Do you need help decorating a bookshelf? These easy tips and tricks will help you get the perfect look for your chosen space.
Bringing a bookshelf to life with the right decor accessories is indeed a well curated work of art. Whilst the process can seem a little daunting at first, this is the time for you to be playful and explore your personal home decor style.
Decorating a bookshelf is also a great experience for you to display meaningful items that you have collected over the years, and which have special place in your heart. So, how do you do it the right way?
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What You Need To Decorate A Bookshelf
Before you begin decorating your bookshelf, here are a few items you might consider putting on display on your shelves:
- Baskets of various sizes
- A decorative bowl
- A decorative box
- A decorative tray
- A vase
- Picture frames
- Family photos
- Greenery or dried plants
- Real scented or battery operated candles
- A book collection in a single colour and size
- A stack of coffee table books horizontally or vertically displayed
- A piece of art
- A decorative object of your own making
- A curated collection of themed trinkets you can swap with the season
There are so many options to choose from when curating decorative pieces for your bookshelf.
However, what is important to bear in mind is that pulling off a superb bookshelf decor does not happen overnight.
It takes time, patience, and a few tweaks here and there until you get a well balanced bookshelf style that meets your desired expectations.
Below are some bookshelf decor essentials worth checking out and a few tips to ease you into your bookshelf decor process.
Bookshelf Decor Essentials For Your Home
Below are some affordable bookshelf decor essentials inspired by a modern farmhouse decor style to stir up your creativity, as you shop around to explore bookcase styling options. Enjoy!
Tips For Decorating A Bookshelf
Regardless of the position of the bookshelf you are about to style, these very simple and practical tricks and tips will ensure you get a great-looking display spot in your home.
1. Empty out your Shelves
As strange as it may sound, start by emptying out your bookshelf and clean it up thoroughly!
This applies both to a new bookshelf that you’re trying to decorate for the first time and to an existing bookshelf you’ve had for a long time that is in need of a refresh. Take everything off of it.
This is particularly helpful when you are trying to work out the colour scheme you need to adopt to design or update your bookshelf decor.
Trying to mix up decor pieces in a random way in an already filled-up bookshelf is a sure recipe for disaster. In this case, starting from scratch is a lot easier.
If you are afraid of forgetting what you had before on your bookshelf, or you are seeking to emulate some of those similar layouts, take a picture on your phone before you clear out your bookshelf.
You can refer back to the pictures you have taken when you start putting together your new bookshelf decor. By starting clean and fresh, it’s much easier to be creative from the outset.
2. Divide your Bookshelf in a Grid Layout
Whether your bookshelf is made of straight vertical and horizontal lines or exhibits a more unique shape, split it evenly in a grid layout format to ease the placement of decor items.
In design, this is known as “the rule of thirds”, a method of segmenting a space into different sections using rows and columns that form a grid. The grid consists of three evenly-spaced columns and rows. Think of an evenly-split image on your mobile phone!
This method helps to create a visually balanced design aesthetic and symmetry, as you gradually build up your bookshelf decor style.
Following “the rule of thirds” helps you to avoid ending up with a bookshelf decor that looks really bulky on one side and too light on the other side. It brings equilibrium and cohesiveness to your bookshelf styling.
Use a masking tape to create temporary vertical lines; this enables you to divide your decor space into equal sections that are much easier to work with. The wider your bookshelf is the more grids you will need to play with.
3. Pick your Colour Palette
Before you start arranging decorative items on your bookshelf, it is worth selecting a colour palette with regard to the pieces you wish to put on display. This will help you to remain focused when choosing the decor pieces that you want to display and pair together. It will also make your overall bookshelf decor visually appealing and cohesive.
In this particular instance, if you live in a really small apartment, choose three to four main colours you wish to highlight in your themed bookshelf decor.
Make sure that two of your four chosen colours are neutrals and two are brighter hues, or are reasonably bold tones to accent your shelves.
In case you have a big bookshelf to play with in a much larger home, cleverly experiment with a slightly broader colour palette in a way that works for your space.
Select decor accessories for your bookshelf that will tie in with your existing home decor style and overall colour scheme.
