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Tips for Decorating Bookshelves

I recently tackled our living room bookshelves. Something about how I previously arranged them wasn’t sitting well with me. I sought out the guidance of a decorator friend of mine and am sharing her tips for decorating bookshelves.

While I made only subtle changes, I feel the bookshelves are much more cohesive and appealing to the eye after I employed her decorating tips.

Bookshelves after employing decorating tips.

Tips for Decorating Bookshelves

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In this ‘before’ picture, I’ve noted some areas where Lyn pointed out some improvements I could make.

A few tips for decorating bookshelves.

Less is More

Before you start, declutter. Only keep items that spark joy or have sentimental value.

Nothing Smaller than a Cantaloupe!

This piece of guidance caused me a little angst, but for the most part, I adhered to it. She observed that the smaller trinkets I displayed weren’t making a big enough impact because of their size but instead were just eye clutter. I love many of these little trinkets but have thought of another ‘job’ for them, which I haven’t tackled yet.

Vary the Orientation

Mix horizontally stacked books with vertically lined-up ones. It gives depth and prevents the shelf from looking like a boring library aisle.

Bookshelf after redecorating

Plants

Introducing greenery is never a bad idea. Whether it’s a potted succulent, a trailing ivy, or a robust snake plant, it will instantly lift the ambiance. I’m not big on faux plants and really didn’t want to add another live plant to tend, but I think my moss balls work just fine!

Top shelf with lamp and moss ball.

Light It Up

Consider adding some ambient lighting. Fairy lights or small lamps can create a warm, cozy vibe. After discovering this wireless, rechargeable light for our bar cabinet, I bought another lamp for the bookshelves. It does the job perfectly! FWIW, this is the second lamp I ended up ordering from Amazon. The first, while less expensive, really had more of an orange-than-gold look. These are clearly gold.

In addition to this one that I am using on our bookshelves and bar cabinet, here are some other cordless or battery-powered lamps for bookshelves:

Consider your Personal Touch when Decorating your Bookshelves

Everyone has a different take here, but I’m not one to buy mass-produced and marketed decor that anyone could have in their home. I prefer to use family heirlooms, cherished photos, something picked up on our travels, or a favorite piece of pottery to tell our story.

I have a porthole from my dad’s Navy service, a painting done by my dad’s aunt, shells we picked up during our time overseas, the Raggedy Ann and Andy books my mom loved as a child, and my grandmother’s milk glass urns decorating our bookshelves.

Artistic Flair

Use framed art prints, statues, or sculptures. They add a touch of sophistication and break the monotony of books. I have a framed painting done by my dad’s aunt and three little, unframed pieces I have painted on the bookshelves.

I used one of my abstract paintings to give a backdrop to this piece of coral, otherwise, it would have blended into the white background of the bookshelf.

Coral in front of blue abstract painting.

Varying Heights

Play with varying heights. Use decorative boxes, pedestals, or stacked books to elevate some decor items. I use mirrored and wooden boxes, as well as books as pedestals in my shelves.

Shelves after decorating.

Color

Consider grouping books by spine colors. It’s aesthetically pleasing and can act as a visual focal point. I have some books grouped by color and then other books not grouped…I don’t want to get too boring.

Hidden Storage

Use stylish storage boxes or baskets to hide things you’d rather not display. They can also break up the visual flow in a chic way, and small boxes can act as pedestals.

Function Meets Form

If you’ve got items that are functional but also good-looking, like a beautiful globe or a decorative clock, flaunt them!

The Space Between

Don’t feel the need to fill every inch. Negative space can effectively make your shelf look curated and airy.

Consider a Cohesive Frame Color/Style

One of Lyn’s suggestions, which I feel had the most impact, was to keep my frames the same color as it would be cleaner to the eye. I was all over the place with frame colors previously. I chose gold to be the color.

For frames that would accommodate a color change, I gave them a quick wash with Rub ‘n Buff.

For the rest, I bit that bullet and purchased new frames. This wasn’t as expensive as you would think: six frames for $41. I purchased these frames in 5 x 7 and 8 X 10. The 8 X 10 frames have mats that can be used for a 5 X 7 or without the mat for an 8 X 10 photo.

Using the same frame color is one of the tips for decorating bookshelves.

Of all of Lyn’s tips for decorating bookshelves, I think this one little change made the most impact!

Spending a little time on my bookshelves really has made a nice difference. It’s not dramatic, but it just seems cleaner and calmer.

Bookshelves after employing decorating tips.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a bookshelf that’s as vibrant, dynamic, and unique as you are. It’s a canvas waiting for your personal touch, so get creative and enjoy it!

Looking for more decorating ideas? Check out the dated corner cabinet I recently turned into our bar cabinet.

Bookmark this page or pin the following image to refer back to this list of tips for decorating bookshelves.

Decorated bookshelves.

Thanks for making my day by SHARING!!

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2 Comments

  1. It’s uncanny. My fireplace wall with side shelves is almost identical. For a moment I thought I’d accidentally hit my own photo library. I play with the shelf decor often.
    It’s difficult to edit out things. It’s like choosing between grandchildren.

    1. Hi Rita,

      That is uncanny! Sorry I threw you for a loop. I don’t often play with shelf decor…I’m looking for one and done. But those really weren’t sitting well with me for too long. I’m happy now.

      It does seem we are connected somehow!

      Have a great evening.

      Hugs, Lynn

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