How to Style a Gorgeous Bookcase

Did you ever wish you could make your messy bookcases look like they do in a magazine?  Let me show you how bookcase styling can make yours look fabulous, too!  You’ll have to empty out the contents first, then:

meg braff design

Design by Meg Braff via Pinterest

1.  Start with hardback BOOKS.  It is a bookcase, afterall.  Your bookcases will always look cluttered and messy if it’s filled with trinkets and photos.  I think bookcase styling should require more books than anything else.     

styling bookcases

Velvet & Linen 

2.  Remove dust jackets and group books by COLOR.  You really don’t need those dustjackets unless you are taking the book to the pool or something.  Your husband may think it’s crazy, but grouping your books by color makes a really beautiful effect in your bookcases.

books grouped by color

via Pinterest

3.  Arrange the books in your bookcase in a zig-zag pattern.  Start with a half row of books from the left of the shelf to the middle, in order of descending height.  On the shelf below, start from the opposite side.

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Zigzag Pattern in Bookcases via Pinterest

4.  Place a short stack of books or an object that acts as a bookend at the end of each book grouping.  Good objects to use in bookcase styling include vases, pottery, collections, and small boxes.

5.  Intersperse a large stack of horizontal books in the center of a shelf here and there, rather than arranging them vertically.  Pop an interesting object or framed photo on top.

bookcase styling

via Pinterest

6.  Add in objects that have some connection in groups of three, like three varying sizes of pottery/vases in the same color family.

7.  Place wicker or rattan baskets in the bottom shelves of your styled bookcase to house paperback books, paperwork, dvds, and children’s toys.

bookcases

BHG via Pinterest

8.  Hang a couple of small pieces of art in the back of the bookcase, or you can even hang one on the frame of the bookcase if you’re feeling feisty.

art hung on bookcase

9.  Remember to step back and look at the bookcase as you are working.  Think about visual balancing things across the bookcase.  If you step back and look at the entire thing every few minutes, you’ll see where you need to add and subtract.

10.  Having trouble finding objects to use in styling the bookcase?  Dishes from your kitchen cabinet, travel memorabilia, or objects from nature make interesting and inexpensive art for your bookcases.

bookcase styling

 via Pinterest

I hope that helps!  Check out my Furniture Arranging Workshop to learn how to utilize my method for arranging furniture, artwork, and accessories.

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Linda
Guest

I know bookcase styling is so challenging for so many of my clients and this is great, easy to follow advice.

Karin Pereira
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Karin Pereira

Just what I need in arranging my million cook books as a whole art selection. Thanks!

Kelly
Guest

I love styled bookshelves! Great instructions Kristie. Bookshelves are a great way to show some personality in a room. Beautiful examples photos. Wish I lived closer- I would love to come to your class!

TKraft Art & Interiors
Guest
TKraft Art & Interiors

Another great post – thanks. Books are my shoes! I love walking into to someones home and seeing bookcases filled with books and collections of their life and travels. And when I walk into a interior design job and find or rather don’t find bookcase they are there when I leave the site.

Anna at Kindel Furniture
Guest

This is great advise with easy to follow directions. I love your photos!

Kari
Guest

Thanks for these great tips! I’m definitely going to bookmark this post. My bookcases always look messy and blah to me – never like the pretty ones on Pinterest or in decorating magazines. You telling us to get rid of the book jackets is a biggie for me – the OCD in me can’t hardly remove the book jackets, LOL! But, I know that would make a huge difference so I’m going to do it.

Angel
Guest
Angel

Krista, this is incredibly helpful to me! My living room bookcase is now on my “to do” list. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. 🙂

Angel
Guest
Angel

I meant Kristie not Krista :/

Chez
Guest
Chez

Such great and clear advice – thank you! Especially love the zig-zag direction. Thanks!

Abby M. Interiors
Guest

This is a fantastic post! I dare say the best post I’ve read on how to style bookcases. Bravo, my friend. You are rocking the design world. 🙂
Abby

Kari
Guest
Kari

I have built-ins flanking a fireplace in my kitchen and I am having the worst time styling them! I have great bookcase built-ins in my living room, and I love the way they look, but the kitchen is throwing me off. Any advice for this room?

Annie Vincent
Guest

Great tips!! I am hoping to be installing a bookcase soon and I will be referencing this for tips!

Wish I was local I would be asking hubby for a ticket to your workshop for sure!!

Elayne
Guest

How do you find anything that way? How do you find your Heinlein books, or your books on knitting? They don’t get published by color and size.

Lee
Guest
Lee

I’m going to have to voice dissent here. There is a big difference between decorating with books and actually using them. If I grouped our books by color I’d never find them. They are organized according to the Dewey Decimal System categories and in alphabetical order by author. We have hundreds of books and yet I can find just the one I need at a moment’s notice! Unless of course it is already in someone’s room being read and reread. Books should be used for their content not their color.

Jil McDonald
Guest

Absolutely Brilliant, so easy to follow and concise!
Thanks for sharing!

Francie
Guest
Francie

Thank you so much for this fabulous post, Kristie! It is full of great advice and photos, and I will definitely be using it as a reference for my sunroom bookshelves which are in serious need of styling. In fact, I am having to resist the urge to take everything off of them right now because I have way too much work to do today. But sometime soon this is happening. I know your event will be fabulous and wish I could attend but have to give a presentation that night.

Kim L.
Guest

Great ideas! Thanks for sharing 🙂

Bonnie Marie Z
Guest
Bonnie Marie Z

I absolutely love this post! Finally, a post about styling bookcases that focuses on books! I hope to be able to use your great tips in our living room and share the results on my own blog!

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It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this outstanding blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.

I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.
Chat soon!

Livia
Guest

Very useful post. Like a Perfect and easy to follow procedure. I am styling my office bookcase now, and I am having trouble with the fact that I have to combine my design with my spiritual books to keep them in the proper place for colour and size. My husband laughs…

Jeanne Kramer
Guest

Just when I thought I was done redecorating my office, you reminded me that I should go back and look at my bookshelves again. Just took all covers off of the hardbacks and regrouped them by color. WOW- what a difference! Thank you!!

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Kathy
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Kathy

You are about the first stylist I have heard who thinks that bookcases should be full of books! And you don’t say cover them in paper or turn them around so only the pages show. Do you have any advice to make a very large collection of books more attractive? I really must to have the books grouped by subject, with history, art and biographies further organized roughly by time period, not by size or color, but I can subdivide somewhat within categories or on a single shelf or block of shelves. I do somewhat shelf by size within each… Read more »