How To Edit Your Bookshelves and Start Loving Your Space

published Feb 2, 2016
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(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Quite like beautiful jewelry, a well-styled bookshelf will always catch your eye. Every bookcase offers an opportunity to display your favorite books and objets in a perfectly styled gallery of sorts. But–again, just like jewelry–too much can definitely be a bad thing. Overloaded shelves will begin to look cluttered and messy if you’re not careful.

If you sense your space has ventured into the latter categories, you just need to take an hour or so and edit your shelves. Here’s how to do it.

Step One? Step Back

Before you do any editing, the first goal is to get a snapshot, literally, of your bookshelf. Grab your phone and step back away until all the shelves are in view and snap a photo (a note: if there’s furniture in the way, try and take one obstructed shot then move the furniture and take another).

There’s magic that happens in a camera’s viewfinder: By looking at the photo, you’ll get a better picture of which areas of your shelf are visually heavy and which are looking a little bare. You can use that new perspective to confidently start to edit. Which brings us to step two…

Take it Off, Little by Little

Those areas that look a little weighty on camera? Pull a few things away–stash them on a table or basket behind you–and re-style the vignette. Pull a book at first, then maybe a candle or the ceramic bowl, and get it to where you want it. Do this for every area that needs work. (Chances are, you’ll do more removing than adding in, but if you see any areas in your photo that look a little bare or unbalanced, you can layer objects back in, too.)

Then–here’s the thing–step back and take another picture. Rinse and repeat until what you see on screen is looking picture-perfect. Then…

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Redistribute the Wealth of Stuff

All that stuff you removed? You love it. It doesn’t need to go anywhere. You thought I was going to tell you to give it away or something? No way. Not unless you feel the urge to simplify. Then by all means, pack it up and head to Goodwill.

But all the stuff you pulled from the bookshelf that you really do love and want to keep can go elsewhere in your home. Bookshelves are a popular spot to decorate with styled vignettes, but they’re not the only one. Your coffee table, dresser, console table or even countertops are great spots for accessories that didn’t make the cut on your big bookshelf edit.

→ Easy Home Decorating Ideas: 9 Tips For Your Best Tabletop Vignettes Yet