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bookshelf decor

19 Easy and Functional Bookshelf Styling Ideas

Sometimes the smallest changes in the home can have the most impact. Restyling bookshelves is one such small change. Whether it’s rearranging how your books are displayed, adding some colorful art or layering in your favorite objects and collections, giving your bookshelf a quick refresh can completely bring a new perspective (and vibe) to your spaces. But it’s also a small decor moment that can be surprisingly difficult to master.

For some inspiration, we’ve rounded up our best bookcase styling ideas along with quick tips on how to decorate bookshelves to be instant focal points in your spaces. Find out below!

1. Set Up A Sculpture Show

Fill your shelves with sculptures and accents that have unique and interesting shapes. Whether it’s unusual vessels, captivating artifacts or organic ceramic vessels, they make for intriguing bookshelf decor that’s bound to inspire conversation. Try adding a few cool-shaped sculptures alongside books as a way to work in movement and break up the straight lines of your shelves.

Style Tip: Combine a mix of sculptures in different sizes and heights, like a round vase with tall vessels and obelisks, for visual balance.

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2. Think Multipurpose

Bookshelf decorating isn’t all about styling shelves out just for show. For most people, they’re used for multi-purpose storage for books, bins, and knicknacks, like these low bookcases in this reading corner. With low shelves, try not to overstuff them with books and storage containers. Space things out so it doesn’t look overwhelming.

Style Tip: Have a mix of baskets and containers that hide smaller items on the bottom, then layer books and accents on top for both weight and visual balance.

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3. Organize For Work

In any home office, a tall bookcase is essential for keeping books, resource materials, and work supplies organized and within easy reach. If you’re wondering how to decorate a bookshelf that’s all about functional storage, consider pretty storage baskets, bookends, and sculptures that can be set on top and alongside books. They have more impact than you think.

Style Tip: Don’t forget the style of your actual bookshelf can also make a statement. Try one with a captivating look like this bookcase with an arched design.

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4. Organize In Full Color

Take a vibrant approach to bookshelf decorating by mixing bright accents, like colorful books, sculptures, and florals. It’s a great way to incorporate color into a space without painting or buying colorful furniture. Focus on two or three colors for your palette to create a cohesive look.

Style Tip: There are no hard and fast rules for how to style a bookcase, but it’s always good to arrange accents in groupings of twos and threes for many unique focal points.

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bookshelf decor

5. Mix It Up

Shake things up with your bookshelf decoration by turning your shelves into a stylish mixed-use display for books and a bar. Whether or not you have built-in wall shelving or an inlet like this little corner, you can easily create an impromptu bar space by arranging cocktail accessories and drinkware on the lower shelves, then filling the top ones with books.

Style Tip: Select neutral-colored books to go with silver, copper, and brass-accented barware. It’s a surefire way to create an instantly chic look.

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6. Create A Curated Display

Take a cue from this under-window cubby bookcase and arrange your shelves into an artful display of decorative objects and books. This bookshelf decorating approach is perfect for those who have a collection of finds that deserve to be seen in the home. Think of each cubby as its own mini gallery space for your items.

Style Tip: It’s about showcasing the uniqueness here, so work in all kinds of shapes and colors—tall vases, round items, big colorful books. The more eclectic your mix, the better.

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bookshelf decor

7. Build Out A Library

If you’re like us, a wall of bookshelves is home office goals. With wall-to-wall shelves, give yourself room to experiment and have fun with how you store and display things. Stay practical by filling the lower shelves with all your books, then use the higher shelves as showcases for sculptural pieces, art, and other decorative accents throughout.

Style Tip: Beautiful book covers are artworks in themselves. Display some pretty books by placing them cover forward to give your shelves a high-end gallery vibe.

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8. Think Simple

Don’t feel like you need to curate your bookshelf decor to only be unique objects. The best display can be one that has simple everyday items that speak to you, like a pretty bowl you like or a photo that reminds you of a trip. Keep to simple styling, leaving lots of room between your objects and shelves, for a layered but airy look.

Style Tip: If you have trouble editing what objects to show, choose a theme or color palette, like the nautical red, white, and blue focus here.

