How to Style a Bookcase

How to Style a Bookcase

How to guide for bookshelf decorating

You stare at your bookshelf every day knowing it could look A LOT better. But how?

Whether it's full of clutter that has gathered over the years or brand new and empty, it’s a big task! I'm going to make it easier for you with these easy steps with many tips along the way. 

Having beautifully styled bookshelves can make or break a room. Imagine walking in and your eyes being fixated on how beautiful your bookcase is! This guide will do just that: those shelves will be the centerpiece in your room! 

items for styling bookshelves



When we say "bookshelf" we really mean display shelves; so show off your very best things!

Start by gathering items from around your house and place them near the bookshelf you’ll be styling. 

When choosing items, think about these tips:

  • Collect things in ODD numbers, especially 3s
  • Make sure you have a variety of levels / sizes / shapes
  • Make sure the objects will fit in the bookshelf
  • Look at the colours of items you are choosing and make sure there is some consistency 

Here is a list of what to look for:

  • Book ends / objects that can be used as bookends
  • Books (duh!)
  • Framed artwork 
  • Fake or real plants
  • baskets for storage of small item
  • Location specific items (like a kettle in a kitchen)
  • Mementos that you store away but would like displayed
  • Crystals / rocks
  • Small wooden / wired / stylish boxes

(If you are unsure about something, remember you can put it back after you're done if you don’t use it! It is better to have too much than too little for styling.)

It may take some time for you to have all the items you need. 

I recommend gathering items and seeing what else you may need, like a new plant or a piece of artwork. Then head to your favourite thrift or plant store and look for items you’re missing; small brass sculptures are great for styling!

As for artworks, you can take a peak online and order some from your fave artists. You can order the print and find a frame for it in the meantime that the print can fit into. 

(Shameless plug but mine look great in bookshelves ;)

couple planning their dream bookcases



Think about these tips before arranging the pieces:

  • Aim for asymmetry, uniformity can make the eye bored yet overwhelmed all at once! To avoid this, do not have objects that are all the same height in one shelf. Switch it up!
  • Do not overcrowd the shelves. In all design, blank space is your friend and should not be overpowered. You don't have to use everything you have put aside. I suggest having covers on the lower parts of your bookcase if you need the shelves for a lot of storage space.
  • Put artworks at the back of the shelf and layer things in front of them
  • Books can go horizontal or vertically, I recommend having larger coffee table books horizontal (as a bonus then you can read the spines easily)
  • Place an object on top of horizontal books. This could be a circular sculpture, a plant, or 3 candle holders.
  • Sort books by color for a color blocking effect
  • Place baskets for storage along the top shelf
  • Take the book covers off to make a sleeker look
  • OR use wrapping paper to cover any covers that stand out

And finally, DON’T get hooked on a layout while you are still styling the shelves. It will likely look a lot different at the end than the beginning. Things will need to move around as you place items on other shelves.

woman placing book on shelf



It’s time to start placing! 

Start with big items first, such as picture frames, large coffee books, or vases. They should be alternating sides to feel balanced. I'd also place any baskets on the top shelf for storage, so go ahead and do those as well. 

For a shelf at eye level, I’d suggest using the horizontal stack of books with an eye catching item on top, or art piece behind (or both)! 

If you are using any vine plants, I suggest placing them on the top of the shelf or on one of the higher up shelves so it can drape down, creating a dreamy feel.

If you stand back and it feels cluttered, you may have too many items. It may be that some items are too large and overpowering. 

Are you not loving all the book color? Turn the books around to show the pages instead! 

Still not happy with the look? Look for inspiration and copy the layout of a shelf. Find objects that you have that are similar to those in the photo and copy it! It’s great to do this, no one can be an expert at everything, and a lot of other people are really good at it! Copy what already is working. 



There are other ways you can level up your bookcase! Consider painting the bookshelf, adding wallpaper to the back of it, or even adding some covers on the bottom for more hidden storage. 

I've also seen people put LED strips in their bookcases to have them light up... pretty darn cool! They can even come with motion sensitive on/off function! 

Classy bookcase lit up with LED string lights, great for a display shelf

Leave your comments below if you have any questions, I am more than happy to help :) 

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