Bookshelf Styling Tips: The Basics and Beyond

Bookshelves don't have to be boring! Whether your style is coastal, modern or traditional, here's how to turn an ordinary bookcase into an eye-catching, stylish display.
By: Jennifer O'Neil and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Photo By: Jennifer and Kitty O'Neil

Side Effects

For a simple-but-chic look, turn books on their sides and stack them up. Space the stacks on your shelves, leaving air around them for photographs and collectibles. Then use the stacks as risers and top each one with a curious item, like a wooden artist's model or a letter from a vintage sign.

Cover Story

Some books are just too pretty to live their lives sandwiched between other texts. Take an especially gorgeous book and face it out on a plate stand amongst rows of other titles. A stunning book will seem like a painting on an easel. The cover will not only break up the monotony of a row of book spines, it'll also bring an artistic touch to your shelves.

Show And Tell

Give your books added dimension with a little show-and-tell. Gather up one of your collections and display it among related books. Showcase butterflies with field guides, souvenirs with travel guides, or Russian lacquer boxes with the fairy tales they depict. It's like making your books come to life!

Book Smart

Get organized with a real library at home. First, classify your books by category and line them up vertically, pulling them forward so their spines are flush with the front of each shelf. Make a tag for each genre by tucking a strip of cardstock under the books and over the front edge of the shelf. Mount a metal label holder on each tag. Now you can find your titles without bothering the librarian!

Book Nook

Feature an objet d'art within rows of books by creating a special niche for it. Stack a few books that are the same size to build a platform. Flank each side with vertical books to make a frame, and then nestle a vase or a small sculpture inside.

Fresh Paint

To get high-end style on a dime, unify mismatched knickknacks with a coat of spray paint. A white bowl, green bird, and gold box are just tchotchkes, but turn them all teal and they become designer touches. Distribute them throughout a bookcase to bring it all together.

Hang Time

If your bookcases are packed with no space to spare, there's still room to decorate. Add interest to your book collection by hanging art from the front of the shelves. A gilded frame hung on your wall of books turns random book spines into a wallpaper of literature.

Paper Back Bookcase

Banish blah bookshelves with a cut-and-paste transformation. Measure the inside backs of your shelves and cut decorative gift wrap or wallpaper samples to fit. Paint a layer of Mod Podge onto the shelf back, then press the paper into place. Smooth to remove any bubbles, then finish with another layer of ModPodge over the top. Can't commit to a single pattern? Make it temporary with double-stick tape and change your shelves with the seasons!

Reading Rainbow

Give a ho-hum library a lift by removing dust jackets and sorting books by color instead. Combine red and black books for high drama or arrange in rainbow order for a smile. Or, cluster books into cubbies one color at a time: Yellow in one area, orange in another!

Shelf Life

Once you've mastered the basics, don't be afraid to merchandise to the max. Go eclectic with favorite objects in similar materials and hues. Create a vignette in a niche and hang an ornament from a book spine. Don't worry about blocking the books; with this approach more is more!

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