How to Style a Bookshelf Like a Home Decorator

bookshelf, bookcases, shelf, bookshelf ideas
[Post updated 10/28/16]

Learn how to style bookcases with books, art and other home goods. Get home decorators’ top bookshelf ideas for every room in your home!


As well-documented book hoarders literary enthusiasts, there’s nothing better than stacks of our favorite tomes stretching as far as the eye can see—until now. As it turns out, it’s possible to improve upon the bookshelf concept with a little decorating magic. Here’s how!

Bookshelf Ideas For Your Home

Bookshelf Styling Basic #1: Start with Books

It might seem like a painfully obvious place to begin, but hear us out: like any home project, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and become overwhelmed. If you have a general game plan, you’re much more likely to see it through and be happy with the result.

There are a few different ways to go about placing your books on a bookshelf. You can opt for horizontal stacks, vertical stacks, or a mix of both—even on the same shelf. You can organize them by spine color, size, subject or author name—whichever makes it easiest for you to find the book you want to read. After all, bookcases are still primarily functional objects, even when expertly styled. Be sure to leave room so you can go back later and add in accessories, artwork and more.

Bookshelf Styling Basic #2: Take a step back.

Snap a quick picture of your bookshelf with your phone, and dwell on it for a few days. Maybe you’ll realize you have don’t have enough different colors to really organize your books by hue, or maybe one shelf just doesn’t seem quite right. Pausing gives you time to evaluate what your bookshelf needs to fit your aesthetic.

Bookshelf Styling Basic #3: Create Balance

Now that you’ve taken some time to assess the basic look of your bookshelf, you can start filling in the blanks. We’re not strict on the idea of perfect symmetry, but a little bit of balance is key for a harmonious look. We recommend concentrating more visually heavy accents toward the bottom of the bookshelf, so you don’t feel like the piece is constantly on the verge of toppling over. If you have young children, the bottom shelf of a bookcase is also a great place to keep baskets of toys and books that they can safely pull out to play with.

Bookshelf Styling Basic #4: Mix it up

As you’re adding more accessories to your bookshelf, you might feel tempted to group similar items together. Resist the urge! This step is all about creating drama and tension. Place a tall vase next to a smaller object. Pair a natural element with a modern metallic. Combine shades from opposite sides of the color wheel. Nothing’s too wild when you’re decorating with accents you love!

Bookshelf Styling Basic #5: add personal touches

This is the best part—turning something utilitarian into a thing of beauty that truly represents you. Maybe you’re an avid birdwatcher, or perhaps you love to travel. Incorporate little hints of your passions here and there for a unique, personalized look.

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