Bookshelves are a versatile design feature that's function spans beyond simply storing your favourite books.
Bookshelves provide the opportunity to showcase the inner workings of your personality, interests, decor style, seasonal accents and most importantly, reflect what you value most. While there is no 'one way' to decorate a beautiful, curated bookshelf, there are some key styling guidelines we love to follow to ensure that you create a visually balanced and cohesive look. 

Here, we share our top 5 tips for decorating bookshelves:

// 1. Select your Colour Palette  // 2. Lighting // 3. Accessorise: Loved, Living, Lustre // 4. Layering  // 5.  Styling the finishing touches 

STYLING TIP #1: CHOOSE A COLOUR PALETTE

Decor Style & Colour Palette

We recommend exploring our Style Library for step-by-step styling tips for a range of decor styles or take our Interior Style Personality Quiz  if you are still discovering your unique style. 

TAKE THE STYLE QUIZ

Considered use of colour in your space will evoke different feelings and shape your perception of the space.

  • Living room: Warm, neutral colours are inviting to the eye and create a welcoming environment.
  • Home office: Low-wavelength colours, like restful green and navy blue improve efficiency and focus.
  • Bedroom: Muted shades, such as light blues, white, silver, soft pinks or orange helps promote serenity, rest and joy.
  • Colour Combination Template: Select a base colour + complimentary accent colour + metallic element + natural material.
  • Interior Style Template: Use your results from the Style Quiz above as a guide to selecting a colour scheme based upon your interior style.

Here is a great resource for diving deeper into how to combine colours in your home:

Photo Source: Suzie Anderson Home

Photo Source: Suzie Anderson Home

Photo Source: Suzie Anderson Home

STYLING TIP #2: LIGHTING 

  • Mood Lighting: Salt lamps, flameless candles, lanterns, fairy lights, tea-lights and taper candles.
  • Task Lighting: Cordless/battery operated table lamps can be styled to create clusters of illumination and draw the eye in.
  • Accent lighting: Wall sconces and LED picture lights can be placed above your built-in or free-standing bookshelf. Under-cabinet lighting and LED strips will create a warm, soft glow that will light up every shelf on your bookcase.  
Crawford Ceramic Lamp Base w Finial Piped Shade
Crawford Ceramic Lamp Base w Finial Piped Shade
Crawford Ceramic Lamp Base w Finial Piped Shade
Kelly Temple Lamp Base
Kelly Temple Lamp Base
Coastal Urn Lamp Base
Coastal Urn Lamp Base
Soho Square Lampbase | Dark bronze finish | Tall
Soho Square Lampbase | Dark bronze finish | Tall
Silver Palms Lamp Base
Silver Palms Lamp Base

Photo Source: London Projects

Photo Source: Jean Stoffer Design

Photo Source: Verandah House

STYLING TIP #3: ACCESSORISE: LIVING, LUSTRE, LOVED.

We always accessorise with something loved, something living, and something with lustre, balancing old and new items to achieve a look that is visually considered. If your existing bookshelf decor is no longer exciting you, we suggest 'shopping your home', as you will be surprised how many items can be repurposed in new and creative ways! This encourages you to think beyond the pure function of the decor, as your can start to consider the shape, texture and colour of your items. 

Something Living:
Fresh cut greenery, faux plants and flowers, branches, pinecones, coral, shells or driftwood.
Something Loved:
Large ceramic or glass vessels and vases, leaning framed or propped artwork, picture frames, vertical and horizontally stacked books, decorative bookends, woven baskets, family or travel heirlooms, sculptural pieces, coral, boxes and seasonal accents. 
Something with Lustre:
Incorporate natural glass crystal, obelisks, candleholders, clocks, reflective surfaces and muted brass, gold, pewter and bronze elements. 

