There have been more tutorials on bookcase styling in the last ten years than you could possibly ever need. I’m not sure when the concept of “styling” a shelf really caught fire but I’m sure we can credit that to Pinterest and Instagram, like so many other things. There’s not necessarily a right or a wrong way to do it, but I am a big fan of starting with books(!!) and filling in with personal things and found objects. Not the other way around.
I’ve had several people ask me for help in styling their shelves (usually large built-ins they’ve inherited around a TV) and my first question is always “Where are your books?” Decorative accessories are fine, but most well-styled shelves can’t be knocked out in a day–or in a month. My favorite look is shelves that are crammed and collected over time. After mine were “finished”, I’ve continued to add in more books, little objects my kids have made in art class, loose photographs. . . To me, it makes a room more interesting and cozier.
- Layer books in both horizontal and vertical groupings. And if you have an overflow of books (I’m getting there!), fill in the space above your vertical groupings with smaller horizontal stacks on top.
- Use a collection you may already have (ginger jars, candle sticks, milk glass, etc.) and spread it around throughout the shelves.
- Avoid “filling space” with just one big decorative accessory on a single shelf. This is when things start to look overly styled.
- Lean art and framed photos against the back of shelves where you have gaps.
- If space allows, hang a small mirror or artwork on the front of your shelves. (I’ve done this with both small nails and command hooks.)
- If your book collection isn’t huge or is still growing, fill bottom shelf space–and gain hidden storage–by using woven or fabric baskets.
- Another trick if you don’t have a ton of books: put them all in horizontal stacks and add decorative objects on top of some of them.
- Mix in favorite photos. (The frames don’t have to match.)
- Paint the back of your shelves (or the whole thing!) a dark color to give the illusion of a fuller bookcase.
- Don’t overthink it–and don’t be afraid to continuously change it up. A good bookcase is always evolving.