In this post: Styling bookshelves can be really hard. And bookshelves can become a hot mess in a hurry. But use these 6 tips for how to style bookshelves and you’ll have pretty bookcases instead!

It’s true! Even decorators sometimes struggle to style bookshelves so they look balanced and beautiful! But I’ve learned that there are six simple steps that can make it much easier! Here’s how to style bookshelves in 6 simple steps!

how to style bookshelves

I Learned by Trial and Error

When we first posted about our Restoration Hardware inspired industrial shelves, some of you mentioned you’d like to see us break up the book rows a bit more with some accents. Well, we aim to please! So we shuffled some things around and re-styled our bookshelves.

Notice how, in the before photos, all the books are pretty much on the bottom few shelves? I hadn’t really noticed it too much in the past. Many of the books are the kids, and of course while the kids were small all the decorative stuff had to go up high. But after I thought about it, I realized the kids really aren’t that small anymore!

I spread out the books a little and added in a couple of accessories from elsewhere in the house:  an extra round wire basket for remotes, a cloche that’s currently filled with a little bird & nest. (We also added the lighting).

You can be sure that this isn’t the final styled bookcases – they’ll change and shift with the seasons at least. Not to mention our kids are voracious readers and we keep adding new books to our collection! {I must admit, I have already shifted a few more things around!}

Since we’ve moved house’s a few times, here are a few more shots of the same bookshelves, styled with different things. (Our kids’ books have now moved to their rooms and the basement shelves.)

Home Made Lovely living room mantel and couches

Numbered Crates DIY

vintage industrial shelves styled for Christmas

Here are a few more examples of shelf styling from our other spaces. 

girls bedroom bookshelves

pink and grey bedroom bookshelves

dining room bookshelves

How to Style Bookshelves in 6 Steps

1. Begin with empty shelves

If your shelves are full of things already, start by emptying your shelves. This gives you a clean slate to work with.

2. Add books first

Place some books vertically and some horizontally on the shelves. They don’t all have to run in a neat row. Mix it up. Add visual interest by varying the heights of stacks too.

3. Consider arranging by color

Arrange books by colour if you like the look of colour blocks. Or if you want a super neutral, cohesive look (and it won’t make you crazy to not see the titles) turn the spines in.

4. Let them go naked

Remove the dust jackets from hardcover books. Often times the hardcover itself is much more beautiful to display.

5. Begin to layer things

A layer of books topped with a favourite paper weight or a ceramic animal (hello Sherry!) adds texture and a collected look to your bookshelves.

6. Use odd numbers

As with most accessory decorating, use odd numbers. 3, 5, or 7 of something just looks so much better than even numbers. Consider this for both the books and the decor on your shelves.


Want more info on styling a bookcase? Check out these ideas:

Decorating with Books in Your Home: Creative Ideas You Can Steal!

House Beautiful – How to Decorate a Bookcase

Aby Garvey’s Pinterest Board Bookcase Styling

Have you styled any bookshelves lately? Got any of your own styling tips? Or maybe styling questions? Leave us a comment below!

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