How can you style your bookcases without seeming cluttered? It doesn’t have to be hard! I have some easy tips for styling a bookcase that will make it look straight out of a catalog.
This post may include affiliate links; you can read my disclosure policy here.
I’ve been making some simple changes in my living room this week…mostly using what I already have. One new item I did purchase was a tall bookcase/ etagere for the back corner of my living room.
My goal was to add height to that corner of my smallish living room and add some visual interest when you walked into the room.
Follow My Easy Steps For Styling a Bookcase
Gather Items to Display
The first thing to do is figure out exactly what you want to display. I like to gather a pile of possibilities…which means I gather up different items from my house and decor stash that I think are interesting.
Take a walk around your home and see what you can use rather than running out to buy everything new.
Here are a few items I gathered (I didn’t use everything):
- Vases/ Vessels
- Vintage Items
- Framed Pictures
Pick a Color Scheme
I’m not saying you can only have one or two colors!! More of to think of the overall vibe you want to create and stick to maybe 2 main colors. Then sprinkle in other colors sparingly to create a less visually cluttered look. It’s hard to create a cohesive look with lots of colors scattered about the shelves.
My color scheme is green and brown. Lots of natural elements and plants.
Start with the Large Items
What I found was the easiest way to balance the look of my bookcase was to start with the larger items that I wanted to use first.
A family friend had recently given me a few items she had collected from her trips to Bali which included a large basket, and a couple of large teak bowls and trays. They were all so beautiful and I just love the natural look of them.
For this bookcase, I added the Indonesian basket to the top shelf and one of the large teak wood-carved bowls to the third shelf.
Don’t Overfill It!
Not every spot on your bookcases needs to be filled with items…having open space on your bookshelves will keep your space from looking cluttered.
Leave some empty spaces on the shelves for your eyes to rest. It’s much more visually pleasing…even though our instinct is to fill up every single spot!!
Create Small Vignettes
Instead of thinking of each shelf as a single display area, break it down into 2 or 3 smaller areas to create vignettes.
Not only does it look more stylish it gives you the opportunity to incorporate some of your smaller items.
Here I used a long bronze metal tray to create a vignette on the left side of this shelf. I added a framed black and white photo, a small plant in a neutral pot, and behind it my DIY Moss Wreath.
On the other side of this shelf, I created another small vignette by stacking an ivy-filled paper mache bowl ( DIY Paper Mache Bowl Tutorial) on top of a book (a great home decor book written by fellow New Hampshire blogger Bre Doucette).
shop decorative objects
Use Books (it is a bookcase, right)!
Try adding books either vertically or horizontally to your bookshelf. Group books with similar spine colors together for a cohesive design. If you don’t happen to have similar-looking books all you have to do is turn them back on the shelf. This is one trick I picked up from watching Joanna Gaines staging homes on Fixer Upper.
TIP: Stack 1-3 coffee table books horizontally on a shelf with a decorative object on top
On my bookcase, I added books in 3 places. A single book topped with a decorative bowl, a set of 4 green vintage books, and then 3 books with similar spine colors.
Listen, if you have been a reader here for a while then you know how much I love vintage and thrifted things!! Not only are they fun to shop for they add a different level of style to your home than you would get from running down the aisles of Home Goods and tossing stuff into your cart!!
This vintage camera is actually from my son’s collection of old cameras, I love the leather case and the overall style of it.
Plants & Greenery
Plants…either real or artificial are a must on my list!
My two main reasons for adding plants are for a pop of color and also to break up the straight lines of the bookcase overall.
Plus, I also really dig plants!!
Personally, I love the flowing look of ivy plants. Ivy is a good choice for indirect sunlight as well. Smaller succulents and plants with interesting-looking leaves are perfect too.
Smaller Decorative Objects
Finish up your bookcase with smaller decorative objects that you can layer in with other larger items.
Here I added a few starfish from my collection on a teak tray with a String of Pearls succulent (fingers crossed…it’s my 4th attempt at keeping one of these alive!!)
You can always find me standing back and looking at what I’m decorating to see how it all looks together from the other side of the room (great tip!).
One thing that will make everything work together is to vary the heights of the objects and items in the small vignettes you create.
Finished Styled Bookcase
Here’s my newly styled bookcase, what do you think? It really added a perfect focal point when you walk into my living room and I love all the natural colors that I chose that make my space feel warm and inviting now.
top tips for styling a bookcase
Look around your home and gather items like plants, books, vases, baskets, frames pictures, trays, & smaller decorative objects.
Stick to 1 or 2 main colors to create a more cohesive and visually pleasing look.
Add accent colors for a pop of color with smaller objects
Start by placing the larger objects on the bookcase first.
It’s easier to figure out the placement of bigger items. After you can fill in with your smaller pieces.
Create smaller vignettes on the shelves. Leave some empty spaces for your eye to rest!
Vary the heights of your objects