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4 Simple Tips for Styling a Bookshelf

March 2023

Styling a bookshelf is the best way to rejuvinate your space.

Spring is coming and it’s time for a little refresh to welcome the new season! An easy way to welcome subtle yet impactful change is through shelf styling. Gone are the days where bookshelves only held rows and rows of books. Nowadays, bookshelves hold opportunities to display more than literature, but also precious knick knacks, artifacts, art, frames, decorative objects, candles, and more. The art of displaying some of our favorite little things has extended beyond bookshelves, with even kitchen countertops becoming the center stage for our most prized decor pieces. But that’s for another day... 


Today, I’m sharing 4 simple tips for styling an elegant bookshelf. Included within this post are some quick affiliate links that I hope are helpful as you style!


Tip #1: Curate your selection. 

Styling bookshelves, especially larger or multiple bookshelves, can seem overwhelming. However, having a curated design for your shelves can make a profound statement in a room, rather than a cluttered eyesore.

The keyword is curated. So, your first step is to become the curator for your very own art gallery. What pieces do you really love and want to display? What’s the color scheme you are going for? What feels special or unique to your home? What art would you like to showcase? Any frames with family photos? What feels repetitive or unnecessary? For me, I always get caught up in the little objects that don’t necessarily serve a purpose or add visual interest, but they look so dang good in the store. Then I bring it home and wonder… “where do I even put this?” The reality is, items like those should have stayed on the store shelves, not on my bookshelves. 

Think about tying in sculptural pieces like large vessels, bowls, and vases. And remember to shop your own home to find some of these items! Once you’ve curated your selection and feel confident in the items you have sourced, it’s time for the next step.

Tip#2: Place your books first, and build around them.  

Regardless of design trends, bookshelves still need…books. Gather your books and place them on your shelves first, so that they can serve as the anchor of your design. Next, you can build around them with all of your accessories. This part is key because if you decorate with accessories first, you may realize there isn’t enough space for your books and then you’ll have to work backwards. 

Some of my favorite book staples on my shelves include: Architectural Digest at 100, This is Home, Live Beautiful, Beautifully Organized, Made For Living, and Pacific Natural.


Tip#3: Take pictures of different options.  

Shelf styling can take hours when exploring the various layouts and styling options. This can turn a fun activity into a grueling one pretty quickly. A great way to assess all of your possibilities while keeping spirits high is by creating an album of unique configurations to choose from. Take pictures of several different options and then swipe through to see what resonates with you. Once you’ve found your favorite design creation, you can set it all back up using your visual guide straight from your phone

Tip#4: Focus on visual balance to avoid clutter. 

When in doubt, focus on groups of three. Whether you’re pairing artwork or decorative objects, a good rule of thumb is keeping a balance of three. But most importantly, make sure to avoid clutter by focusing on visual balance. Not every shelf needs to be stuffed with books and items! Negative space allows your eyes to travel easily and fully enjoy a visual experience. You may find that you have one shelf with only one item resting on it, and the impact and simplicity may surprise you! 


The Takeaway: 

Of all of the tips I can share, my biggest piece of advice is to remember that you’re creating a visual experience that should reflect your personality and the essence of your home. So, grab some snacks, light your favorite candle, and have fun - this can become a seasonal activity you look forward to with your family as you change around items that capture the heartbeat of your space. If you’re a home decor enthusiast like me, having a corner in your home you can continually update with your latest finds and your most prized treasures can be little #pocketsofpeace to look forward to throughout the year! 

Images by: Kinna Shaffer

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