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Helpful Hints for Decorating Bookshelves

There are many approaches to decorating a bookshelf. For some, a large shelf is intimidating to fill, and it can be difficult to find enough items to place on each level. For others, there’s more than enough for the bookshelf to hold, but it’s a challenge to keep it from looking cluttered. If your shelf is purely functional, you can still make a point to add a decorative touch. And if your shelf is mostly decorative, don’t hesitate to give it a few important jobs (such as storing baskets of toys that your kids leave out in the living room). Let’s take a closer look at the art of decorating bookshelves

Book Display Basics

We’ll begin by highlighting a few helpful book display basics! For starters, try stacking some books vertically and others horizontally to create visual interest. [photo from Kropat Interior Design]

Corner bookshelf with tidy stacks
Corner bookshelf with tidy stacks

You can also arrange books by color, which creates an orderly feel. Plus, it just looks cool! [photo from Lonny]

Bookshelf with color-coded books
Bookshelf with color-coded books

You don’t have to be 100% matchy-matchy when arranging books by color. Try grouping by color family, such as a stack of greys and whites, a stack of creams and beiges, and a stack of greens and blues. [photo from West Elm]

Color-coded books on a media console
Color-coded books on a media console

And if the books happen to perfectly match, the look is clean and tidy! Display a collection of volumes from the same series, or wrap books in paper covers for a uniform look. [bookshelf below by A. London by Accouter]

Matching books on a beautifully styled shelf
Matching books on a beautifully styled shelf

Then again, some books are meant to be displayed in all of their colorful glory! When it comes to kids’ books, you can opt for a shelf that displays reading materials in a forward-facing arrangement. The custom-built shelves below are perfect for a child’s bedroom. [from Mend]

Books on display in a child's bedroom
Books on display in a child’s bedroom

Keep in mind that decorating a bookshelf is about more than just books. You can use baskets to contain toys, blankets and other small items that you don’t want to put on permanent display. [photo from Lonny]

Bookshelf with handy baskets
Bookshelf with handy baskets

As we’ll discover in the next section, shelving can be used to showcase objets d’art and interesting decor. Keep reading for more design-fabulous ideas… [photo from West Elm]

Skinny bookshelf styling
Skinny bookshelf styling

Artful Objects

When displaying artful objects, have fun grouping pieces in interesting arrangements. Below we see a close-up of a bookshelf featured at Lonny:

Interesting objects on a styled bookshelf
Interesting objects on a styled bookshelf

One arrangement idea: display a collection. The built-in bookshelf below features an array of vases. While they’re different in color and size, the fact that they’re similar in purpose creates a sense of cohesive style. [photo from Platform]

Books, art and objects on a large bookshelf
Books, art and objects on a large bookshelf

The next image is from the book 100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life by Jonathan Adler. This bookshelf celebrates retro style and features an array of pieces designed by Jonathan Adler. Try sticking with a theme for your shelving decor, whether it be retro, contemporary or whimsical. [via Sterling Publishing]

Styled bookshelf featuring treasures by Jonathan Adler
Styled bookshelf featuring treasures by Jonathan Adler

Look for creative ways to utilize the space. This historic New Orleans home features shelving that boldly displays artwork. The hanging photographs definitely get noiced! [photo from Lonny]

Artwork hanging on the edges of a bookshelf
Artwork hanging on the edges of a bookshelf

Don’t hesitate to add greenery for a fresh, verdant feel. The wall-mounted bookcases from CB2 below are given a greenhouse effect, thanks to interesting potted plants in modern containers:

Potted plants on wall-mounted bookcases
Potted plants on wall-mounted bookcases

Brilliant Backing

You can make a statement by customizing the back of your shelving! Below we see an Ikea Expedit shelf with a plate mirror placed behind it for added reflection. [from Design Manifest]

Bookshelf with mirrored backing
Bookshelf with mirrored backing

Some people choose to paint the back of shelving for a bold pop of color. Look how the salmon shade below beautifully offsets the malachite pattern of the dishware. [photo from Lonny]

Bookshelf with a painted back
Bookshelf with a painted back

You can even purchase shelving with a painted back! This geometric Home Library Bookcase from The Land of Nod features azure backing that reinforces the shelf’s bold form.

Bookshelf with a blue back panel from The Land of Nod
Bookshelf with a blue back panel from The Land of Nod

Another interesting option: wallpaper. In fact, any decorative paper will do. Adding pattern creates another layer of interest. A Hollywood Regency effect is achieved by the lattice-like pattern in the next featured image. [photo from DecorPad]

Wallpaper backing on a bookshelf
Wallpaper backing on a bookshelf

Unforgettable Bookshelves

Last but not least, we shine the spotlight on truly unforgettable bookshelves. Because when the shelving is this fabulous, it almost doesn’t matter what you display on it. The forms speak for themselves! First up: a wheel. Compartments within the circular design are ideal for small stacks of books. [photo from Galeazzo Design]

Circular bookshelf with color-coded stacks
Circular bookshelf with color-coded stacks

There’s something sculptural about the free-form bookshelf in the next featured image. One stack of books in particular seems to defy gravity! [photo from Paul Craig Photography]

Sculptural bookshelf in a modern living room
Sculptural bookshelf in a modern living room

A spiral bookshelf is mesmerizing and eye-catching. The shelf below is made from dyed fire-retardant PVC. [photo from De Hasse Interior Design]

Colorful kids' room with a spiral bookshelf
Colorful kids’ room with a spiral bookshelf

The grand finale: a shelf that appears haphazard yet is anything but. Are you tempted to build a shelf that doubles as a work of art? [photo from Lisa Petrole Photography]

Creative bookshelf in a modern living area
Creative bookshelf in a modern living area

We hope today’s post has proven that when it comes to selecting and decorating a bookshelf, there’s a lot of fun to be had!

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