Tips For Designing Bookshelves

Our Work | October 30, 2012

As you might remember my family had new family pictures taken in July by Justin Hackworth. My parents got our family picture framed and put above their mantel. Once it was up there they started to realize how outdated their current bookshelf decor was.
Here is a picture of their mantle and built-ins from a few weeks ago.

They had a lot of really random things on the shelves. 
I think they had just put stuff up just to fill spaces but there was really no rhyme or reason to how it was designed. 
And yes, that is faux Ivy you see up there. (gasp!) 
Just a bunch of “stuff”: random jar of potpourri, a bust of Abraham Lincoln, a large jar covering up something else? Like I said no rhyme or reason to the design. 
My Dad enlisted my help to freshen the shelves up so I got to work! 
I was given a budget of $300 to fill the shelves back up. 
Here is the after:
I kept repeating the mantra “less is more” as I redesigned the shelves. I pulled off almost every knick-knack and tchotchke off the shelves and only left what I really loved or would work well in the space. I also used a lot of white and creams to enable the items to “pop” more off the shelves. 
Almost all of the frames and accessories were purchased at Target. 
I love the Target frames with the large white mats. They really help keep pictures from just blending in with all that dark wood. 

I used green as a my main accent color. 


Notice that there isn’t any clutter. When you have so many shelves it’s easy for things to get easily lost. Especially the items that are up high. I kept everything simple and clean. 

Here are some of my tips when designing shelves.
1. Remember the mantra, less is more. If you don’t love it then you don’t need it. 
2. Don’t buy random suveniors when you are on vacation. My mom had picked up seashells, mini terra-cotta warriors, wooden boats, wooden animals, ceramic sculptures and other tchotchkes from all her travels. While I don’t think you need to totally ban all souvenir buying I would say think carefully about what you are buying. I think some of the best souvenirs are just beautifully framed photographs from your trips. 
3. Put bigger items up higher. Small items can get lost easily when you put them too high up. Move your smaller items to the lower shelves and your bigger items up high. 
4. Stay away from faux Ivy. No explanation needed. 
5. Pick accessories that “pop”. My parents have dark cabinetry so I wanted to pick a lot of lighter items to create contrast and make the accessories noticeable. 
6. Leave negative space. Not every shelf needs a million things on it. Sometimes one single item stands much better on it’s own. 
If your shelves are feeling cluttered to yourself a favor. Take everything off and start from scratch. A few new accessories can go along way!