Tips for Styling Bookshelves

I was thrilled when we built our library to have a place for our books, but lets be honest I did not have THAT many books to fill this whole wall of built-ins. I love that my hubby and I designed the look of the bookshelves. He built it and we both painted it, but when it came to styling, he turned to me and said "have fun." Love that guy!

I got loads of deals when shopping for books at thrift stores, yard sales and library book sales. I got some knick knacks at yard sales.  A BIG tip is to look for things at thrift stores and yard sales- you will find tons of things that would look good on a bookshelf to add interest. 

I styled the bookshelf and was happy. However, over time there were some things that were not quite right and started to bother me, like I tried to lump too many books together. There were some things that needed to go in the baskets and I needed to figure out the spacing of things. Recently, I took most of the books and things out of the bookshelf and started again to style. Sometimes we just need to start afresh. 

Here are some BEFORE shots:
See how I don't have enough books to stack tall? I think the plates are pretty but not large enough. There are some awkward spots.

With five bookshelves in a row I tried my best to add symmetry into the mix and break up the books. Here are a few tips/ideas that helped me.
Add some art: I put in a few black and white photos of our family and this beautiful old painting that my husband's great great grandmother painted. Some modern art would look good in here too. I like the idea of hanging art in between the shelves, but I haven't convinced my husband yet, hence the leaning of art.
Add baskets and bins: Baskets can break up the books or you can put books in the baskets. I love that you can throw what you want in those baskets and they might be messy on the inside but on the outside it looks organized.

Stack books in different directions: It's easier on your eye to have two stacks of books on one shelf and then the next to have them standing. Variety is key!

Use bookends/knick-knacks: This is where you could have a lot of fun with some accessories. I got these two dog bookends at a yard sale for $2. It doesn't need to be expensive to look good. I also shopped my house to bring in some more white pieces of urns, busts, pots, milk glass all of these items helped break things up more and add interest. 

I'm really liking how our shelves look now. Styling can be the fun part but it may take a couple of times to get it right. What suggestions do you have for styling a bookshelf?


  1. I have a wrap-around library ( bookshelves on 2 adjoining walls ). 4 bookshelves on each wall.

    All the shelves are painted black to unify the library-feeling, connected by crown molding as a topper.

    I organize my shelves according to subject...novels, non-fiction, cookbooks, etc.

    A Bright orange lounge chair and ottoman are in the corner intersection of the shelves, set on the diagonal.

    No other adornments or knick-knacks on the shelves.

    I like the clean, but welcoming library feel of the room.