risers and top each one with a unique item or floral arrangement.
Load up on Accessories
This may be the one time you will hear “it’s ok to load up on accessories!”. Think of each shelf as a blank canvas and design one shelf at a time, but also step back and take the in the entire composition; this will help create a one-of-a-kind, yet balanced, look.
Think of it as showcasing your family’s story, in an artful way. Choose your favorite family photos and place them in black frames. Every once in a while, throw in a crystal or colorful frame for good measure. Art isn’t just for walls! Lean framed art behind other collectibles for a layered look. When dealing with large items, one approach is to designate one per shelf to create structure and balance.
The below shelves are in my living room and I designed them to showcase my family’s interest and personalities. When I look at the shelves, I can’t help but smile and reminisce on all the fabulous adventures I have had with my family! Plus, my kids love to look through the shelves and hear stories about the items on display, which brings me to my next point…
If your house is anything like mine- two crazy cute kids running around- then it’s good to design for kids and adults alike. It wasn’t until recently that I was even able to use the lowest shelf for display! Instead, I took their prettiest books, fun, fuzzy bookends, and some chic h toys (yes, they exist) and styled the lowest shelves just for the girls.
This trick worked! Designating the bottom shelves for the kiddos made the items easy for them to access and diverted their attention enough to keep them from rummaging through the rest of the shelves! Now that the girls are old enough to keep their mitts off my porcelain Foo dogs, I styled my lower shelves like a bonafide adult. But… I kept their most prized books, their fuzzy sheep book end (they call it “hairy baby”) and a few other items just for them on their very own shelf.
Play with Colors
To color block or not to color block – that is the question! When deciding how to style your bookshelves, first sit and observe your overall space. Is there is any specific color you want to highlight? This is your chance!
For instance, in the dining room photo below, there is a stunning large-scale painting showcased and we reference this work when we styled the shelving. To highlight some of those bright blue hues, we lined up colorful vintage glasses in a monochromatic order, mixed in additional color-specific décor and added a small vase of yellow and orange blooms to complete the look. This is a perfect example of incorporating a color theme and highlighting statement pieces in a room.
Pro tip: Another fab way to design bookshelves is to break them up with a desk or, in this instance, a buffet. The gray/blue shade combined with the subtle white counter top pairs nicely with the artwork, without stealing the show.
The photo below is an example of styling bookshelves with a strict color theme. Metallic gold accents are the perfect color contrast, allowing the window frames to pop and bring instant glam to the space!
With a mixture of décor, photos and books, you’ll notice each shelf is designed with either gold, white or black accents, maintaining our strong theme. To add a subtle splash of color, incorporate a natural element with greenery or a vase of bright blooms.
Styling shelves can be overwhelming. I don’t love to do it all the time, but when the mood strikes, I put on some music, pour a glass of wine, and make it happen. Just take a step back, examine the entire space and map out your vision.
Once the theme is determined, it’s time for the fun to begin! Go through all your favorite photos, collectibles, art, and décor – lay it all out in the same space and take stock – then, tackle one shelf at a time. I promise you will have a major sense of accomplishment and beautiful shelves to show for it! For more design inspiration follow me on and .