When you think about it bookshelves are one of the largest horizontal surfaces in your home. They demand decorating and styling to look good, which makes them instantly intimidating.
So many shelves. Each shelf seems so big. It takes lots of things to fill a shelf. How do you arrange all those things, so it looks good, not cluttered? Just talking about it feels overwhelming.
If you already have books and decor on your shelves, re-doing them all, even if you don’t like the way they look now, feels like too much work.
Styling bookshelves is tough without a plan. So often we get lost in the utilitarian aspect of shelves that they end up getting crammed with everything they can hold. It’s hard to see their potential.
The trick to good bookshelf styling is to focus on a couple key areas. When you turn your attention to the color palette, what you choose to display, and how you arrange things together, styling shelves is so much easier and less intimidating. Like a puzzle…it takes a little time, but you know in the end it will all fit together.
There are three big mistakes that make bookshelves eyesores instead of focal points:
- No color palette
- Too many small things
- Everything lined up or worse stuffed in wherever it fits
All three of these mistakes have easy fixes which can transform your bookshelves into the focal point you want. Fix these mistakes and you can say goodbye to a wall of mess and hello to pretty and practical. Let’s talk about each mistake and how to overcome them.
1. The Quickest Way to a Cohesive Look
Without a color plan, shelves quickly look cluttered and confusing. You don’t have to color-code your books, but you should introduce an obvious color palette on your shelves.
Well-styled shelves feel cohesive and one of the easiest ways to achieve a cohesive feeling is with a consistent color palette. Choose 2-3 accent colors to use repeatedly throughout your shelves. Pull these colors from the surrounding room, so your shelf styling fits in.
By reinforcing your chosen colors intentionally and repeatedly throughout your shelves you create a color theme. This makes your bookshelves look pulled together and cohesive with the surrounding room.
2. Why Your Shelf Decor is Ignored and What to Do About It
I know that little figurine your mom brought back from Italy 10 years ago, means the world to you, but you can’t display all the little things on your shelves. They just get lost.
Besides being too small to be noticed, when you fill your shelves with lots of little things, they’re easy to gloss over. It’s too much to take in, so the brain just reads it as clutter. Clutter is ignored. Your bookshelf is dismissed. That beautiful wedding gift you want everyone to see is out-numbered by distracting clutter of every other collectible.
Choose your favorite little things to display and move the rest elsewhere. Make the little things you keep stand out. If they blend in, they don’t need to be there.
3. How to Avoid Flat Styling
When everything sits in a line on your shelves, they look one-dimensional. Flat. Boring.
I know most shelves are only 11 or 12 inches deep, but your shelves need layers.
- Layer picture frames, art, mirrors, or trays behind other objects on the shelves.
- Arrange decor in clusters, not lines.
- Stack objects to add interest.
- Mix books with decor.
Layering adds instant depth and interest to even the shallowest shelves.
The best way to avoid flat styling on bookshelves, is to do something interesting with your books. On Thursday, I’ll be back with some new ways to stack books and mix in decor for pretty and practical shelves you’ll love to look at.
P.S. You know why they put the picture of the completed puzzle on the box? So you know what it will look like when it’s finished. And if you are like me, you use the picture as a guide to figure out where the pieces go. Shelve It: How to Style Bookshelves is like the box top revealing the big picture of how to style shelves, including the basics of bookshelf styling, how to arrange books with decor, and finding the right accessories. Join Décorography today to add Shelve It to your decorating library, so you can take your bookshelves from eyesore to attention-getter.
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