In this post, I will teach you the method I used on how to style a bookshelf.
When we built our home, we created a pair of built-in cabinets/shelves that flank either side our our fireplace. They are centrally located to our main living room and a central focal point, so having them organized and styled is a must for me. All the toys, games, and random items get stowed away into the cabinets below, leaving the 6 shelves wide open for decorative items and seasonal decor.
I’m often asked how I go about styling my shelves and occasionally get requests to help stye the shelves within my friend’s homes.
Styling is something that anyone can accomplish with a little practice and these helpful tips! Use the concepts below and you will be well on your way to styling your own bookshelves (and possibly even restyling them with each passing seasons!)
Here are my “go-to” tips for styling a bookshelf:
STEP #1: Find Your Center
A well styled bookshelf almost always has some element of symmetry. Starting with the center provides a launching point for defining your bookshelves focal point. Choose items that provide height and/or textural interest… think artwork, baskets, photos, etc.
STEP #2: Work in Triangles
The eye loves to work in odd numbers, and triangles are the perfect tool for accomplishing this! Think about adding height to the center of your grouping (or vignette) and then work your way outwards. Visualize your shelves in terms of their overall “blanket triangle” scheme, using the points of the triangle to determine where your smaller groupings will land.
Next, break them down into smaller, triangular groupings (these are your large triangle points, remember?) Notice in the photo above, I stuck with mainly equilateral triangles for the center (yes, I am using math terms here … I guess it does come in handy later in life!) and then I have worked various right angle triangles into the left and right hand sides. Doing this gives the eye somewhere to rest once it gets to the end of the bookshelf and “caps” off the shelves.
STEP #3: Fill In
Now it’s time to fill in any areas that seem bare or lacking in visual interest. Use single (one up items) or small groupings of three in these areas. Think small picture frames, groups of candlesticks, etc. You don’t need to fill in every square inch of your shelf… in fact some visual “breathing room” is always a good thing! Again, your eyes enjoy resting somewhere, as opposed to darting back and forth without a place to land.
STEP #4: Step Back and Assess
Throughout the entire process of styling your shelves, you should always take a step back and assess the situation. I do this constantly! I shift, replace, and rearrange things until it feels right. This gets easier the more often you style your shelves, but it is always a practice to implement. For example, my shelves still seem to be lacking something up top… my plan is to find some cute, and airy frames to pop in between my groupings.
STEP #5 (optional): Create Balance Between Built-ins
If you have a pair of bookshelves to style, don’t worry about having the exact same items on both sides. Simply keeping your “triangles” or groupings consistent on both sides will be all you need to make them look seamless! For example, notice the middle groupings for each middle shelf? I haven’t used the same items, but using one tall picture and then a smaller horizontal picture (or basket) creates a similar grouping on both sides, creating symmetry and balance.
Styling is so fun once you get into the groove of it! Just remember… there are no stead-fast rules to design… if you like it, go for it! But following the above pointers will help you to achieve a uniform and beautiful look!
- work in odd numbers
- work in triangles
- avoid filling every bit of empty space… allow for breathing room
- remember to add height into each of your groupings
- adding texture to your vignettes is always visually appealing