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5 Tips on How To Style A Bookcase

Decorating and styling a bookcase can be overwhelming. You don’t want your bookshelf to look cluttered. You want the shelves to hold all your books, knickknacks and decorations, yet not look thrown together.  You want the bookcase (in my opinion) to make a statement when someone walks into the room. It’s hard to know how to style a bookcase that looks pulled together.

Well don’t worry! Styling a beautiful, eye catching bookcase isn’t hard. You just need a few decorating tips to help your shelves appear cohesive, interesting and uncluttered.  I have simple, easy-to-follow guidelines to show you how to style a bookcase that looks great. These bookcase decorating tips will give you the stylish look you crave. So, if you’re ready to create a perfect bookshelf look to dress up the corner of any room, follow these bookshelf styling tips.

create depth

A beautifully styled bookcase with black and white striped wallpaper and vases, books, decorative plates and trinkets.

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A white wooden built-in bookcase with a blue polka-dotted wallpaper background styled with accessories like books, storage containers, vaese, pictures and artwork

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Create depth using paint or wallpaper in the back of your bookshelf.

Bookshelves are often quite shallow or narrow (8”-16” in most cases), but still add tons of depth to the room. This is an especially effective bookcase styling tip if you don’t have a lot of space for deep shelves. You can style a bookcase with an interesting look that blends seamlessly with the rest of the room.

I really love the look of painted or wallpapered backs of the shelves. Decorating the inside back of the shelves creates depth and tons of visual interest. This decorating technique is also a great way to pull pattern and color in your room. If you have a relatively neutral room with a few pops of color on throw pillows, or other items, then painting or papering the back of your bookshelf with the same color will really balance the look. I also think color on the back of the bookcase helps the items you style on the shelf really stand out. It creates great contrast.

use natural elements

A bookcase styled with natural elements like decorative driftwood and woven baskets, stick sculptures, and plants.

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Use pieces of natural elements to ground your bookshelf display.

Your bookshelf should reflect what you love. The shelves should include items meaningful to you. Branches, rocks, plants, shells from your travels – these are all great natural elements to add to your shelves to ground your display. These natural items play well with modern decorations and really add interest to your bookshelves.

My daughter collects acorns, so we placed a whole bowl full of them on our bookshelf. We often look at them and admire them. It reminds us of the time we spent together collecting them (like shells might remind you of a day at the beach). I love that the acorns aren’t something I picked up at the store but have meaning to us. Style a bookcase with natural items to add a personal touch to the shelf.

group collections

White wooden bookcase styled with collections of unique items like books, vintage vases and pedestals, woven baskets and books.

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Group your collections all together as you style your bookshelves.

We all collect items, especially if you love design and decorating. Maybe you pick up vintage flower frogs, vases, or figurines whenever you go to flea markets. Perhaps when you travel you love to look for glass ornaments or wooden boxes. Whatever you collect, group similar items together and use them to add impact when you style a bookcase.

It’s easy to accumulate huge collections of stuff, so pare it down to the items most meaningful to you, or your very favorites. Grouping the items together seems purposeful rather than a random collection of odds and ends. Not only will grouping the items help your collection look less busy on the shelf but it will balance out your assemblage. Grouping items on the shelf creates a big impact, like this bookshelf with clocks and glass balls.

remove book sleeves

This natural colored wood bookshelf is styled with old books that are desleeved and turned around to display the pages, along with white porcelain vases.

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Remove book sleeves or turn them around when you style the shelves.

I swear this is one of the biggest bookshelf styling tricks of the trade! There is a method to the madness of styling all those books our clients own and don’t want to part with. Books are a beautiful part of the shelf display, but oftentimes the covers feature a mishmash of colors, patterns, and styles that detract from the cohesive look of your shelf.

I love the look of a uniformed cover (use kraft paper, white wrapping paper, or a neutral pattern to wrap the books with). Label them on the spine if you are worried you can’t identify the books once they’re covered. Another option when you style a bookcase is to turn the books around so you just see their pages. This is especially beautiful if you’re styling an old collection of books.

White bookshelf styled with stacks of books, candlesticks, and matching white vases

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hang small art

This beautiful bookcase is styled with family pictures with matching gold colored frames and stacks of magazines

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Hang small art or a mirror on the front of your shelves.

If you’re worried about losing wall space with a bookshelf, never fear! You can easily add art to the shelf. Not only do framed paintings and mirrors look great nestled amongst the other items on the shelf, but you can mount them right to the front of the bookcase!

I love this. I think it is almost like jewelry for your bookcase. In the example photo, I especially love how the stylist used a piece of art with a gold frame to echo the other framed pictures in the bookcase and really tie the whole piece together.

White double bookcase styled with artwork and collectables with a red and white patterned wallpaper background

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Gorgeous botanical art or a classic mirror add visual impact and even make the room appear larger. The botanicals call back to the color in the couch pillows and the pops of red on the shelves. Mirrors literally reflect the colors of the room surrounding them. Hanging items to the front of the shelf is a perfect tip for professionally styling a bookcase.

A white wooden bookcase with cube shelves, styled with a mirror in the center and filled with colorful stacks of books

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When it comes to styling a bookcase the most important tip to remember is to have fun with it and use items that reflect your personality. A bookshelf should complement the room around it and add interest to your room. Decorating a bookcase is a lot of fun because there’s space to work with and you can change it up regularly. It’s an easy way to transform the look of the room anytime you feel like it. So don’t be afraid to play around with your bookshelf!

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