5 Tips for Bookshelf Styling (and 3 Designer Secrets!)

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.” -Neil Gaiman.

This quote makes me feel like we have permission to let our imaginations run wild. Whether about home design or books, the choices we make reveal our inner selves, how we dream, how we live and build our confidence. For that reason, I nearly always incorporate books (and bookshelves) into my design concept. A library is a way to express our personal stories - past and present. Your beautiful home deserves bookcases that showcase your style and your soul. Take the next rainy day (or snowy day) and follow these five steps to style your bookshelves. Be sure to let your imagination run free!

START WITH A BLANK SLATE

First, empty everything off the shelves and cull through your books. Keep the ones that are special to you and ones that you want to read. Either store or donate the rest. That goes for all the objects that have accumulated on the shelves. Evaluate. Choose books and objects that make your personality radiate and give you pleasure.

ORGANIZE YOUR BOOKS

Next, decide how you want to organize your books—alphabetically, by color, by topic, by emotion, by genre or by use. As you begin your design journey, you will begin to see a theme emerge. You might put your travel books together and a favorite object that you collected from a special trip.

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PLACE THE BIG STUFF FIRST

Using a zig zag approach from top to bottom, start by grouping the bigger books on each shelf alternating sizes. Then work in your special objects amid the books in clusters of 3, 5 or 7. Here’s a designer trick: Groupings of odd numbers are visually pleasing and create balance.

CELEBRATE BLANK SPACE

Blank space gives the eye a place to rest and adds visual strength. Avoid too much, it causes confusion. Green plants are a lovely addition to your display; however fresh flowers give a too cluttered feel.

RELAY ON SHAPE AND TEXTURE

Vary the heights and mix the textures, material, shapes and colors. Try to balance dark with light, matte with shiny, round with square.

3 DESIGNER TIPS

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1. Buy Books By the Foot

Maybe you rely on electronic books for reading and don’t have a physical library. No problem. You can buy books by the foot and by the color. My source for books by the foot is photo-books by color.

2. Vertical vs Horizontal

Organize 60% of your books vertically and 40% horizontally (lower than the vertical ones).

3. Add a Pattern

Add pop to the background of your shelves with paint or wallpaper. Once of my favorite wallpapers to use for a bookshelf background is Bomba by Juju Papers. Simple yet interesting.

When you are finished, stand back and pat yourself on the back. You have just created a work of art. Happy styling!

Nelly Arnold is the owner of personalspace. She coaches clients to build self-confidence through the power of interior design.

Nelly Arnold