Bookshelf Design: How to Style a Bookcase

Bookshelf Design: How to Style a Bookcase

There are few things as satisfying as seeing a perfectly curated bookshelf as the star of a beautiful living space. Evoking feelings of nostalgia, calm, intelligence and clarity, bookcases are so much more than just a practical place to store your reading material. When styled correctly, your bookshelf can act as an aesthetic masterpiece that anchors your design aesthetic. So, where do you begin? We’ve assembled our top tips on how to style a bookshelf like a pro.

Scale it substantially

Before you even think about what to stack your shelves with, it’s important to consider the placement of your bookcase (or bookcases). You want the size of the furniture to fit with the room where it lives — for example, two twin bookcases placed next to each other in your living room will create the grand feel of a built-in, while a tall and narrow standalone bookcase gives off a completely different vibe. You can also use your bookshelves to flank an item like your TV or fireplace to create a vignette and draw attention to a centre focal point.

bookcase design

Less is more

While the ample room on a bookshelf may seem like it’s begging to be filled, leaving some white space can help to break up the overall look and prevent it from becoming too busy. Select your favourite items and disperse them amongst clusters of books, being sure to leave some gaps to let the scene breathe

Pick cohesive colours

Colour blocking is an extremely effective tool in interior design, so it makes sense to employ this method in your bookshelf decor. You don’t necessarily need to colour-code your books, but it can help to pick one or two hues to use consistently throughout your accessories. This will be easier on the eyes than a scene of randomly jumbled colours — but if you like a bit of mismatched colour chaos, go for it! Grouping books by colour per shelf can also create a rather striking visual effect

bookshelf design ideas

Go for green

One of the easiest ways to add some life and colour to your bookcase is with an indoor plant or two. Not only do they have a stack of wellness benefits (cleaner air, anyone?), but they also provide an opportunity to get some varying textures into your decorating scheme. If you can't commit to real plants, artificial plants and flowers work too. There are so many different pots available, from cheap-and-cheerful to more artisanal styles. Mix up your plants and pots for a cute, clashing vibe or stick with one material throughout to keep things uniform — whatever works for your personal style.

Make it meaningful

Your bookshelf is a perfect place to display sentimental pieces you’ve collected over the years — artwork, trinkets, glassware, pottery and all of the other special things you’d like to showcase but aren’t sure where. You want to be able to smile when you look at your bookcase, so why not pepper it with things that are meaningful to you? 

bookcase styling

Dabble with depth

There are so many ways to play with height and depth in your bookcase layout. You can lay your books both flat and horizontally, or place some decorative pieces closer to the back and layer some in front. For example, you could lean a photo at the back of the shelf and pop a small object in front of it.  Things like large bowls and vases are great for adding height and texture to the look, or you can stack some books and then add an object on top. Varying heights and depths creates visual interest and draws the eye — it’s one of the most classic decorating techniques.

Balancing your books

You may have so many books that you struggle to fit anything else on the shelves of your bookcase — and that’s okay! There are ways to style your bookshelf using just books. You can visually break up the space by alternating how you display your books — some can stand up, some can lean and some can lie flat. You can also make room to put trinkets or objects in front of areas on the bookshelf with smaller books and extra depth — this helps to create some interest and can make the wall of books look less cluttered.

bookcase design ideas

Edit your masterpiece

When you’re finished curating your bookshelf, take a step back and cast a critical eye over it. Don’t be afraid to edit your end product when you see the whole picture put together. Certain configurations of objects can look different or busy from a distance, so removing some items can help to create a more balanced aesthetic.   

Have fun with it

At the end of the day, you’re the one who is going to be spending the most time looking at your bookshelf — so do what makes you happy. Whether you’re a matchy-matchy minimalist or live by a more-is-more philosophy, there is no right or wrong way to style a bookshelf. Stay true to your personal taste and decorate in a way that brings you joy!

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