Not every home update has to be a major reno. Sometimes all you need is to restyle a few surfaces to bring new perspective into your spaces. One way to do that is by rearranging your bookshelves.

There’s no shortage of bookcase styling ideas on Instagram and Pinterest—and for good reason. The bookshelf is the ultimate storage piece. Beyond books, you can decorate the shelves with art, sculptures, plants, and other storage vessels, which ultimately turn the shelves into stylish displays and focal points in a room. Whether you have a built-in bookshelf in your living room, floating shelves above your bed or a freestanding bookcase next to your work desk at home, consider filling them with your favorite decor objects alongside books to add a bit of visual interest.

bookcase styling

It’s not all just about style either. Part of what makes the bookshelf one of our top furniture essentials is that you can customize and tailor it to suit your storage needs as well as how you use your space. If you love plants, you can layer lots of greenery to create an interior vertical garden of sorts, or if you have children, you stow and stack away storage baskets and bins with toys. It’s all up to you how you want to decorate and use your shelving.

Here, we’ve rounded up five ways to style your bookshelf that are tried-and-true and guaranteed to give your rooms a whole new look and vibe. Read on for more and get our bookshelf styling tips along the way.

bookcase stylingTake #1: Shelves With A Mix Of Decor

Be it books and art or vases and bowls, this layered approach to decorating your shelves is all about curating a display of decorative objects and accents. Balance is essential here. You want to make sure your bookcase is arranged so that each of the shelves have an even distribution of decor and open spacing.

The Key Styling Elements:

  • Start with the big things. Begin by adding large, solid objects, such as tall vessels and boxes, to ground your shelves.
  • Layer in the small touches. Follow up with accessories, like framed art and decorative objects, so that each shelf tells a story and feels like a collection versus a random grouping of items.
  • Get creative with books. Line your books up vertically as usual, then stack bigger ones horizontally in piles of twos and threes. This helps balance out the shapes of the other decor.

Good rule of thumb: If you’re struggling with what objects to place where, try grouping things in threes (two small objects with one large item). It’s the easiest way to create a curated look.

This is perfect for… those who love a classic and elegant display that’s curated with all of their favorite books, art and mementos.

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bookcase stylingTake #2 – Shelves With Stylish Storage

Skip the books and double up on storage by arranging bookshelves with vessels, boxes, trays, and decorative baskets that provide even more storage. This is one of our favorite ways to minimize visual clutter of tchotchkes and small loose items. Plus, there’s no wrong way to decorate your shelves with this approach.

The Key Styling Elements:

  • Box it up. Stylish storage boxes are your best friends here since they come as a set in multiple sizes. Whether you stack them together or spread them out, it’ll always result in a cohesive look.
  • Think trays and jars. For a chic catchall, you can’t beat trays. Pair them with lidded jars that also keep knicknacks out of sight. From afar they’ll look like part of a beautiful bookshelf display.
  • Sprinkle in baskets. Not all baskets need to be tall and huge. They can be just big enough to hold books, toys, and remote controls. Go for matching ones so that you have a consistent look.

Good rule of thumb: The lower shelves are where you can be a little more prescriptive and just use them for storage baskets. It’s perfect for boxes for toys that children can easily grab.

This is perfect for… family-friendly spaces where practical storage is paramount but you still want your organization to come off as chic and cohesive looking.

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bookcase stylingTake #3 – Shelves With Plants & Greenery

Even if you’re not a plant parent, decorating with a bit of greenery on your shelves will help break up the color palette and also bring visual interest to your bookshelf. There’s no rule for the plants you bring in but we recommend low-light greenery and cacti, since those are low maintenance.

The Key Styling Elements:

  • Stack succulents. If you’re not sure how you’ll be able to take good care of plants, start with small cacti and succulents. Place them on stacks of books for some instant color and texture.
  • Opt for potted plants. Add large potted plants to serve as visual bookends that anchor top and middle shelves. Flowers, such as orchids, are great for bringing a colorful and sculptural touch.
  • Go faux. You also don’t have to go by the books and only stick to live plants. Faux greenery and flowers will provide the same vibrancy and color (without the need for care) to your shelves.

Good rule of thumb: Make sure to leave lots of breathing room for your plants on your bookshelves. You don’t want to overcrowd and dwarf them by adding books and lots of other objects. Stick to a few decorative items.

This is perfect for… modern minimalists who love airy plant-filled home look. This is definitely for someone who loves an uncluttered space as much as they love plants and greenery.

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bookcase stylingTake #4 – Shelves With Sculptural Objects

Your bookshelf is one of the best places to showcase personal collections, such as meaningful artworks and sculptures. With this approach, it’s all about filling your shelves with sculptures and accents that have unique and interesting shapes. Adding them alongside books is a great way to add movement and break up the straight lines of your bookshelves.

The Key Styling Elements:

  • Layer by size. Start by placing your largest sculptures and art pieces in the back of your shelves, then add smaller pieces in front. This creates a sense of depth that will draw focus.
  • Spread out similar items. Try to break up colors and shapes. It can be as simple as not grouping all the small white vases in one spot and dispersing them across several shelves.
  • Let statement pieces shine. Some accents shine brighter on their own, like statement vases and sculptures, which are more captivating without books and other objects around them.

Good rule of thumb: Not everything needs to be arranged in a cluster of three—which works best if you have an eclectic mix of decor. Separate matching objects and mix things up. It’ll feel more dynamic.

This is perfect for… collectors and art-lovers who want to show off the unique things they’ve amassed, be it a finds from their travels around the world or precious art given to them by friends.

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bookcase stylingTake #5 – Shelves With Colorful Accents

If you’re looking for a fun way to liven up the mood in a room, punch up a bookshelf with bright accents that add pops of bold colors. This is great if you have bookshelves in a living room that has mostly neutral furnishings, or if you’re working with a space that’s surrounded with stark white walls. Think of your shelves as a blank canvas for color!

The Key Styling Elements:

  • Complementary colors. Stick to colors that complement each other (blues and oranges here) for anchors. You can then explore accents in all the different shades of the colors you choose.
  • Pair books with plants. Give your bookshelves a bold dose of color and texture by topping colorful art books with a leafy plant. The natural greenery will help offset all the bright tones.
  • Oddities are great. When it comes to colorful accents, the more whimsical and odd the item the better. So bring on the weirdly shaped urn and the wild-patterned bowl. They all belong here!

Good rule of thumb: Color-blocking with your books is always a winning look. Group together the coffee table books that have the same color cover and spine to create a coordinated look that turns your shelves into an organized and eye-catching display.

This is perfect for… boho-style lovers who enjoy a mashup of colors and eclectic finds that each have a backstory. It’s all about keeping things quirky here!

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