One of the biggest design challenges for people seem to be how to style bookshelves. That tends to be one of the top questions we get! And we totally get it. It can be confusing and sometimes frustrating. Even for us designers it can be a matter of trial and error when it comes to styling bookshelves.We recently did some simple styling in a client’s built in. It just goes to show even the simplest styling can go a long way.We like to start by laying out all of our accessories. Being able to visually see what we are working with helps the process go a lot faster and helps us place everything. It’s better to have too many options and have to return the accessories than not have enough!Then comes the fun part. Putting everything together! We will group items together, incorporating various heights, textures and colors while leaving enough negative space to avoid a cluttered feel. Sometimes it can take a lot of switching items to get the perfect vignette. Have fun and remember it’s a process and can take some time.
There are some guidelines we like to follow when styling shelves:
Use Both High and Low End Items: We like to use both high end and more affordable accessories. This not only helps keep costs down but using higher end items will make your shelves more interesting and unique.
Incorporate Art: Small pieces of framed art is a great way to bring in some color and interest. It is also a good place to bring in personal interests and allows for easy layering.
Baskets: We like to incorporate baskets on the bottom shelves of a built-in. It adds concealed storage and also is a great way to take up space which can save money.
Don’t Forget to Use Books: This one might seem like a no brainer, but really don’t forget to incorporate books for styling. They allow for easy groupings, both lying down or standing up. Using books can add varying levels. If you don’t own a lot of books this part can add up pretty fast. One thing we like to do is go to the local bookstore (i.e. Barnes & Noble) and dig through the bargain bins. Even if we don’t like the jacket of the hardcover we’ll take it off and still use the book.
Stick to Neutral Accessories: Neutral Accessories allow for possibilities when it comes to styling. The more neutral pieces you get, the more options you will have as you go along. They will also stand the test of time more so than crazy colored items.
Bring In Greenery: Bringing the outside in is always a good idea and styling bookshelves is no different. Plants just bring such a fresh feel to the space, whether it is live or not.
Remember these shelves? They’ve become some of our favorites.
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7 thoughts on “Tips for Successful Bookshelf Styling”
This post was very helpful. I’m a new follower and would like to ask a question re lighting on a shelving unit. I recently re-did our family room wall unit. It was stained oak w/mirror back and glass shelves. Now everything is painted white, no mirror and shelves are wood. The problem I’m seeing is the lighting, which is 3 small spots on the “ceiling” of the unit on each side. Now that the shelves are solid, the light is stopped and quite bright on the top shelf only. My question is: should I just never use the lights? should I add glass to the existing front wood panel of the shelves so the light shines through and down, illuminating everything? It’s not prohibitively costly to change out the wood shelf to glass leaving the front edge as wood, but sure would love some guidance. I’m thinking that if the shelves are glass, there will still be shadows where the light hits the items on the shelf. If I need to take a picture and proceed as a client, I am willing to do that. Thank you!
Hi Polly! We would keep the shelves wood and not use the lights. 🙂
Love this. I think another good tip is start with what you have. Do you have a Russian nesting doll that your grandmother gave you, or a cool looking rock/geode you picked up while at the family cabin? Include those as accessories with your high and low items.
Beautiful items purchased from Home Goods or West Elm can bring a feeling of sophistication, but your memories are what will bring a smile to your face and make the space look like YOU live there. But I’m a fairly sentimental person!
Where did you get that darling vintage framed landscape? I’m in desperate need of art and wanted to start collecting whilst on a budget! Would love to know a great Utah source 🙂
Did you mean the black and white one? That is from minted.com.
Can you tell me if This is painted white brick around the fireplace or white tile? And if it is tile, what kind? Love the clean look
It was just a simple ceramic subway tile you could find anywhere.
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