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Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Great Styled Bookshelf

As one who loves to live among the stacks, bookshelves in my home are a must. But unless you own a real library, or are just a book hoarder like me, you want your bookshelves to be a stylish feature in your home, and one that speaks to you, and everything you love. You want to be able to walk by your bookshelf everyday and see something that makes you mellow with comfort and smile. That's Styling Bookshelves.

During Covid, when so many TV personalities were filming from their home or office, I became very aware of their backdrops. When someone who is reaching for a high political office doesn't have a single book on the bookcase behind them, it makes you wonder. Paying attention to what they are displaying can give you great insight into their true character, So it is for your bookshelves at home or in your office. They should please you, being compatible to your personal style.

The bookcase above is one of my favorites. It has books, artwork, niche-deserving pottery, small collectibles and items personally related to the owner. In other words, it has it all, It is not jam packed. It has some space which allows each grouping to shine. And everything is displayed creatively and pleasing to the eye, How do you achieve this look? Let's start at the beginning.

1 . First Step In Styling Bookshelves, Empty Them!

Start with a clean slate!

Love how this bookshelf is personable

2. Consider The Background

Whether it's new or a shelf you have had forever, take everything off and evaluate the case itself. Does it need a heavy cleaning? Does it need to be painted? What about the inside behind the shelves? Is the color the same as the outside? Would it be enhanced by painting a contrasting color? Perhaps wallpaper would be a great accent with your decor. Remember, this is going to be a focal point in your home or office, one that guests or clients will probably be drawn to ... to get to know or understand you better.

I simply love the piece to the left. In addition to books, it has personal photos your guests are sure to ask about, and special collectibles. The theme is natural, accented by the pothos who is loving its home above. And this bookcase also is providing some storage for throws.

3. Add Larger Items First

Heavy Item to the bottom in Styling Bookshelves

Your largest items may be baskets or boxes for storage, books, or niche-quality items. Place them on the shelves with the largest (heaviest looking) items toward the bottom, lighter items to the top. Disperse the visual weight on the shelves for a balanced look.

A Word About Books

Organizing your books will be helpful when searching for a specific books, Your primary category would be genre, but you may also want to consider other things such as size or color. Books may be placed vertically in groups, horizontally in stacks, or used as lifts to display smaller items. You may set a few books horizontally with few vertically on top. You may want to feature a coffee table book facing forward. In the photo to the right, some books are in baskets. You may even want to angle a book with a trinket peeking out of the hole it leaves. There is no end to how you can display your books, but make sure you leave a little blank space for the eye to rest. And above all, make it pleasing to your eye.

Booknote ... There is a current trend to cover books / book jackets in a mono color scheme or to place the books backwards with the page ends to the front. Obviously, this look was created by someone who does not read. How can you find a book if you cannot see the title? Instead of adding interest, it's boring. (My personal opinion.)

4. Creating Vignettes

Love the cutting boards on top!

When you get down to the nitty gritty, styling bookshelves is basically creating mini vignettes, or small displays. The photo to the left features white pottery, books, artwork and vases that tie into the color scheme of the room. The designer took advantage of the space above with the lovely cutting board display. Other items to complete your shelves include:

  • Collectibles & Antiques

  • Art & Family Photos

  • Plants or Flowers

  • Candles

  • Flat or Small Boxes For Storage

  • Mirrors

  • Memorabilia

  • Architectural Salvage

  • Vases and Glassware

  • Items Personable To You

Once you have your main items set, look around your home for special pieces to fill in with that add the personality to your bookshelves. Use your main items as lifts and to create levels. You can change out items for each season, especially by adding special items during holidays. And always keep an eye out while cruising your favorite antiques market for memory sparking items to add to your bookshelves.

5. Put A Light On It

The first photo in the slide show below features something so important to a proper bookshelf display ... lighting. There are so many easy ways to light an area today and you can take advantage of battery lamps and candles that give just a little glow. Or you may want to light each shelf, or the entire bookshelf from above. Nothing can provide more ambiance to your home or office, When I designed and built my home, I built in two 8' wide, 4' high bookshelves into the living room, with several outlets wired in. An collection of small antique lamps add a warm glow. They have truly been a pleasure for me.

Click on the first photo to see entire example in this slideshow.

The Product of Your Efforts

Now stand back and admire your creation. It is sure to be a pleasure to you and for your guests or clients that are lucky enough to enjoy your bookshelf with you, Whatever you do, make it your own. Make it speak to you, remind you of something or someone you loved, provide hours of relaxation revisiting old books that once made you smile. And when you are done with building this bookshelf to perfection, add one in another room, on the porch, for a friend or loved one ,,, Can one have too many shelves?



You will find so many more ideas, DIY tips, and photo credits on my Pinterest Board.

What better place to search for great bookshelves, furniture and accessories, and everything from fresh produce to hand made jewelry, than at the Lakewood 400 Antiques Market! You absolutely never know what you may find there! You may discover something you grew up with that not only brings back memories, but you can transform into a great, personal pleasure for you now.

The Market is open the 3rd weekend every month and is a glorious treasure hunt sure to delight.

For more info Click Here!


Jan Jones is a Designer, Artist, and Author of

"Finding Me: A Motivational Journey of Discovery for Young People."

and the soon to be released, "Daydreaming." For more information Click Here

For the website and jjd magazine where you can read many articles by jan

To follow and see the articles before they are published, Subscribe Here.

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