The decor principle is this: avoid crazy colours for your bookshelf decor if you really have a small space, unless you are a maximalist. Keep your bookshelf decor calm and neutral. But, if you have a big house you can go a little wild with your shelves colour scheme.
For example, when it is summertime and you do live close to the beach, bring a little bit of that coastal decor style on your bookshelf. There is no need to go overboard.
Simply swap out a few decor accessories and add a vase, a wooden bead garland with tassels, or a decorative shell to infuse a beach theme at home.
4. Keep your Options Open
Before embarking on your bookshelf decorating journey, collect lots of diverse items you wish to put on display.
Have a variety of books, vases, decorative trays, candles, picture frames, and beautiful knick knacks you can play with to experiment as you put together your bookshelf decor scheme.
If necessary, get hold of items stored up in your attic room, family heirlooms, holiday pictures, DIY arts and crafts projects, and investment pieces purchased at your favourite home improvement stores.
If you live in North America, head to CB2, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Lulu & Georgia, Target, West Elm, Neimann Marcus, and even Amazon to pick items from their extensive home furnishings ranges. Don’t forget the thrift stores!
Here in the UK, try Olivia’s, OKA, John Lewis, Anthropologie, La Redoute, and Etsy for vintage pieces.
Check all stores’ return policies to send back items you might end up not using for your bookshelf decor.
5. Group your Decor Accessories
Once you have selected all the items that you need to decorate your bookshelves, arrange them in respective categories, and put them next to each other in a corner of your room.
What this means is that you need to put all of your books in a little area of your room to make it easy to pick them when you need to add them to the shelves.
Proceed in a similar fashion with the little decor accessories that you will need to group all together and keep in their own room corner.
Then, put all of your larger decor items like vases and large sculptures in one area.
This segmentation approach keeps you organised, gives you greater visibility over your decorative objects, and makes it much easier to find and position items on your bookshelf.
Nobody likes to end up with a messy room that you will have to struggle tidying up just because you were simply fiddling around with a bookshelf decor!
6. Place your Big Items First
Placing your large decorative accessories first on your bookshelf serves to lay the foundation of the decor style you are seeking to put together in that part of your home.
When positioning those bigger items like large sculptures or vases in your bookcases, make sure you don’t have all of your bigger items in a line. Space them out so that they are balanced.
Some designers prefer to put the biggest decor items on the very top of the bookshelf. For example, in a modern farmhouse decor style, you may choose to place beautiful large rattan baskets on the top shelves of a bookcase in your living room.
Essentially, the largest items serve to draw the eyes upwards and set the scene for your overall decor scheme.
Once you have placed those items that act as a form of roadmap for your design style, move on to the next step of your project.
When decorating a bookshelf, remember that you are not styling a standalone shelf.
You are putting together different decor items that need to connect to each other in a cohesive manner.
7. Continue with your Favourite Accessories
Start with your favourite decor pieces and work your way from the middle out. It is important to ensure that there is a balance of colours and textures as you move items around.
So, focus on your more sophisticated decor pieces, or I should say, your favourite decor items. Pick the statement pieces that should feature prominently in the centre of your bookshelf.
Then, go a little bit lighter towards the ends of the bookshelf so that you’ve got some intrigue in the middle, which is where the balance is.
When proceeding this way, you just have to make certain provisions that take into consideration the size, the height, the colour, and the texture of the items you work with.
For example, if you choose to have a decor piece coloured in black in the middle of your bookshelf, try to put another black-coloured item higher up or maybe even lower on the shelves. This will help balance your design aesthetic.
8. Fill in with Books and Smaller Items
Take a step back and assess the road map that you just created.
Then, get hold of your beautiful books, both large and small, to put them on display either horizontally or vertically, depending on their position and function in your bookshelf.
You can add some books vertically to your decor to add balance to a larger decorative object that you put on one side of your shelf.
As for large coffee table books, it is better to display some of them horizontally, because they bring balance and visual interest to your decor. Put some objects on top of them to really make them pop and draw attention, so that people could certainly see what the books are about.
As for smaller decor pieces, pair them together next to large books or medium size items to elevate them.
