I don’t know if it’s just me, but a lot of times when I see a gorgeously styled bookshelf, it seems to be lacking one very important element… the books! I mean, as beautiful as those perfectly styled bookshelves can be, the whole purpose of them is to hold books, right? So where did all the books go?
I know, I know, in today’s digital age everybody has their phones and tablets and e-readers, so we don’t really need to have a bookshelf filled with books, but we still have a lot of print books in our home, and that’s not about to change. And I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing quite as satisfying as cracking open a new book and smelling that new book smell.
Worry not, though, my fellow bookworms, because there is still hope for those of us who yearn for a gorgeously styled bookshelf that we can use for actual books. There’s no need to convert your entire print library into digital or take some other drastic measure. When it comes down to it, we can style a bookshelf that, dare I say, looks totally magazine-worthy!
How to Style a Bookshelf Like the Pros
1. Completely empty your bookshelf to give yourself a blank slate to work with. While you’re at it, this is a good opportunity to give the shelf a good cleaning and even move it to a different spot if you like.
2. This is also a great time to give your book collection a good decluttering. As you empty your bookshelves, you might discover books that have been collecting dust for years that you’ve never gotten around to reading. Go through all your books and decide if they are something you will actually read or you’re just holding onto them for that “maybe, someday” moment. If you find books that you’ll probably never read, then put them in a box to donate to your local library or a friend. This will help clear a bit of space and eliminate some clutter for your gorgeously styled bookshelf.
3. Decide how you’d like to organize your books. You might get super creative and sort them by color or size if that’s your thing, or even alphabetical order. Personally, I sort our books by category. For example, I have all of my fiction books together, my husband’s sci-fi books together, his history/military books together, and test-prep books and text books together. I find this makes it easier for us to find what we’re looking for at a glance. But I encourage you to use whatever organization system works best for you and your home!
4. Start placing your books on the bottom of the bookshelf. Then move up the shelves, placing books on each shelf as you go. If your organization system allows it, try to place the heavier books on the bottom and the lighter books towards the top. Don’t worry about getting it exactly right the first time. You can always rearrange and play with the books until they look the way you want.
5. When you’re placing books, be sure to stack some vertically and some horizontally to vary the visual effect. This is also helpful, because you can sometimes store more books if they’re stacked upwards than you would be able to just have them regularly on the shelf. Try to vary the book placement on each shelf, some left and some right, to make sure each shelf isn’t exactly the same, and leave a bit of room on each shelf for accessories.
6. If you have space on the shelves, use baskets and decorative boxes to add storage to the bookshelf and give it a nicely styled look. If you don’t have space for decorative baskets and boxes because there are too many books, you can make space by putting some of the books inside of the boxes. (Yep, those baskets totally have more books in them!) This is also a great way to hide those less-than-savory book titles 😉 or just make room for more books.
7. Add some greenery or flowers to bring color and life to the bookshelf. Then place some accessories around the books and baskets. I recommend starting with larger accessories, and then filling in the shelves with smaller accessories. Use special mementos you have lying around the house or just home decor items from the store.
8. When placing accessories, try to mix items of different height and color to give the shelves variety. Layer some items towards the front and the back to create depth. And you can even put small accessories on top of some of the piles of books to give your bookshelves a little extra pizzazz.
And there you have it… a beautiful bookshelf that looks professionally styled! Feel free to play around with the placement and positioning of the books and accessories until you have a nice visual balance. The great thing about styling a bookshelf is it’s super easy to change, and there are truly an endless amount of different arrangements you can create! There’s no right or wrong answer here. As long as you think it looks nice in your home, that’s all that really matters!
So, tell me, how will you be styling your bookshelves? Is there a certain way you categorize your books? Let me know in the comments! And if you enjoyed this post, you’ll love my newsletter. Sign up below for weekly craft, DIY, and home projects and tips!
Beautiful job Celeste. It has the right mix of color and texture. I have too many books and refuse to part with them. But now because I really need to declutter I am trying to find new homes for some of them. A home is not complete unless it has books.
Thanks, Mary! And I agree… What is a home without books? It can be hard to declutter your book collection. There are so many great ones! I try to keep only the books I’m going to read or ones that I would reread again and again because they’re so good. Any books that are mediocre or I just can’t seem to start or finish because they’re not that compelling end up getting donated to make room for books we really love!
Thanks for this great article. I love my books, and have donated so many to a local charity, but the bookshelf is still a bit of a tip. I’ll be trying some of these tricks for my *big* springclean coming up shortly.
So glad to hear you’re making such great progress decluttering your books, Helen! Hope your bookshelf turns out wonderfully!
I’ve been sitting here, scrolling and reading 30+ articles about styling bookshelves. This has been THE BEST one! Just what I needed. I recently bought a floor to ceiling bookcase to store my teenagers childhood books – they saved the ones that meant something to them or provide happy memories for them. I’m excited to get it styled now. Thanks so much!
I like how you said that the great thing about styling a bookshelf is the fact that it’s extremely easy to change! My husband and I are thinking of remodeling our home and adding some new furniture that will help with our de-cluttering and storing all our books and journals. We’ll have to find a beautiful wood bookcase that will help us not only keep our books organized but also add aesthetic value to our house that we can style it however and whenever we feel like it. Thanks for writing this!