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A stylish bookshelf can add so much character and personality to your home. Since a bookshelf can take up a large portion of wall space, learning to style a bookshelf like a pro is key to curating the perfect space.

All you need to do is focus on making your bookshelf blend in with your design and pick out pieces that add texture, color, and contrast.

Whether it’s a built-in wall unit bookshelf in a cozy living room or a freestanding bookshelf in a dining room, I am sharing tips and tricks to style your bookshelf to perfection with these bookshelf decor ideas. Once you have the formula, you will be inspired to start decorating your shelves.

bookshelf in dining room

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Tips for Styling Bookshelves

1 – Start Fresh and Declutter

A good way to start styling bookshelves is to declutter. Start fresh by removing everything from the bookshelves. Get rid of items that no longer serve a purpose or bring you joy. As the saying goes, “Less is more.” You can repurpose the items, throw them away, donate, or resell them.

The goal of a styled bookshelf is to have a shelf that is free of clutter and looks clean and curated, not just stuffed with random things. Keep items that are meaningful, tell a story, and blend right in with the rest of your home. Bookshelf styling will tell a story visually and reflect your personal design aesthetic. 

2 – Organize By Color or Theme.

themed travel books on bookcase

The key to any well-organized and styled bookshelf is to organize by color or theme. Assuming you have travel books, fiction and non fiction books, and coffee table books, start organizing your books by grouping them into small piles. The number of books will be entirely up to you, but I recommend at least 3-5 at a time.

Sort your books into different colors, genres, or subjects. If you’re feeling extra creative, you can group books of similar shapes and sizes and bind together.

Afterward, you should position them vertically, or horizontally, or a combination of the two on the bookshelves. You can lean a few books or stack them up against one another to form an L-shape configuration. Stacking books horizontally and vertically will allow for a nicely curated look throughout the shelves. You can keep it simple by standing 4-6 books upright on one end or layer 2-3 books down right and couple it with a small decorative accessory on top.

3 – Incorporate Shelving Accessories in Bookshelf Styling

Bookshelf with figurines

Make your bookshelf stand out by selecting pieces that highlight your personal style. Collect items that are unique and mix them in with your books. These can be anything from vases to decorative figurines. Not only can they add color and texture, but they’re also great conversation starters with visitors and will help define the aesthetic of your home.

Incorporating different fabrics, textures, and colors help to keep your space looking stylish and inviting. These curiosities will add intrigue to your shelf and make it that much more special.

accessories on bookshelf

Here’s a detailed list of accessories to consider when styling bookshelves:

  • Picture Frame or Artwork – artwork adds personality and allows you to express your design creativity. Maybe consider framing a personal travel photo or an art piece you collected from your travels. It could even be a small sign, an interesting drawing, or a family photograph. 
  • Sculpture or Ceramics – Sculpture art or ceramics can often add an artistic flair to your bookshelves. Textures like wood and terracotta will provide depth and interest on your shelves, so make sure you mix it up! 
  • Plants – Adding plants is a great way to liven up the shelves. Whether it’s a potted plant, succulent, or faux plant, you can include it. 
  • Candles and Candle Holders
  • Pretty storage boxes or woven baskets  
  • Vases 
  • Collectibles and Antiques

4 – Allow for Symmetry & Balance

bookshelf with travel books

Your shelves must have symmetry and balance. It is all about the placement of the items. When styling shelves, large pieces can stand alone, while smaller items should be grouped in pairs or as an accent item to the books.  Some things can stand alone, while others may need support decor. Try mixing the old items with the new ones and round items with square items.

You can start by placing your most oversized objects first and then layer them in small to medium-sized pieces. You can use books as a base to give small decorative pieces height. Larger items like baskets, boxes, or large books and heavier accessories should be at the bottom of the shelf. 

5 – Allow for Depth, Height, and Layer

A well-curated shelf has depth, height, and layer. You can stack, tilt, overlap or lean your pieces. The most appealing shelves have a mix of large, medium, and small pieces that play off each other and create an excellent sense of variety. 

Mix color, size, texture, and tone while keeping a particular style at the core. This will help to draw attention and add visual interest to the shelves.

6 – Don’t Overstuff it

art pieces on bookshelf

Make sure to leave some empty space on the shelves to prevent them from looking cluttered. Don’t cram too many items on each shelf and stay within the theme that less is more.

Consider going minimal with just one statement piece. Minimalism and open spaces will draw attention to each item that sits on your shelf and make them easier to appreciate and enjoy.

7 – Decorate Until it Feels and Looks Right

Continue to organize until everything falls into place. Tinker with the shelves until it feels right to you. Maybe consider walking out of the room and coming back in to see your shelves with a fresh pair of eyes. Once it falls into place, you will know and feel it!


BookShelf Resources

If you like the items featured in this article, here are the resources on where to find them

  • Bookshelf (similar)
  • White Vase (similar) 
  • Lamp (similar)
  • Coffee Bag

Hopefully, you found this helpful. Remember, it’s ok if you don’t have the perfect combination of items the first go-round. Brush yourself off, and try again. It may take a few attempts to find the perfect balance. 

Try to keep it simple when styling a bookcase and use books of varied sizes, pull in other accents like baskets, artwork, or plants, and make sure the shelves are neat and tidy. With this approach, you’ll soon have a gorgeous-looking bookshelf that will complete any room in no time.

For more home decorating ideas and decor tips, check out Home Decor Items to Buy Used and Easy Home Makeover Ideas You Can Do on A Tight Budget.

Please comment below to let me know what you think of this article. Feel free also to follow me on my social media pages – Pinterest and Instagram or subscribe to my mailing list for other interior decorating ideas and inspiration and DIY projects.

Happy Decorating!

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Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

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