Pajaro Oriente Trinket Box
Pajaro Oriente Trinket Box
Arch Trinket Box | Elefante
Arch Trinket Box | Elefante
Jefferson Container
Jefferson Container
Jefferson Container
Jefferson Container
Ebony Vessel with Lid | Tall
Ebony Vessel with Lid | Tall
Fleaurs Aux Abielles Trinket Box
Fleaurs Aux Abielles Trinket Box
SHOP DECORATIVE ACCESSORIES

Photo Source: Suzie Anderson Home

Photo Source: Society 19

Photo Source: Suzie Anderson Home

STYLING TIP #4: Layering

  •  Contrasting Heights, Shapes & Scale: Add larger, vertical layers (at least one on each shelf) to prevent the design from looking cluttered. Soften up harder lines from sculptural art/boxes/books/art with organic, round shapes through vases, jars and bowls. 
  • Balancing Colours: If you opt for a bolder base colour such as black or charcoal in the middle of the shelf, balance it out with a black item on the top and lower shelving as well. Consider an additional accent colour or metallic detail to be woven throughout the composition.  
  • Layering Textures & Materials: Incorporate a variety of materials and surfaces for visual richness. Combinations include wood + horn, natural rattan & glossy marble, chalky ceramics & crystal glass or metallic accents. 
  • Different Planes: Positioning taller and larger items against the back of a shelf helps break up the white space and creates layers and fullness. Place smaller decorative accessories forward or stack them to achieve depth and dimension.
  • Diagonal Styling: This is especially important if you have a pair of bookshelves that frame a fireplace or window. Experiment with zig zagging similar colours, items, shapes and sizes to create visual interest, allowing your eye to travel up and down as well as side to side.  
  • Grouping in odd numbers: Experiment grouping items together in odd numbers of 3 or 5 items to create the illusion of a triangle. We also love to put the spotlight on unique stand-alone items, such as a statement coral piece or decorative bust, especially if you have very large built-ins.  

STYLING TIP #5:  STYLING

Now that you have selected your colour palette, lighting, accessories and have selected a variety of textures, shapes, colours and sizes, it is time to start styling the finishing touches of your bookshelf.

  • Start with blank state: clear your bookshelves and visually split the bookshelf into 3 vertical sections. 
  • Add in the largest scale items first, such as your picture frames, vases and vessels, spreading them out and separating things that are too similar in colour or height. Balance the overall composition by displaying the heavier and larger scale books and pieces towards the lower shelves (1 large item per shelf). 
  • Start with the centre / eye-height shelves and work from the middle of the composition, to the outer left and right edges. Create variations of height through layering books in vertical and horizontal stacks. Play around with colour blocking, putting together like with like, ie gather all same colour book spines together.
  • Finish with your decorative accessories, incorporating the balance of something loved, something living and something with lustre, utilising the stacked horizontal books to elevate certain pieces or nestle them in odd groupings next to larger anchor pieces.
  • To ground the look, consider centre aligning on the bottom shelf with a storage basket or box, which will also allow you to hide away any books you don't want on display. For example if your room is strictly monochromatic, only display books in line with that colour palette.  
  • If your bookcase shelving is close to the floor, opt for more robust and easy to clean pieces such as document boxes, baskets and less fragile or delicate items.  
  • Lastly, take a step back and look at the overall composition, ensuring there is a cohesive balance and enough negative space to let your eyes breathe.

Photo Source: Bria Hammel Interiors

Photo Source: Oak Stone Homes Iowa

Photo Source: Ingredients LDN

Use an eye-catching lighting fixture to elevate the room & make it the focal point.
Lighting changes how we see a space and how we feel when we are in that space.

There are 4 main lighting styles; Accent Lighting, Ambient Lighting, Task Lighting and Mood Lighting. Use accent lights such as wall sconces to frame an artwork, mirror or mantelpiece. Ambient lighting is fundamental to a properly lit room and provides the overall illumination through lighting fixtures such as Ceiling Pendants and Chandeliers. 

Task Lighting brightens areas where routine tasks are performed and makes a nice addition to the ambient lighting throughout your home. Task lighting includes adjustable floor or table lamps. Lastly, Mood Lighting is where you can get creative with pretty candleholders, hurricane lamps or decorative lights that function both as decorative objects and provide soft illumination.