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How to Style Your Bookshelves

Posted on June 21 2018

Have you heard the new phrase "the shelfie"? If not, this is essentially a picture shared on a social media platform of your bookshelf styling. Is it a real word? Well, Collins Dictionary has it under review so while it may not officially be part of the English lexicon, it is most certainly a part of our online world with over 1.1 million Instagram images using this popular hashtag.

While you may have (understandably) only ever regarded your bookshelves as a place to store your books, styling your shelves is most certainly a ‘thing’ now and perhaps including a few of my tips today will elevate that shelf to something stylish enough to be shared!

Image: Amber Interiors / Photography: Tessa Neustadt 

I’ve always felt the types of books a person has tells a lot about the person themselves – not unlike a CD or record collection used to do (shame it’s all digital these days, you can’t exactly subtly glance through someone’s iPod!). So, sharing a bit of your personality with the objects you choose is all part of the way we express ourselves in our homes.

Styling a bookshelf so that it contains not just books but also personal objects, is all part of the fun. I’m not going to focus too much on the books themselves. After all, which books you choose as well as how you decide to system them – whether you like them color-coded, alphabetical or by genre – is entirely up to you!

Image: Bianca Hall / French for Pineapple

Before you begin to style your shelves, choose a few larger objects that you’d like to include in your display. Balance the larger objects within the shelf so that they are dispersed relatively evenly. You don’t want two large objects sat next to one another or in the same spot from one shelf to another. Consider things like bowls, baskets or large sculptural objects.

Then start adding your books. Stack some horizontally (no more than 3-5 at a time, you'll want to leave some room on top) and place some vertically. You can do this within a single shelf or across the unit where one shelf has all the books running horizontally and another has all the books laying vertically. Mix it up!

Image: Adore Magazine / Photography Anna Argiropoulos / Interior design and Styling Jacquelyn Clark

Next, add medium-sized objects, taking care to evenly disperse them, using a few to sit on top of the horizontal stacks of books. Consider things like small pieces of artwork, bowls, vases and picture frames or small potted plants - trailing plants look great too.

Then choose a few small items to fill in some of the gaps. These can be anything from tea light votives to air plants to vintage bric-a-brac. Be sure to layer your objects as well so that the largest objects are towards the back and the smallest in the front.

Consider the rule of 3 - to our eyes, objects look best in uneven numbers so keep this in mind as you lay out your decorative objects.

Image: Rue MagazinePhotography Ponce City Market / Interior Design Brittany Shields

Make sure you include organic and natural objects as well within your scheme – plants, shells, rocks, interesting branches, feathers – they all work rather wonderfully to break up and ground the look.

Stand back periodically to check the overall look and feel and rearrange as necessary.

Pay attention to ‘negative space’ ensuring the look isn’t too cluttered and that objects and items compliment each other in their position and in relation to one another.

Get the Look

For the perfect shelfie, have a look at some of the beautiful bookshelves and accessories we carry here on My Two Designers:


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