If you’re looking to give your bookcase a stylish and polished look, then you’ve come to the right place. Dressing a bookcase may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple. By following a few basic rules, you can transform your bookcase into a beautiful focal point in any room.
In this article, I’ll be sharing 7 rules for how to dress a bookcase like a pro. I’ll cover everything from choosing the right color scheme and arranging objects of different heights to incorporating personal touches and creating balance. Whether you’re a seasoned decorator or a beginner, these tips will help you create a bookcase that’s both functional and beautiful.
Hey there, friend! Let’s talk about one of my favorite things – books!
I love books for so many reasons. First, of course, I love to read them. From the first day, I figured out how I was an avid reader. I had finished reading all the interesting books in the children’s library by the each of 8.
But if you know me, you also know I love books as decorating accessories. In fact, they are the go-to item I grab whenever I am styling a vignette. Books in all colors and sizes are a must have in my home decor.
But where to keep all those books?
Well in a bookcase of course…
I don’t think a house is finished if it doesn’t have at least one bookcase filled with books.
I just love the look of a bookcase, filled with lots of books, don’t you? It’s like each book is waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
And there’s something so satisfying about organizing them just so – maybe by color or author or subject. It’s like creating a little library right in your own home.
Plus, a bookcase can be such a beautiful piece of furniture on its own, especially if you have some antique or unique bookends to display.
But getting a styled bookcase to look good, can be tricky. You don’t want an overcrowded look, or unbalanced, or just straight-up messy.
So how do you dress a bookcase to make it look just right?
Well, if you’re ready to take your bookcase to the next level, read on to learn how to dress a bookcase like a pro.
How to style a bookshelf like a pro
Have you ever wondered whether there are design rules for styling and decorating a bookcase?
The answer is yes. If you follow some rules (or break them intentionally) in decorating it is so much easier to create a cohesive and visually appealing display. When dressing a bookcase it is all about line, balance, and scale!
By following guidelines like grouping books by color or size, adding decorative objects on the shelves, and leaving some empty space, you can achieve a balanced and harmonious look.
Plus, these rules can help draw attention to certain focal points and prevent the bookcase from looking cluttered or overwhelming. So, while it may seem like a bit of a hassle and restricting to follow these rules, it’s totally worth it for a beautifully styled bookcase that is a joy to watch and use.
How to Organize Books on Shelves
You can choose different ways to arrange your books in your bookcase. You might go for a functional, library-style arrangement, or you might organize the books in a more aesthetically pleasing way. It’s all up to you. Just keep these design rules in mind when organizing your books.
Rule 1. Consider Color Palette
You either love it or hate it, but arranging books in a rainbow color scheme is a popular way of making a bookcase filled with lots of books look good.
But even if you don’t want to arrange your books by the colors of a rainbow, it is good to keep an overall color scheme in your mind when arranging the books.
By considering the color palette when dressing your bookcase, you can create a cohesive and visually appealing look that complements the room’s decor.
Consider the room’s color scheme: Look at the colors in your living room and choose to accentuate colors in your bookcase that echo, complement, or contrast with them. For example, if the room has a lot of touches of blue, you may want to choose to give all the blue books a spotlight position in your bookcase.
Rule 2: Mix and Match Book Orientation
One of the most common mistakes people make when dressing up their bookcases is to line up all the books in the same orientation. You know, make them all stand up in a neat row like proper little soldiers.
This can make the bookcase look boring and uninteresting. Instead, I like to mix and match the orientation of my books to make them more interesting by stacking some laying down and grouping others vertically.
By placing some books horizontally and some vertically you create a more dynamic look. If you have the patience for it, you can also alternate the orientation of books on each shelf to create a zigzag pattern. Anything goes, if you think it looks good then go for it!
When mixing and matching book orientation, it’s important though, to keep balance in mind. Make sure the weight of the books is evenly distributed with the bigger and more heavy books more on the bottom and the smaller lighter books at the top of the piles.
Just step back regularly to see if it looks as good from a distance as it does from close by.
Rule 3. Vary Book Sizes
If all the books on your bookshelf are the same size, it can start to look boring and unrealistic (as if you are one of those stylists that buy a hundred books just to style a shelf, have your heard that story?!).
Normally this isn’t a problem because when you have books because you actually like to read them, they will almost certainly be different in size.
Nevertheless, when dressing your bookshelves keep the size and height in mind and group them accordingly. Go for a bit of balance and symmetry.
One way to achieve this is to group books of similar sizes together and then intersperse them with larger or smaller books. Another option is to stack books of different sizes on top of each other to create height variations.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when organizing by book sizes:
- Start with larger items first
- Group books of similar sizes together
- Intersperse larger and smaller books throughout the shelf
- Stack books of different sizes on top of each other to create height variations
- Use bookends to anchor stacks of books and create stability
How to style a bookcase with lots of books
Okay, I am starting here from the presumption that you actually want to organize books on your bookshelves. Maybe you even have lots of books that need a place, and you still want your bookcase to look beautiful and well-decorated.
Styling a bookcase with lots of books is harder than dressing it up with just a few books and lots of accessories but it can be done. Sot start by only putting in the books you use often and preferably that look good. Those ratty, old paperbacks might be better stored in a decorative box.
Rule 4: Create a Balance
When it comes to dressing up your bookcase, creating balance is key. You want to make sure that your bookcase doesn’t look cluttered or too busy, even when there are a ton of books in there. Here are a few tips to help you achieve balance, and optimize the storage space:
- I said it before but use a mix of vertical and horizontal arrangements. Varying book placement will help create visual interest and balance on your bookcase.
