7 Bookshelf Styling Tips You Should Steal from Professional Home Stagers

published Dec 20, 2020
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When I was growing up, my family’s living room bookshelf was full of my parents’ law books. It wasn’t until I developed my own style that I realized I don’t have to stock my shelves like attorneys—and my bookshelves no longer have to be boring

Even though I’m a literary buff, bookshelf trends have helped me see that shelves don’t always have to be exclusively for books, either. Looking to upgrade your own bookshelf game? Take a page from these home stagers’ styling tips.

Incorporate plants

Plants are a favorite decor choice of Apartment Therapy editors and readers alike, thanks to their ability to spruce up almost any space. Michelle Minch, CEO of Moving Mountains Design, agrees. “Plants just add some life—another element that draws your eyes,” she says. If you decide to go with a real plant, she says to make sure your bookshelf gets enough light to keep it healthy.

Stack books horizontally

Even diverging from the norm slightly can make a lasting impression. “We have all grown up with our parents’ bookshelves, where the books are lined up like little soldiers,” Minch says. “Laying the books down adds visual interest and something unexpected.” Stacking them horizontally in this way is also functional if the shelves aren’t tall enough to stand books up.

Incorporate small items on top of or around the books  

According to Lauren White, owner and principal designer of Ellen W. Interior Concepts, you can get creative with accessorizing your bookshelf. “You can put anything on a shelf, as long as it makes sense to the room and the space,” she says. Stack candles on top of a tower of three books or incorporate ceramic containers, a vase, or antiques. White says one way to make the bookshelf your own is including your collectibles, be it a vintage camera or a typewriter. 

Get creative with picture frames

Pictures definitely up your bookshelf game. “You can buy—at yard sales—travel magazines, cooking magazines, or home decor magazines, and cut out pictures from the magazines and put them into your frames,” she says. Another genius hack? Don’t rule out damaged coffee table books when you’re at Goodwill or thrift shops. Minch says if the inside is still in good condition, you can tear out travel photos or pages from artists you love and place them in frames.

Include decorative storage boxes for function  

Bookshelves can be unexpected storage spots. “Those little canvas boxes really do serve a purpose other than just looking pretty—they keep clutter out of sight,” White says. If you place decorative storage bins at the bottom of your shelf, you can not only add another element of design, but also functionally hide items.

Opt for adjustable shelves

If you can find adjustable shelves, having this flexibility can go a long way. According to Minch, shelves don’t necessarily have to run horizontally across the length of a wall. Adjusting shelves’ height allows you to incorporate taller objects to decorate with. White says you can use adjustable shelves to include pictures or a mirror “to give it some visual interest and take up some of the space.” 

Break out the spray paint

If you prefer to stick with one color scheme, you don’t necessarily need to throw out items that don’t match your style. “Spray paint is your friend,” Minch says. “If you find a really cool little sculpture but it’s the wrong color, spray paint it.” Small, personal touches like these are what will give your bookshelf some heart and soul.