Decorating a Bookcase

Posted In Design - 09/06/2018

Whether built-in or freestanding, bookshelves and bookcases offer endless opportunities to add personal touches to your home decor. While the shelves themselves can add to your modern or traditional decor, the collection of books, objects and keepsakes you choose to place on them can elevate your home’s individual style.

Shelves packed with well read books lend a traditional look of a home library or study, a layered assortment brimming with collectables from around the world offer a well-traveled appearance, while a modest arrangement of objets d’art will provide a contemporary gallery feel.

Showcasing your Library

If you are displaying books on your shelves, you can create different looks with how you exhibit them. Matching leather bound collections give a polished, classic feel. For a more diverse collection, grouping similar color books together can offer a coordinated effect. Create a more dynamic feel by standing some and stacking others.

Not Just for Books

Books aren’t your only option. Many designers opt to integrate a few large art books with a variety of interesting decor pieces. Take a cue from the rest of the room when creating your showcase; pick up on the styles and colors in your room. Use this as an opportunity to expand upon a contrast color.

Stacks of books can be used as a base for other keepsakes you want to display and make a useful way to add more variety in height of the items on your shelves.

No Need to Overfill

While filling every inch of every shelf is an option, too much on display can get overwhelming. Leaving open spaces gives your eyes a place to rest and provides a more refined presentation. Include a variety of objects in different sizes, finishes and shapes. Choose from pieces such as framed photos, bookends with character, decor items, vases, pottery, plants, flowers, clocks, candles and sculptures. And don’t forget to showcase your hobbies, interests and passions –for example a vintage camera or model wooden sailboat. When styling the shelves, play with groupings, positioning and placement. To help with your arranging, employ some of these ideas:

  • Curated Collections – group like things together for spectacular results.
  • Go Bold – rather than lots of small items, big items offer a bold look, try large art, sizable spheres and voluminous vases.
  • Symmetry in arrangements works well in traditional or home office spaces. Create balance by putting similarly sized and shaped items in the same place on each side of the bookcase.

  • Asymmetry can offer a more dynamic appearance and allows for more diversity in display, but still keep an eye on balance. Use similarly sized objects on each side at staggered heights for balanced visual weight. Use odd numbers of items, or if you have two of the same thing, place them off center and together with one elevated or in different spots on alternate shelves. Asymmetrical layouts are even easier with cantilever or unevenly aligned shelves.
  • Make it Work – your bookshelves can do more than beautify your home, use bottom shelves for storage if needed. Using boxes, magazine holders or baskets for storage will hide clutter. Some book cases have cabinets or drawers at the bottom for storage.
  • Layered Look - Layer objects, frames and decor for interest. Stagger and overlap items playing with scale, pattern, texture and height.

      • Think Outside of the Box – if you have room above your piece, use the top of the case to display taller objects or artworks.
      • Seasonal Updates – seasons and holidays present the perfect opportunity to make minor (or even major) adjustments to your bookcase arrangements. Change colors to match the season or holiday decor.
      • Light it Up –some bookcases have built in lighting, if yours doesn’t utilize directional lighting in your room to make sure it stands out even at night.

      Sizes, Shapes and Designs

      With a variety of bookcase styles to choose from, select a set of shelves that will match your decor style. Étagère bookcases have an open design and barrister bookcases have an old world style with closing glass-front doors. Many bookcases have closed sides and backs, ranging in size from table height to ceiling height. Ladder bookcases lean back toward the wall with graduated shelf sizes, corner bookshelves offer petite triangular shelves that make the most of any nook and cantilever cases have a sleek, modern look.


      Many entertainment wall units and media centers can be found with built in bookshelves, but bookcases are not just for living room. Bedrooms, kitchens, hallways and playrooms all benefit with added shelving.

      Bookcases in Kid’s Bedrooms and Playrooms

      Kid’s beds with bookcases in the headboards offer a place to keep bedtime storybooks, treasures and mementos. Hutches on dressers can offer additional space for storage and display. Bookcases for the playroom typically have a short stature for easy access to tots. Cube bookcases are handy for kid’s rooms and playrooms because they are conveniently sized to fit soft-sided storage cubes which function like drawers to contain toys and clutter.

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