- Distribute items evenly. Don’t put all your books on one shelf and all your decor on another. Mix and match to create a cohesive look.
- Use vertical space. Give your books some breathing room by leaving open spaces and making sure that you do not overstuff your bookcase. Keep some empty space above and between the books.
- Play with height. Use taller items on the bottom shelves and shorter items on the top shelves to create a sense of symmetry. And place bigger, heavier books on lower shelves, to make sure your bookcase doesn’t look top-heavy.
- Quiet the bookcase by using baskets, magazine holders, and boxes to organize smaller and less pretty books like paperbacks and magazines.
- Ugly spines can be hidden by turning the spine to the back (of course only if you recognize the book that way too).
An Organized Bookcase with Lots of Storage
Rule 5: Use Bookends
One of the most straightforward ways to keep your books organized and looking great is to use bookends. You can buy or make bookends to match any style you like. Those simple metal bookends are functional and unobtrusive. But I like using statement bookends that are decorations in and by themselves. Here are some reasons why I think bookends are essential:
- They keep books upright and in place, preventing them from falling over and making your bookcase look cluttered and disorganized.
- They add visual interest and depth to your bookcase, breaking up long rows of books and adding much-needed white space to your bookshelf.
- They can be used to separate different sections of your bookcase, such as fiction and non-fiction, or to highlight specific books or collections.
When choosing the right bookends for you, consider the style and color of your bookcase, as well as the size and weight of your books. Heavy or oversized books may require sturdier bookends, while smaller books can be held in place with more delicate designs. Look for bookends that complement your existing decor and that fit your decorating style.
By using bookends, you can create a more organized and visually appealing bookcase display that will impress your guests and make your books easier to find and enjoy.
How to dress a bookcase
Okay, now that we have the organizing of the books on our bookshelves out of the way, let’s talk about adding some nice accessories and decorations to our bookcase.
Rule 6: Add Accessories On Bookshelves
Adding decorative objects is a great way to add personality and interest to your bookcase. When choosing decorative objects, consider the color, texture, and shape of the objects. Here are a few ideas:
Things to put on a bookshelf:
Here are some ideas for accessories and decorations that you can add to your bookshelves.
- Small plants or succulents can add a touch of greenery and life to your bookcase (just make sure they can’t spill water on your books).
- Candles or candle holders can add warmth and coziness to your space (but it might be better to use electric candles inside a bookcase).
- Picture frames or small pieces of art can add a personal touch and break up the monotony of books.
- Vases or jars can be filled with flowers, shells, or other natural elements to add texture and interest.
There is an art to arranging accessories on bookshelves. Follow these guidelines to get the look right.
- When arranging decorative objects, consider balance and symmetry.
- Group objects in odd numbers.
- Vary the height and size of objects to create visual interest.
- Mix shapes. If you have a horizontal stack of books, try placing a small, curvy object on top.
- Add depth by layering smaller items in front of larger ones.
- Add some (faux) greenery like plants.
- Add lighting like a bookcase lamp to showcase special books, artwork or decorative items in your bookcase.z
- Don’t over-accessorize. Step back periodically to make sure it doesn’t look too cluttered.
- Give your items some breathing room and give them the space to show themselves off!
Rule 7: Keep It Personal
When it comes to styling a bookcase, it’s important to add personal touches that reflect your personality and interests. This can be achieved by incorporating items that have sentimental value or that you have collected over time.
- Hobbies and collectibles are great things to display on bookshelves. Anything looks better as a collection.
- Group together family photos and mementos to add sentimental value
- Add artwork that you love and display it in a central position.
So, tell me – what’s your favorite way to display books in your bookcase?
Do you love or hate the stylist’s favorite: the rainbow look?
And do you think placing books with the spine to the book is a beautiful look, or is it a definite NO for you?
Do you even have a proper bookshelf with all your books, or do you use your bookcases to show off accessories and tchotchkes?
I like to make sure I have some white space. That might just be me, but I'm always happiest with some blank/open space.
cindy @ cottage instincts says
My bookshelves make me crazy. I've arranged and rearranged, but I can't make them look good. I have too many practical issues (homeschooling), so my bookcases are purely functional. I've kinda given up on styling them. Isn't that sad?
Blondie's Journal says
Wow…one great tip after another!! I'm looking for bookcases, this really helps!
I have so enjoyed browsing through your blog today. I've kind of taken a blogging break after a difficult summer and have found it difficult to come back to. Your posts have brought a smile to my face and have once again lit a small spark of creativity in me. I hope to be back at it soon. Maybe if I hang around here just a little bit longer! 🙂
You did some great research, all the things are so helpful. I always go by the rule of high to low, low to high no matter what what I am putting on a shelf, books, accessories etc, to me it is more pleasing to look at.
Pink Princess says
LOL if only…..I had some space in my smallish livingroom for a bookcase. LOVE books but just don't have the space….the same in my bedroom. I have a small home so…but love these ideas ♥
I do have one on my landing to the attick, and I try to update that one often with knick knacks and books, but nobody but me sees it duh.
Hugs from Marian
Great post and great tips! I loved looking at all of these shelves. Sometimes it's a little bit hard getting my shelves to look right! 🙂 I'll keep playing with it.
Be a sweetie,
Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. says
My shelves definitely need some help. Great tips!
I love picking things out to put on bookshelves and find finding the styling of them easy, the hard bit for me has always been what books do I use? I want only the ones that look nice on and all mine are random and dont match a colour scheme at all! What books are on your bookcases?
Wow, just wow. Obviously your “styling” advice is only for those who use books on shelves as props. They don’t actually READ them. Absolutely gobsmacked by the suggestion to turn them all spine against the back.