Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Styling Shelves

Maybe you haven't heard the news, but bookshelves aren't just for books anymore.  In fact, bookshelves that display other items, such as frames, travel souvenirs, antiques, and collectibles can create warmth and intrigue.

Making shelves aesthetically pleasing can seem daunting,  especially when you have a large amount of shelf space.  Before you work up a sweat or stuff shelves with meaningless objects, I'm here to help with a few tips and tricks I've learned about shelf styling.

1.) Clean the Slate

If you are unhappy with the way your bookshelf currently looks, take everything down until the shelves are left empty.  Like any creative process, we much clean the slate so our minds can envision our end goal.  This is also a great time to dust and clean the shelf space.

2.)  Start with an element you really love

Do you have a beautiful frame you want to showcase, or perhaps an antique of some sort?  Use this as an anchor for one shelf.  Then, style around this item.  In the vignette above, I started with a white vase I love from Anthropologie.  I then added a few coffee table books underneath it to give it a base and balance out the size of the vase relative to the shelf space.  If I had left the vase by itself, it would leave the shelf looking bare and the vase would have nothing to highlight it's uniqueness.  I added a frame on each side of the base to add a personal touch and to fill the shelf's sides.

3.) Balance is Key

When styling shelves, balance is key.  If you have an extensive library of books, one fun idea is to organize them by color.  In the image above, red books are gathered together as well as white books on the bottom shelves.  Although the shelves are completely full, this look works since the color-coding create a cohesive look.  If you choose to fill up one shelf completely, it will look best to fill up all other shelves completely as the bookshelf above does.  I also love the gold mirror juxtaposed against the books.

This is another great example of balance.  The shelves here are perfectly balanced with elements on each shelf-one side of the shelf isn't heavier than the other.  On the bottom shelf, white books are stacked neatly and are a little higher than the brown and black books that are topped with the Hermes box.  Since the lighter color is juxtaposed against a darker one, balance is created by the white stack being a bit higher. I love the ethereal feel of this bookshelf- It's very light and airy.

4.) Layer

The key to an aesthetically pleasing bookshelf is to layer from front to back and with varying heights.  This creates intrigue to a room while also showing off personal touches.   I like to start from the back and work forward on a shelf.  In the image above, on the bottom shelf Jennifer of Dimples and Tangles started with the tray leaned against the back of the shelf.  Then, she worked forward by layering books and topping them with the silver bowl.

The shelves above were styled by Amanda Teal Interiors.  She did a great job with layering and balance.  I love the turquoise foo dogs!

More than anything, be sure to add personal touches to your shelves to create a look that is truly "you."  Have a great day today, friends!

P.S.- Today I am at Bird & Branch Redesign showing off a few pictures of my home, and I am at Little Bits of Lovely sharing 5 Lovely Things.  I hope you will check them out!  Jessamie & Rachel are two of my favorite bloggers out there!


  1. Love the bookcases you showcased here! I say the more layered the better!, Yours looks so pretty with the Anthro vase. Don't you just love Anthro?!

  2. Nothing better than a well styled bookcase. I hope you have plans to show off the final product, missy! And thanks for popping over to share you space today!

  3. Great advice!!! Styling shelves can be tough and for me, time consuming, but I like the idea of starting with a clean slate! Great pictures! xoxo Elizabeth

  4. love this tutorial!! i first need a bookshelf big enough to style with but loving all this inspiration!

    enter to win a $100 shopbop gift certificate!


  5. Great tips! So important so start with whatever you love! Bookshelves are one of the things I just can't leave alone. I just restyled mine yesterday :) hehe. I think they're a huge source of inspiration!

  6. Love the post today, Sam! I love all these photos -- I really wanted to wallpaper the back of my shelves but I can't since I just rent this apartment :( oh well!! xoxo

  7. this is really cool, and a different aspect of interior design to focus on! Unfortunately, I don't have shelving high enough to display books and pretty things, but when I do...these are great tips and examples!


  8. they look so nice! love the last pic!


  9. I love those foo dogs as well. Also love the tray propped up against the back.

  10. this post reminds me how much I want/need a book shelf!

    fashionable footprints

  11. Great inspiration. Makes me want to re-style my bookcase shelves!

  12. Your shelves look great girl!! I so wish we had some big built-ins in our house!

  13. all great tips! Reminds me I need to work on balancing the colors in my shelves. Thanks Sam :)


  14. Great post...there really is 'something' to styling a bookcase..thanks for putting it into great words!
    I love the darker backdrops, and uncluttered shelves..

  15. I love nothing more than a beautifully styled shelf! I sometimes clear my shelves and start all over to give it a different look! I love to style and organize!



  16. Great tips, I love how the all white shelves look.

  17. i love shelves, theyre so fun because you can add such adorable accessories!

    xx Kelly


  18. Great tips! Love the styling on all of them!

  19. Great ideas for styling shelves! I really need more shelves in my home because I have so many books and no place to put them!

  20. Ooo! I love that last one with the dark interior! It makes everything inside pop! I am in the market for bookshelves so this is perfect inspiration :) XO brynn

  21. Love the looks and tips thanks you for sharing!


  22. Every single tip is fantastic! Thanks! XoXo

  23. great tips & tricks my friend! you are a pro!

  24. Great tutorial. I am always rearranging my bookshelves and this is lovely inspiration, especially the white shelves right next to the brick wall.

  25. I love this! Very inspiring, a lot of ideas and the photos are great - definitely want my shelves looking like that! xxxx


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