Ultimate Bookcase Decorating. I know. That’s a pretty strong statement. But I’m here to show you step by step how to pull your boring bookcases out of “library” mode and into designer territory. Here’s how.
Beginning Bookcase Decor
I have a wall of bookcases (I actually have 5 but they didn’t all fit on one wall in our current home, so this is proof things don’t always have to be done in odd numbers). They’ve been in need of a little spring cleaning and organizing so what better time to totally empty them and start with a blank slate. It’s usually easier to start an accessorizing project with a blank slate because you’re not trying to fit things into already existing vignettes.
I start with emtpy dusted shelves. Whenever you use more than one bookcase unit together, strive for some continuity in the shelf placement. I didn’t want rows of shelves exactly the same distance apart so if you look at the shelf arrangement, you’ll see a method to my madness. The center shelf spacing is the same throughout. The two center bookcases are spaced the same and the two outer bookcases are spaced the same. Notice I included some really wide spacing to allow for some accessorizing to break up the rows of books and I added under cabinet strip lighting to showcase those display shelves.
I gathered together books, bookends, plants and some accessories – sometimes it’s easier to pull more than you think you’ll need from around the house because it will give you options. I tried to stack my books by author or genre so the shelves will have a little organization and I can actually find a book when I want to lend it.
Where to Begin?
Begin at the bottom. Place your largest volumes on the bottom shelves – they’re the heaviest and usually the tallest so they’ll serve to ground the bookcase. If those bigger books were placed on the top shelf and paperbacks on the bottom, the unit would look top heavy and visually unbalanced.
Now that my bottom shelves have a start, I get a little more random in placing the books. I do start with the books rather than the accessories because they are the main element and constant in all the units. At first I just start filling. After I’ve carried a few armloads, I step back and assess the look. At this point I’m only checking for visual balance – are the books getting spaced attractively throughout the bookcases?
As you can see, I placed all the oversize paperbacks in a long row in the 2 middle bookcases. Not sure I’m liking that. Also the third case is much too dense with books – I’ll have to break that up a bit. A designer trick that I use frequently is to lay books flat to further break up the library-like feel of rows of books. Plus they make pretty cheap bookends!
I moved one shelf of oversize paperbacks up to break up that dense row and eliminated one of the rows of books in the third shelf (might still be a little dense but I have lots of books yet, so I’ll wait a bit and see if I can change it up later). I started adding some accessories on shelves where I know I don’t want books. Two of the shelves have only one items on them. That creates a place for your eyes to rest as well as really showcase that particular item. The collection of blue glass was pulled from around the house – you might be surprised how many items you have that when put together make a pretty collection.
In the blue glass collection, the focal point is clearly the largest vase, a little off center. There is an almost equally tall vase but it’s so narrow that it doesn’t seem as tall. I laid a vase on its side to play up it’s green center that works with the touches of teal/green in other places. On the book shelf I added iron finials for a touch of contrast.
Remember to decorate the tops of the bookcases too. Put books up there that you don’t often need to access. This would also be a good place to put a few coffee table sized books laying flat with a small plant or box on top of the books.
I noticed I have a couple of shelves where I have placed two stacks of flat books toward the center like above. I don’t really care for the look and to have it more than once means I need to change something. Below is the reworked shelf – I moved all the books to one side and added the textured ball. Better.
A Final Look
Here’s a segmented version of that third shelf where I was battling the denseness of the books. On the left edge you see the oversize books that I moved up a shelf, the third shelf of books was lightened considerably and the addition of the finials on the second shelf break up the “all books” look. You can see I even found a couple of places to add in family photos.
Ta Da. Here’s the final view of the bookcase wall. Notice: Books are fairly evenly distributed throughout the shelves; there are multiple shelves with big empty spaces to let the eye rest; books are stacked flat to serve as bookends and to break up the rows of upright books; pictures and artwork are incorporated throughout the shelves; taller books are relegated to the bottom shelves for visual weight; a little greenery has been added to put life along the wall.
Ultimate Bookcase Indeed
I actually ended up with enough books left over to fill another couple of shelves but felt like there are more than enough books in the current arrangement. Plus I have room to add a few new ones….. Here’s my challenge to you: I want you to dismantle your bookcases (whether just one or a series like me). Totally empty them. Now using the designer tips I’ve shared, create your own ultimate bookcase with a new awareness of balance and visual weight and interest. Edit things that don’t work in the new look and add in things from other rooms that do work. Don’t you love your newly redesigned bookcase vignettes?
Do you like to display books you’ve read? Do you blend in accessories or prefer the library look? Or maybe you find a bookcase just a catchall for clutter? Whatever your preference, let us know. How about sharing a before and after of your restyled bookcase with us? We’d love to see how you interpret these designer tips. Email photos to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a comment below the ads by clicking on the word “Comments”. We love hearing from you.