How to Style a Bookshelf Like a Pro!

How to Style a Bookshelf Like a ProBookshelves can be so much fun to decorate, but sometimes, it’s hard to find the right balance between having it look organized and having it look natural.  If you’ve ever tried just randomly placing items on the shelves, you know that it can quickly look like a disorganized mess!  So how do people get those great looking shelves that seem so effortless?   A lot of planning, that’s how!


by Emily A. Clark
by Emily A. Clark

I came across this bookshelf while browsing Houzz and thought it was a great example of how to style a bookcase.  At first glance, it might look like things were haphazardly placed on the shelves because there doesn’t immediately appear to be any sort of pattern.  But in reality, there is!!  These shelves “work” because of three carefully planned and executed things:

1.  Color Palette

2.  Weight Balance

3.  Color Balance






Let’s look at how each of these work:

1.  Color Palette

While there are a lot of colors used on the bookshelf, they are all shades of primary colors and they are used in repetition throughout the space, not just on the shelving.  In this way, the items used on the shelves blend seamlessly with the room and become part of the overall color scheme.

The bookcase is primarily blue and white, with red, gold and green accents and these same colors are found in the room (or at least the part shown in the picture).


Here you can see that the red on the shelves is picked up in the chair and the coffee table décor.Red Accents


Similarly, the gold and green in the chair is picked up in the books on the shelves.Green and Gold Accents


And last but not least, the blue from the back of the shelves is picked up in the chair’s accent pillow.Blue

Even though various shades are being used, all of the colors are primary colors and are used throughout the room, making the bookshelf part of the room’s overall design.

 2. Weight Balance

Although no two shelves are identical, you’ll notice that the weight is evenly balanced between the left and right sides.  Balancing the “visual weight” of objects does not mean that the two sides need to match, it just means that the overall visual space used on one side roughly matches the visual space used on the other.

Here you can see that the top shelves both have the majority of the weight toward the outside of the shelves, with smaller, decorative objects on the inside.Top Shelf


The middle shelf is basically one large mass in the center.  What’s interesting is that the left side would have appeared heavier on the outside (and therefore, not balanced with the right), if it weren’t for the black framed picture that is of equal height to the books, making it appear as if it is one continuous mass on the shelf.Middle Shelf


The bottom shelves are arranged very similarly with books weighing down the sides and decorative objects in the middle.Bottom Shelf


Also notice that the white sculpture on the left is balanced by the larger white matting used in the frame on the right.  And this leads us to the third point, color balance.


 3. Color Balance

Every shelf has a pop of white that balances out the two sides.  The other primary colors are then sprinkled throughout the shelves as accents.  Your eye is trained to find patterns, so you’ll automatically scan between the white objects like a game of connect the dots.  Because every shelf has a white object, your eye will travel the entire bookcase, making it feel balanced.Balanced White



Although this bookshelf was styled as described above, there are actually many ways to style a bookcase.  But in general, the three points above apply to all styled shelves, although the execution might vary.  For instance, here the shelves were weighted evenly from left to right.  In other bookcases, they might be evenly weighted from top to bottom or they might alternate the weight from the left side to the right.

However you style a bookcase, the key is to

  1. balance the color and weight
  2. use colors that are also used throughout the room so that the bookshelf becomes part of the room, not a random object in the room


For more information on decorating bookcases, check out 8 Tips for Giving Your Bookcase a Decorative Look!


Happy styling!






Nature-Inspired Vase Fillers

Vase filled with applesIf it’s true that April showers bring May flowers, then it’s never too early to think about how you might display those flowers!  I was recently sorting through my stash of vases when I came across a baggie full of dusty, colored vase gems (remember those?).  I am NOT a fan of colored vase gems, which got me thinking, if not vase gems, then what are good options for vase fillers?

My issue with colored gems is that they don’t add anything to the beauty of a flower arrangement.  In fact, in my opinion, they detract from it.  Flowers have a natural beauty and you want to focus on the flowers, not on the clump of colored glass sitting at the bottom of the vase.  And if you choose to use a vase filler, then you should think of the filler itself as an arrangement and ensure that it too is beautiful.

So what should you use instead of gems?  Turn to your kitchen for inspiration!  Citrus fruits make beautiful fillers for vases and help to make the entire display an arrangement, from the vase to the flowers.

Limes and Kumquats
Limes and Kumquats

Vase filled with lemons

 Vase filled with lime slices

Vase filled wih applesApples are another good option as their natural colors work well with the flowers and their round shape adds interest.










Cranberries are also great for adding color to an arrangement.Vase filled with cranberries










The key is to look for fruit that has a skin so that it is better protected from the water and doesn’t disintegrate.  Once, when I was young and newly married, I invited my grandparents over for Easter dinner.  I desperately wanted my table to look nice, so at the last minute, I added some strawberries to my flower arrangement.  Whoops!  They looked beautiful for about the first hour, but by dessert, they were faded and mushy.  Not quite the look I was going for….lesson learned!



If you don’t want to use food in your vases, other natural elements can be just as beautiful.  Consider rocks, sand or even seashells!  If you do use these items, though, you might not want to fill the vase entirely, as they can become too heavy looking and outweigh the flower arrangement.Vase filled with seashells and sand Vase filled with rocks


You can also use fun, colorful items in your vases, even if they cannot sit directly in water so long as you use the vase-within-a-vase method.  Just put your flowers in a smaller vase filled with water and then put that inside of a larger vase.  You can then fill the space between the two vases with anything decorative.   Here, M&M’s were used to create a colorful display!Vase filled with candy


Can’t find anything to add to a vase?  Leave the vase empty and add a beautiful ribbon that matches your flowers for a touch of elegance.Vase with ribbon


You don’t necessarily need to throw away your glass gems; they can always be used to hold flowers upright in opaque vases!  But this Spring, think about how you might utilize beautiful and natural vase fillers to create a dramatic display!