How To Style Bookshelves Layer By Layer

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Adding that last layer to a room means arranging and styling surfaces like windowsills, tabletops, and especially empty bookshelves. You can leave these to the last minute, as they are the finishing touches rather than the backbone of your design. Here’s how we tackled Ashley’s bookshelves during the makeover:

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Before you get started, gather lots of things in a variety of finishes, shapes, textures, and colors. You’ll want them on hand to futz around with, try things out, and move around. There’s lots of room for flexibility and variation.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

We started off with this great Beckett 5-High Shelf from Crate & Barrel. It has five tiers and it’s location across from the mantel balances the room nicely and adds an equal amount of height on the other side of the room.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Personal Items: As we’ve said all along, start with things you love and make sure that keepsakes, travel souvenirs, or personal photos are well-represented.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Books: Books are like a building block of shelving. First, you’re putting books….on a bookshelf. Duh. But beyond that, they are incredibly useful as a styling tool. They add color and pattern. You can place them vertically as a group, or use them to vary heights on the shelf, and to prop up other smaller items you’ve got hanging around.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Sculptural Objects: Things like the black wire lamp and metal spiny object have texture and movement that break up all the hard angles of books. Without them the bookshelves would look too linear and staid.

(Image credit: Ashley Poskin)

Plants: Ahd then last but not least, cascading plants that spill out of their containers add an especially nice dynamic element to a room. Each one has a different shape and personality. They also add a healthy dose of green.

Extra Credit: The Most Important Decorating Tool You’re Not Using