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  • Writer's pictureAnn Calvert

5 Designer Tips for Styling a Bookcase


Tip #1 Must Have Books: Bookcases should have books! I know it seems so simple, but if you think about it if you don’t have books on your bookcase you need a lot of stuff to fill it. If you have that much stuff it creates a messy cluttered look. My rule of thumb is to have at least 50% books. The books give your eyes a good resting place, yet keep your eyes moving around the bookcase and fill the visual empty spaces. If you have a lot of knick-knacks and objects you want to feature, use books to elevate and visually separate items. If you don’t have many books collect some second hand. I frequent my local Habitat Restore and Goodwill for cheap books, but you can also get them from yard sales, vintage and antique stores, or through online sellers. Pick books that look nice and work with the colors in your home. I also tend to buy books with subjects that actually interest me, you can find some really interesting things in old books! Pick up some extra-large coffee table books too.

Hot tip: take the paper jackets off the books for a less busy look.



Tip #2 Feature Special Pieces:

Select some special items to personalize your bookcase. For some this is easy! Your home may be full of sentimental items. However, for those who struggle with this, or maybe this is your first home and you have nothing yet, here’s some ideas:

  • personal photos

  • found objects

  • gifted items and souvenirs

Personally, I love seashells and vintage items bought as souvenirs from my travels, the key is that they are

items that tell a story of where and when you got them.




Tip #3 Color & Contrast: Pay attention to the color of your bookcase and the color of your books and objects. If they’re all similar colors your things are going to get lost visually. You can solve this dilemma in 3 ways:

  1. Change the color of your bookcase or even just the back side of your bookcase.

  2. Select only items that have some contrast

  3. Place objects at the back of the bookcase to create contrast. This photo below features a vintage painting (that I scored for $6!) leaning against the back of these very dark shelves making the bronze statue stand out!



Tip #4 Grouping:

Group objects in sets of 3 or 5. Odd numbers keep your eyes moving around so create vignettes with a grouping of objects, using books as risers to create levels. Or my favorite secret tip, leave SPACE. Literal space between groups draws attention to where you want people to look. Below I took a moment of space to feature this mini-painting sourced from a local gallery.




Tip #5 Use the Depth:

Most books don’t fill the depth of bookcases so use that depth to draw the eye in. Add framed art at the back of the shelf or feature the front of a super interesting book. In the photo below I used the large volume of space to feature a painting in the back and some of my treasured coral in the front.




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