4 Ideas for Sprucing Up Your Rooms with Bookshelves

posted: 07/24/15
by: Blythe Copeland

A bookshelf can be one of the most functional pieces of furniture in any room: You can choose from an endless variety of heights and widths to fit your space, and you can easily store everything from toy collections or your grandmother's china vases to favorite photos or, well, books. Follow these tips to keep your shelves from looking jumbled and chaotic, and to make them as beautiful as they are useful.

1. Organize your items.

Group your books, photos, and favorite objects into cohesive groups before arranging your shelves. The categories you choose can vary--don't feel like you have to put books in alphabetical order by subject or keep family photos on one shelf and travel shots on another. Try putting books in order by the color of their spine, or mixing in favorite photographs with jars holding your sea glass collection, dried flowers, or vintage toys. (The globe on the top, like this West Elm one below, is a nice touch.) The idea is to take everything off your shelves and consider which items look the best together--not necessarily how the library would group them.

2. Go from biggest to smallest.

On most shelves, this means starting with the books. But rather than lining them up in straight rows, filling each shelf entirely from side to side, create a mix of vertical and horizontal stacks (like Pottery Barn has done with their Whitney Bookcase below). Use a small stack of hardbacks as a bookend to support a longer row (this also leaves you with a riser for displaying other objects). And remember to leave plenty of blank space: You can use these gaps to have your volumes with more striking covers face forward, or to fill in with art, figurines, and decorations.

3. Play with color.

If you're styling a shelf meant more for decoration than for storage, add color or patterns to the back of the bookcase with paint, wallpaper, stencils, or fabric. (An Overstock.com cube shelf, seen below, is a good option.)Keep the focus there by filling the shelves with books and objects in the same color or tone: A collection of thrifted figurines spray painted white; books covered in plain paper (or facing backward so the paper shows instead of the spine); or vases and jars in a monochromatic color palette.

4. Layer in artwork.

Adding artwork or photographs to your bookshelves is an easy way to bring a little of your personality to the space. Help your collection look more consistent by choosing frames in the same color but a variety of sizes, or in coordinating wood tones with a similar shape (we like this inspiration from One Kings Lane). Matting your images can also stop your shelves from looking too cluttered, since the white space around the photos will give them the chance to stand out.