This post will provide ideas for How to Style Bookcases — No Cost Decorating

Recently I polled my Instagram users to discover their challenge areas for decorating. The number one request, was requesting help with How to Style Bookcases. There’s no better time than a quarantine to do projects that are free and do not require getting out of the house. How to Style Bookcases–No Cost Decorating will guide you through the process.

Woman in Blue Sweater sitting on bookcase

Be sure to check out this post for an affordable way to add interest to your bookcases. Add Foam Board to the Back of Built Ins, and Tips for Styling a French Style Bookcase or Shelf

Don’t Let Styling Your Bookcase Scare You. Follow these Simple No – Cost Steps

Bookcases seem to stump many DIY home decorators. I’ve had clients hire me to come in and style “just” their bookcases (and mantel if they had one). If you are not loving what you’ve put together for your shelves, it may be worth hiring a home stylist as they are typically a focal point in a room. But, why not give this a try first.

5 Steps for How to Style a Bookcase–No Cost Decorating

  1. Start with a Clean Slate
  2. Place Storage Containers – (If you don’t need storage go to Step 3) Be sure to use interesting boxes/baskets – stay in a single color scheme with the storage
  3. Add Books – vertical and horizontal
  4. Position Larger Focal Pieces Sculptures or Vases
  5. Place Framed Art and/or Picture Frames
  6. Layer Small Items

1. Start with a Clean Slate – Clear the Bookcase — Just in time for Spring Cleaning

Lucky for us all, Spring time motivates us to clean every nook and cranny. This is the perfect time to resist the urge to clean one shelf at a time and replace the items as they were. Let’s clear the slate and start with a plan.

2. Choose Storage Containers for Your Bookcase

Some of you will need to use the shelves for storing items. If that’s the case for you, be sure to choose similar, if not exact, containers to help maintain unity on the bookcases. The options are numerous, from baskets to cardboard, to wooden boxes and more. The key is measuring the space before you purchase the containers (or any other items for that matter).

3. Arrange Books on Bookcase in a Zig Zag Pattern to Keep the Eye Moving

As you will see below, there is no shortage of books in my home. (The extras are currently lined along one wall of my office in color order, waiting to be called into the line-up). To help keep the eye moving along the shelves and add visual interest, place some of your books vertically and others horizontally. If your bookcases are flanking a fireplace, try to balance the look for each side.

How to StyleBookcases - No Cost Decorating

Here are a few of my current favorite coffee table books:

4. Position Larger Focal Pieces – Sculptures or Vases on the Shelves

If you need to purchase larger focal pieces, be sure to have those shelf height and width measurements with you. Save yourself time and frustration by measuring. Balance the large objects opposite of books in a zig zag pattern down the shelves.

Bookshelf with books and art

5. Place Framed Art and/or Framed Family Picture

Framed art doesn’t always have to be hung on walls. You can use size appropriate art to add interest to your bookcase. At this stage you will also want to start adding the personal touch with framed pictures of family and friends. Placing small frames on top of the horizontal books looks great.

6. Layer Small Items, Objects, Chotchke, Plants

The final step to interesting bookcases and shelves is to add the smallest of your objects. These can be most anything that keeps with the theme of your bookcases. If you have those special handmade ceramics from your children’s elementary years, display them. Faux flowers/greens will bring is a great way to add color. If you add candles, be sure they are the flameless. (The first year in our home, I placed beautiful tea lights on the shelves. Believe me, that is not what you want to do. Soot.)

Bookcase Styling

SHOP MY HOME — Shop My Bookcases

How I Styled Bookcases — Through the Years

The bookcases flanking my fireplace have seen quite a few restyles. I view them as an extra large art canvas, and I love to “paint”. Here are a few favorites. I believe they prove we are limited only by our imaginations.

Note: These photographs were taken over the course of my nearly 5 year blogging career. Apparent to me are vast improvements in my photography skills. Still, the inspiration for you is extensive in terms of what you can do with your bookcases.

Bookcase – Color Blocked

White Bookcase with Pink Foam Board Inserts

Fall Bookcase

Spring Bookcase

White Bookcase with Pink Foam Board Inserts

Summer Bookcase

How to Style a Bookcase - No Cost Decorating

Chinoiserie Bookcase

Chinosierie Decorated White Built In Bookcase

The examples above were to help you think outside of the traditional bookcase styling box. I’m quite sure, unless you are a blogger, you are not moving home decor around the house on the regular! It is, however, a great way to refresh your home if you’re feeling the itch to switch things up!

You can watch me tackle this job via this YouTube link, if you prefer that method of learning! My YouTube

Are you inspired? Let’s clear and clean those bookshelves for Spring cleaning and follow the steps for a great looking focal point. You can pause the video and do your styling along side me! Working with a friend is always more fun, right?

If you find you need a couple more items to complete the look, be sure to measure first!

Enjoy Today!
Love y’all,

Lori Nell

Simple Shelf Styling Guide

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Comments (11)

    • Southern Nell Gracious Living


      You are welcome, Sherry. Thank you for stopping by–good luck with those bookshelves!

  1. Reply

    Yes, this is definitely the bane of my decorating… At our last house, I never did decorate our downstairs t.v. cabinet. It had books crammed in it and a few other vases and things but there was no thought to it. Here at least I’ve been redoing the one next to our fireplace every quarter. šŸ˜‰ It’s coming along! Thanks for the helpful hints. <3

    Happy spring to you,
    Barb šŸ™‚

    • Southern Nell Gracious Living


      Iā€™m so glad you found the post helpful, Barb! Thank you for stopping by!!

    • Southern Nell Gracious Living


      Thank you, Deana. I’m so glad you find it helpful. Blessings!

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