It’s one of the great decorating dilemmas: how to style your bookcase. Honestly, I think the word “styling” sends some people into panic mode, when it’s really not that complicated.
My method goes something like this: books first (vertical + horizontal stacks); add at least one larger object per compartment; fill in with small accessories; layer with leaning frames, art or even by hanging a mirror on the front.
Not all bookcases can (or should) look alike. I think you have to find your own “bookcase style” and go with that. I’m personally a fan of the more layered (aka “crammed”) bookshelf. In the past, when I’ve helped friends or clients with theirs, I almost always end up saying the same thing: “You need more books.” Books provide an abundance of color and an element of coziness—and make it actually look like a bookshelf and not just a display cabinet.
If you don’t have enough books to start, I think it’s worth a trip (or two) to Goodwill to load up. You might also check with your library or thrift stores about annual book sales. (Is it bad to style with books you may never read? Here are my thoughts on that subject.) They don’t have to be the prettiest or most vintage books around. Stick your Danielle Steele books up there—but at least remove the glossy jacket. ;) If it’s something you know you’ll never read, maybe spray paint some of them for color. (Yes, you can do that.)
Once you have your books in place, I usually search the house for the smaller pieces. I bet you already have most of what you need. Lean a piece of artwork made by your kid, pull some pretty bowls from your kitchen cabinets, display a favorite vase or some candlesticks. Look around the house for heavier objects that could serve as bookends. I’m 99% sure you’ll end up liking the way this looks, as opposed to going to Target and buying all new accessories specifically for your shelves.
I realize I can show you the process of decorating my own bookshelves all day long, but it still might not make you feel any more confident to tackle your own. In that case, you might like my friend Heather’s online class. If you already read her blog The Decor Fix, then you know that she’s gifted at styling and breaking down the steps, teaching others how to actually do it. Her “bookshelf styling class” launches today, and I think it could be a really helpful resource for those of you who feel stuck. The course will give you practical advice and assignments so you can practice what you learn:
If you decide to sign up for the course—or forward this info to a friend—I’d love for you to use my affiliate link here. Also, I expect to see some before and afters once you become a styling extraordinaire. :)
And, if you want to share your own bookcases on Instagram, use #bookshelfstylingclass (and tag me! @emilyaclark).