Styling Our Bookshelves

You might be tired of hearing about our built-in bookcases but I can't finish this topic without a post about how I styled this beast. I was looking forward to styling these bookshelves since we had boxes of books in our basement waiting to be put out. Don't you think a home feels more 'homey' and collected with books somewhere in the decor? I love the look and smell of books (and reading books). Steve and I decided that one of our goals for our children would be to have a collection of books in our home. This would help them put an emphasis on education and reading (along with us reading to and with them).
I had been collecting books at thrift stores and library book sales. Seriously, if you are looking to buy a large amount of books and or knick- knacks the place to go is- Salvation Army, Good Will, D.I, library book sales, or yard sales. BUY USED BOOKS! You can find some real old books, series, collections and current novels, encyclopedias, etc.
I found these three plates and two coordinating prints at a barn sale. There is quite a few barn/antique stores in my area where you can find items like these inexpensively.

Also, SHOP your HOUSE. Many items on our shelves were in some other area that I thought might look better in the library.

Here's a close up of the sconce before and after with some ribbon trim.
I used a No-Sew fabric glue to attach the ribbon to the shades. 
Adding some navy blue ribbon was easy and helped make them unique.

First, I took two wire baskets I had and put on the outside bottoms to anchor the bookshelves, and put a large green bowl up at the top middle. It's good to use baskets to anchor your shelves whether it be in the middle or sides.
I wanted the encyclopedia set to go in the middle and be a focal point (I found this set at a yard sale). The three plates would center the bookshelves. At first, I put them one shelf too high and moved them down one shelf so they would be more at eye level.

Second, lay out all the books and items on the floor. This will help you see what you have and how to go about putting it all in. You want most pictures to be at eye level. Also, feel free to use a mix of boxes, containers, and other items along with your books to fill your shelves. All this adds a nice variety.
When I brought out all the books- it was like Christmas morning. Our girls were so happy to sit there and look at all these books that hadn't been unpacked yet.

Third, I created certain sections like children's literature, history/historical fiction, gardening, art, religion, fiction, and encyclopedias. Creating sections for bookshelves helps so you know where most things are at a glance. Some people organize by color- which is a great way too.

Fourth, put larger books on their sides to give variety to the standing books. This also acts like a bookend for some of your books.
Who spies a Massachusetts cribbage board? My father-in law made a couple of  these unique cribbage boards and now I'm happy to finally have a place to display them. Both my husband and I are from Massachusetts so we love that piece.

Overall, it takes some time to put it all together and there will be editing along the way. However, a bookshelf is a great place to display the things that have meaning to you. 


  1. Beautiful post. Too bad your father in-law didn't make more of those cribbage boards. It would be a nice thing to have in any household. What a treasured item. Great job styling your bookshelves. Makes me want to go out and buy my own books to put in a book shelf.

  2. The ribbon trim really makes the lamp shades stand out and I love how your book shelves look orderly, but cozy too. It's nice that it's used and not just for decoration. Such a great inspiration!

  3. I don't need to know how to style my bookcases, because I have this awesome friend who is AMAZING at it. I'll just invite her over. :)

  4. An empty bookshelf does look lonely, yes? Filling it up with old books does enhance the feel, although it would be best if they are old books you actually owned as a child or such. The fix on the sconce was a simple one, but the effect is certainly noticeable. Well done!