8 easy tips for how to style a bookshelf to perfection! Get a designer look that is styled beautifully with these expert tips and examples.

It’s true that some people have so many books that they fill all the shelves of a bookcase. If you have lots of books you might think that a bookshelf should be to display books and that’s it. And that’s okay but…

For others, a bookshelf is another surface on which to display accessories and important belongings. Shelves are opportunities to create beautifully styled stories and vignettes. So if you want to up your “shelfie” game, here are 8 tips for a how to style a bookshelf to perfection.

How to Style a Bookshelf - 8 Easy and Expert Tips from Tidbits&Twine

8 Tips to Perfectly Style Bookshelves

Whether you are a book lover or just have lots of coffee table books you like to display, shelves are a great opportunity to create a beautiful display. Breaking up your display of books with other decor accents helps to make everything pop!

So whether your styling your living room shelves, office or bedroom, you have an opportunity to create visual interest and display items meaningful to you. So here’s my simple formula to style beautiful bookshelves.

Here’s a short video of how I styled my shelves!

1. Create Layers

Create layers on the shelves working from the back to the front so that you are using the entire depth of the shelf.  This creates more interest than just lining up all of the items in a straight row.  Use the larger items – like vases, picture frames, or greenery – in the back to anchor the space. Place these taller items at the back of the shelf and work forward to the front of the shelf, layering in the smaller items. 

Tip: Using items of varying heights adds interest and dimension to the display.

{via Zin Home}

2. Include Meaningful Objects

What’s the point of display space if you aren’t displaying something meaningful? This could include vintage family heirlooms, collections, antiques, objects from vacations, family photos, etc.

No matter what, be sure that your bookcase includes something of meaning to you. Doing so will ensure that you love the end result!

3. Think Horizontally and Vertically

When thinking about how to style a bookshelf, don’t forget to mix up how you display your books to create added visual interest. Display some books vertically (you can even turn the book spines backward if the deckled edges are prettier!). You can also group stacks of books horizontally. Stack them up to create a tall display or use stacks of horizontal books and add a decorative object to the top of the book.

Tip: You can even stack books to act as a bookend for those displayed vertically!

{via Finding Home Farms}

4. Add Organic Elements

Use a variety of textures on each shelf for added interest and to give it a “lived in” feel. These natural elements provide organic shapes and textures that help break up the overall look.

Organic elements include small plants, dried arrangements, succulents, seashells, flowers, feathers, preserved plants, or even heavily aged paper on books! You can include them in standard pots or vases, but it’s also an opportunity to use a unique bowl or vessel so that you’re displaying two things in one. For example, preserved moss in an antique ironstone bowl!

No sunlight? No problem! You can find my favorite faux plants in my resource guide!

Tidbits and Twine - Brooke Giannetti black antique cabinet with books
{via Brooke Giannetti}

5. Create Groupings

To successfully style a bookshelf, use a variety of objects on each shelf to create groupings.  For example, instead of placing all books on one shelf and all picture frames on another, mix all of the items together.  This not only helps to create a more balanced look, but also gives a more interesting look to the entire bookcase.  Mix your books and decor together!

Styled bookshelf

The exception to this is if you’re using your bookcase to display various groupings of collections.

6. Include Variety

When selecting objects for your bookshelf, look for items that have interesting shapes, varying heights, and a mix of finishes from rough to smooth, dull to shiny. You can even use items with contrasting colors. This variety will create greater visual interest overall!

How to Style Style a Bookshelf with a variety of objects
{via Dress Cori Lynn}

7. Balance the Weight

Ensure that you create an overall balanced look from side to side and top to bottom.  You might have to stand back to assess whether you’ve achieved balance and adjust if necessary.

Tip: For very tall bookcases in spaces with high or vaulted ceilings, use larger pieces on the top shelves to ensure that they can be seen.  For standard ceilings, use the larger pieces on the bottom shelves; otherwise, larger pieces on the top feel as if they are looming over you or as if they will fall on you.

White bathroom shelves styled with with blue folded towels jewelry cloches vintage trophies soap displays

8. Use Decorative Storage

Look for decorative containers like storage baskets or beautiful boxes to store practical items like DVDs and toys.  This will keep the space looking tidier and overall, more attractive.

{via Emily Henderson}

Bonus: Empty space (known as white space in the industry) is okay!  Sometimes, we feel the need to fill every inch of a shelf so that we don’t waste space, but this often leads to the bookcase looking cluttered.  Leaving a bit of empty space here and there throughout the bookcase helps to keep it looking more organized and intentional.

I hope this gave you some good ideas for how to style a bookshelf! Happy styling!

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  1. Since I work as a copywriter, I have quite a few books. Although it depends not only on my job, I just love to read. Very useful post, thank you!

  2. This is a welcome post. I’ve been struggling with book shelf arrangements for the longest time. Now I have ideas to follow for re-arranging the shelving in my great room. Thank you!

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