But, remember to keep your decor super simple and clean. Sometimes, less is more.
9. Bring Natural Elements Indoors
Find tasteful ways to add natural materials to your bookshelf, whether it’s a little bit of greenery , wicker, rattan, raffia, or jute.
They will help ground your room and add texture and contrast just in the right spots when positioned with great care and thoughtfulness.
Dried flowers, a faux plant, cactus, a handwoven rattan storage basket, or a little wooden sculpture might just do the trick.
10. Play with Heights and Sizes
One of the most important things to bear in mind when decorating a bookshelf is paying attention to items with different heights, shapes, and sizes.
Having decorative accessories of varying shapes, forms, and heights allows you to create visual impact in your decor and sparks people’s curiosity and sense of discovery.
You want to captivate people’s attention by showcasing eclectic items that beautifully complement each other. Hence, the need to incorporate a wide range of decorative objects on your list.
Another point to keep in mind when decorating your bookshelf is that, when dealing with a low height shelf you want to keep your displayed items small.
When you have a higher height shelf, then you can really introduce bigger items.
11. Bring Uniqueness to your Decor
Be sporadic in the way that you design your bookcase to maintain originality in your decor.
Don’t make every shelf look the same, meaning don’t put all your tall items on the left and small items on the right on every bookshelf.
Your decor flow needs to be different. Every shelf needs to be unique and different. If you take that philosophy to heart, you will be able to design like the pros.
12. Layer Decor Items
Group complementary pieces together wherever you can to create a layering effect in your bookshelf decor style.
The best way to do it is to incorporate decorative pieces that share some similarities in texture, shapes, height, size, pattern, colour, and more
Layering your decor will add further depth, balance, and visual interest to your bookshelf styling.
13. Avoid Clutter
Avoid clutter the best you can, even if you fall in love with lots of decor pieces you want to curate for your bookshelf.
This is why swapping out items when the seasons change can be quite helpful. But, the rule of thumb remains the same: less is more when it comes to decorating your bookshelf.
Try to find a healthy balance the best way you can. So, if you feel that your bookshelf decor is a little bit cluttered, chances are it is.
So, simply, remove a decor item here and there and check out your overall scheme again.
Another way to avoid clutter is by being intentional about having just one decor item in a section of your bookshelf, depending on its design and the style you are going for.
The key here is to not overly accessorise your shelves.
This is why when looking at different bookshelf decor styles, you will sometimes see shelves with more items on display, others with very little items, and lower shelves that are deliberately left empty.
Essentially, for the lower shelves, it’s wise to avoid making them too stuffy if they are of lower height. Keep the shelf decor streamlined, or put nothing there at all if it works for you.
14. Use the Wall Space
Be creative with the way you use your bookshelf wall space. You can create a backdrop with your plain wall and simply display some very cool pictures, interesting paintings, or wall art decor pieces.
If your bookshelf is more like a bookcase, you can create a mirrored backdrop to make your room look brighter and bigger, and your curated pieces will shine through.
Other options you can consider for your bookcase is to add shiplaps or a beautiful wallpaper as a backdrop. You can also choose to paint it into a different colour than the rest of the bookshelf frame to make more eye catchy.
15. Take your Time
keep in mind that putting together a beautiful and well curated bookshelf decor is a process. It takes time. Be patient. you are going to get better as you keep working on it.
So, if you feel like you’re overwhelmed by the whole experience, and we all go through that, it may be time to just relax, take a step back from your project. Don’t give up.
Give it an hour, a day, or even a week to figure things out when you have had a little rest.
Come back refreshed after your little break, and try to rearrange items as you see fit.
You may have to do it as many times as you deem it necessary, until you get the well balanced results that you desire.
In a nutshell, you just have to go with the flow and let the process happen. It is always when you least expect it, after taking a step back from your project to get a fresh new perspective on it, that your creative juice flows back again.
So, just be kind to yourself and give yourself the creative freedom to revisit your bookshelf decor with a brand new vision.
Remember to have fun with it, because it really is fun. And, you are going to enjoy the final results when you eventually nail your bookcase decor style!