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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
- This battery-powered lamp has a very low profile, making it great for smaller spaces.
- This modern lamp would fit in with a minimalist decor.
- The metal shade of this battery lamp is stamped with a pretty metal fan design.
- This set of two lamps has a metal mesh shade and a wooden base. They are another low-profile lamp.
- This Retro-style metal lamp has an industrial vibe.
- Another modern-style rechargeable lamp.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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