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How to Style a Bookshelf

Styling shelves for your favorite books can be tricky. When designed properly, they can add to the unique ambiance and decor of a room and make it feel welcoming. When done poorly, this decorative object just looks like a hot mess of clutter.

Not to mention, bookshelves are kind of personal. A look at someone’s bookcase can tell you a lot about both their personality and their sense of aesthetics.

Since a bookshelf can often be a focal point in a home, shelf styling should be simple but also still attractive, regardless of where you place it.

Styling bookshelves in the right way is easy to say but challenging to do, so here we are with our top tips to help you in all of your shelf styling endeavors.

Tips to Style a Bookshelf

Consider Where You’re Placing It

Before you start bookcase styling with the surrounding decor, think about its placement. The size and placement of a bookshelf needs to be in harmony with the size and scale of the room it’s placed in. Bookshelves naturally draw attention and set the tone.

Two identical––yet smaller––bookshelves are often better than one giant one. When placed together, they look neat and tidy. If you are making a bookshelf from scratch, you might consider placing it over a fireplace or your television to help free up extra space. For more advice on how to use vertical space, we cover that topic in detail.

Place Larger Items First

If you start with placing smaller items on your bookshelf, you might end up with no space for your oversized items. We recommend you start with bigger items, for example, artwork or a storage basket, and then place your smaller items. Doing it this way will also help you achieve a look that’s balanced.

Place Horizontal Stacks on Vertical Rows 

Why not start with organizing books? Just leave ample space for decorative items and accessories. Also, don’t stack all the books together. Instead, change the placement of books on each of the shelves.

If you have placed a stack of books on the left corner of your first shelf, use the right corner of the second shelf and possibly the middle area of the third shelf for additional books. Place your favorite books on your shelf for display and stow away your old, ripped books and paperbacks in a decorative basket that you can also place on the shelving somewhere.

Arrange Books by Color, Not Size 

We know this may invite a lot of controversies, but we recommend arranging by their color rather than their size. Like odd numbers, asymmetry of size also captures attention. If you arrange your books by color, you can easily find the book you need in seconds.

Stick to Odd Numbers

If you don’t have an obsession with even numbers, home decorators recommend decorating items in odd numbers to capture more attention and achieve a balanced look. That means you can arrange 1, 3, 5, 7, or 9 items on a shelf at any given time.

If this arrangement doesn’t work for you, hey… don’t blame the odds! Try re-considering the scale and height of some objects; sometimes, objects of the same height can create a very monotonous and dry look.

Add Stylish Paper Weights

Putting small, decorative items on top of your stack of books not only works like a paperweight but also gives off a finished and confident air.  

Add Artwork

Adding a piece of art or two on a bookshelf adds to its pomp. It doesn’t need to be expensive, branded art pieces. You might want to color print your favorite picture or place some family photos in the form of a collage and frame it. Putting artwork near the back of the shelf and layering smaller accessories toward the front can add a feeling of depth to your bookshelf.

Add Indoor Plants 

Indoor plants are healthy home decor items for you and fun for your bookshelf decor. Consider investing in affordable, stylish plant pots and vases to put indoor plants and fresh flowers in.

Plants help improve air quality and look good doing it, so there’s really no reason to not incorporate them. Unless you’re just a plant hater. Or, if you don’t like indoor plants, try artificial plants. They might not clear the air, but they can at least look pretty! 

Take a Final Look and Edit 

At the end of the day, it’s your beautiful bookshelf and your house. Once you feel that your bookshelf styling is satisfactory, stand back and take a final, critical look. Ask yourself if the style suits your personality and the overall ambiance of the room. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to try, try again. The fun of decorating is that nothing is truly permanent! 

Learning how to style a bookshelf isn’t that different from learning how to style anything else. Just remember, a bookshelf doesn’t have to be picture-perfect. In fact, many bookshelves benefit from a little imperfection now and then.

At Inside Weather, our bookcases are completely customizable from the width, shelf configuration, wood finish and number of shelves. Shop now!