The bookshelves in my office were the first thing I really unpacked when we moved to this house 6 months ago. I found the box full of all the decor and was so excited to put it away! Since then, a lot of the decor has been moved elsewhere and it just needed a quick refresh (with a really good cleaning).
I’ve gotten lots of questions on how to style bookshelves so I thought I’d share a few formulas I use in case you need a fail proof way to make your shelves look cute! Side note, this bookcase was a DIY I did just over a year ago. Here’s the post where I shared how I made over an affordable IKEA bookcase!
How to style a bookcase
Here’s the before- not terrible, but definitely a mess!
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
1. clean it off
Start by taking everything off the shelves. Dust the shelves and all of the books/ chotch ckes. We used this room to cut wood a few weeks ago and I’m still recovering. Is it spring yet?!
All the extra decor went on a table next to the shelves so I could see everything I had.
2. Start with art
I’m a huge fan of mixing art with my books. I feel like it breaks things up and gives the shelves interest. Finding affordable art (on Etsy- search “printable art” or by going on Pinterest and searching “free decor printable”) is a good way to add it on a budget. When I print art at my local print shop it costs around $1 for an 8×10” print- making it super affordable!
Put your favorite art at eye level so its what you see the most. Make sure to pay attention to the composition of how the art pieces play together as you put them out. For example, putting an abstract next to graphic quote art works nicely. If you have smaller art, you can layer it in front of larger art.
3. Add in the books
Now that the art is in, layer in books. I like to alternate putting in books in vertically or laying them down horizontally. Since this bookshelf is open (technically an eta gere), that makes it tricky for putting in books horizontally, but bookends work nicely for that!
These are all books I’ve read and love. One of my favorite gifts to receive are beautiful home decor books! I request them for Christmas and by birthday every year to add to my collection. If you’re a pink lover, you can use this list I made of my favorite books with pink spines.
4. Layer in the decor pieces
To finalize the styling of the bookshelves, layer on the decor pieces. Your goal with this step is to create a dynamic display that is pleasing to the eye.
To do that, picture yourself decorating in a triangle. The art is one point of the triangle, the books are the second, and you’re adding the last point with the decor. These should each be different height so your eye moves around the display.
This is my “display formula” that I’ve used for years. Above is how I use it with books stacked horizontally, below is a visual of books stacked vertically.
It works pretty much anywhere too! Here’s an example of the display formula being used on an end table.
bookcase accessories to use
So what decor should you use on a bookcase? The possibilities are endless! Here is a list of my favorites- candle, art, box, tray, vase, faux plant, pretty books, globe, ceramic or brass animal, bookends, decorative sphere, typewriter, and flowers in a vase.
5. Critique your work
Stand back and see what you think. Here are a few ways to look at your styling with a critical eye-
-squint at it- is there anything that stands out to you in a bad way? Anything feel boring or repetitive?
-take a picture- sometimes looking at a photo helps you see things in a new way since you’re now looking at a 2D object. Make sure nothing in the photo bugs you.
-walk out of the room and come back in- what stands out to you when you first come back? Does it stand out in a good or bad way?
Now rearrange the offending pieces until you like it. It’s ok to move things- home decor isn’t meant to be permanent. If you need help, send your picture to a friend and ask for advice. Once you get things how you like them, now you have a fully “done” area! Doesn’t it feel good?!
Alright- there are my best steps on styling a bookcase! I’ve also shared a few tips on this post for how I styled my rainbow bookcase.
I’m ready to move on in this office for more decorating! Next step, getting rid of the dining table so I can have the pink sofa become the focal point of the room!
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