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9 Tips for styling your bookcases

Simply piling a shelf with books can look messy, and it doesn’t take advantage of the potential for a bookcase to be an eye-catching focal point. We’re sharing some expert tips for styling your bookcases and taking them up a notch.

Abbe Fenimore organized book shelf

Photo credit: Abbe Fenimore

“It’s common for bookcases and shelving to become sources of clutter, defeating their true purpose. The great thing about furniture with shelving is that it is a blank canvas for you to create ‘a look’ and functionality that makes sense for your space,” says Katrina Teeple, founder of Operation Organization. Abbe Fenimore, principal designer of Studio Ten 25, agrees. “Bookshelves aren’t just for displaying and storing previously read books anymore. Bookshelves have become one of the best places to display accessories, collectibles and books too pretty to take off the shelf.”

We asked both experts to share their tips for giving the bookcases in your home a stylish boost.

Don’t fill each shelf with books

Bookshelves might be for books, but don’t feel the need to cram in as many as you can. “Books need a little breathing room,” affirms Teeple. “You can create a more visually pleasing and interesting design when you arrange your shelving to incorporate other accessories that make either logical or aesthetic sense on your shelves,” she advises.

Color code

Katrina Teeple color coded shelf

Organizing books alphabetically? It’s time to try something fresh and new, says Teeple. She suggests organizing your tomes by category first, then by color. “Using color coding gives any shelf a pop. Try using specific colored books to bring out a room’s accent color.”

Stack horizontally

You might find that not every book fits a shelf vertically. When that happens, Teeple has a quick fix: “Use a designer trick and stack at least three books on top of each other horizontally.” Then, go one step further, she says, and finish off the look by placing a decorative vase on top of the stack.

Think outside the book

Katrina Teeple: Child's bedroom

Bookshelves don’t need to be reserved for books. In fact, they can really be used for any type of item. “Use shelving as a practical solution for arranging other frequently used items,” says Teeple. “A shelving unit can be used for anything from entertaining dishes in a dining room to stuffed animals in a children’s room.”

Contain the clutter

Katrina Teeple organized shelfves

Avoid messy bookcases by doing your best to contain any clutter, especially if the shelf is in plain view. Teeple uses uniform bins, baskets and boxes on a shelf to create a more organized look. “Store electronics, office supplies or DVDs in your container of choice with a label and experience your organized shelving as functional and stylish.”

Work the background

Abbe Fenimore shelf with wallpaper

Abbe Fenimore shelf with mirror

Create a colorful look by dressing up the back of your bookcases. “It’s easy to paint, wallpaper or mirror the back of your bookshelves,” says Fenimore. Having a background makes it easier to work within a specific color scheme. “It’s an easy way to tie your bookshelves into the room, instead of them standing alone,” she explains.

Less is more

Abbe Fenimore bookshelf

A minimalistic look on a bookcase is an elegant option in any room. You can do this by creating visual balance by using scale and color. “Simple stacks with an object as a topper is a classic way to keep it clean,” Fenimore advises. “Mix in objects in varying heights throughout to create organized sets.” She notes that it doesn’t need to be perfectly symmetrical, but if an open, minimal look is what you are after, this is the way to go.

Create a theme

Abbe Fenimore themed bookshelf

One of the best ways to keep bookcases looking chic and organized is to work with items in the same color palette or aesthetic. A mix of books, framed pictures, art and accessories in the same color palette on a bookshelf can look great, notes Fenimore. “White and cream neutrals look elegant together, especially when mixed in with metals and glass, and if you’re going for my favorite aesthetic of rustic chic, think of bringing in wood bowls, natural antlers and a few geodes or crystals for a touch of sparkle.”

Go for chic and colorful

I you love bold colors, Fenimore says your bookshelf is the perfect place to display all your favorite hues. “Lacquered storage boxes, colorful spines on your books and bright accessories bunched together on bookshelves look curated, as if it took years to create,” she notes. “Pop a few framed or canvas pieces of art in behind your accessories to make your collection stand out even more, while adding much need balance in height and scale.”

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Image credits: Katrina Teeple, Abbe Fenimore

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