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9. Go For A Monochrome Look

Bookshelf decorating doesn’t get more refined than a towering wood-and-glass cabinet. It sets a formal tone and elevates the bookshelf look by default. Play up the sophisticated look further by displaying books in monochrome white and off-whites all throughout. It will guarantee a tailored and elegant overall look.

Style Tip: For balance, arrange books in horizontal rows as well as stacking them vertically. This is an easy way to create height and visual variance with just books.

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10. Keep It Lean

Bookshelves aren’t just for the living room and office. Lean a slim ladder-style bookcase in your entry, where it can function as a catchall as well as extra storage. Style larger items on the bottom shelves and go smaller as you work your way up. This will invite the eye to explore up and down.

Style Tip: One bookshelf decorating idea that’s always great in an entry is to combine art with greenery. It’s a lively pairing that’s certain to set a welcoming tone.

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11. Opt For A Gallery Look

A long and low bookcase in your dining or office space is the perfect display ledge for a collection of artwork. Think of it as a gallery wall but with shelving. Arrange the surface with framed prints, sculptures, and art objects, then fill the shelving below with books and practical storage. Be sure to leave plenty of open space to emphasize a gallery-like look.

Style Tip: To round out this gallery approach to bookshelf decorating, hang art above your shelves and lean larger pieces nearby to fill out the surrounding area and drive the look home.

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12. Aim For Height

If you’re pressed for space, consider installing a few tall and slender open bookshelves. It’s a great way to utilize vertical wall space and decorate with shelves that are styled out instead of hanging up art. Organize your shelves by use, with everyday items more accessible on the lower shelves and art and display objects higher up.

Style Tip: Tall open shelving has a way of adding visual height, making the ceilings appear higher and the room feel more spacious. Keep your surface styling uncluttered to maintain the open look and feel.

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13. Show Off Your Collections

When it comes to show-stopping bookcase ideas, you can’t beat a wall-length cabinet of curiosities. It’s all about playing up a collector’s vibe here. But instead of ephemera and taxidermy and strange objects, filling your cabinet with your book collections is just as impactful and eye-catching. If you have old books and vintage sets, this is the best way to give them pride of place in your home.

Style Tip: Mix vintage and new books, sculptural vases, and other small neutral decor items that don’t overshadow your books.

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14. Liven Up With Greenery

Venture outside of traditional bookshelf decorating ideas by arranging your shelves with greenery instead of art and decorative objects. Make it a point to have a mix of greenery and florals, and bring in a range of vases and vessels for your plants. Space them out and set them on top of stacks of books.

Style Tip: If your shelving doesn’t get much light and you’re worried that live greenery will be too difficult to maintain, go faux. They’ll be just as vibrant and elegant.

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bookshelf decor

15.Combine Practicality and Fun

A tall bookcase is an essential in a kids room or nursery. Make sure to choose a bookcase that’s both functional and safe for a kids room. One that has a combination of closed drawer storage and open shelving is best. You can store blankets and larger toys in the drawer and spread out stuffed animals and books on your shelves, which keeps it cute and stylish.

Style Tip: Your bookcase should provide storage that’s easy for you to access as well as higher shelving where you can keep toys and heavier bookshelf decor out of reach from the little ones.

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16. Play Up Your Personal Style

Another bookshelf decorating idea that’s ideal for an entry is to array a console shelf with all of your favorite art and objects. Unlike a gallery-like approach, this is all about letting your personality shine and welcome guests from the moment they step into your home.

Style Tip: Don’t worry about pretty shapes and matching colors. Trust that grouping together things you love and that reflect your personality will always result in a creative look and feel.

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17. Try A Classic Color Combo

Round out a media cabinet with decorated shelves that are arrayed with accents in classic blue and white. It’s a versatile color combo that works with any room and decor, including a large TV screen. Blue and white accents have a way of adding style and color without being distracting or stealing away all the attention. Avoid anything too bright. Simple is key here.

Style Tip: If blue and white isn’t your color pairing of choice, try another classic color with white as the anchor. Black and white can have a graphic appeal while green and white can bring the outdoors in.

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18. Make It An Eclectic Catchall

Rather than books, use a ladder bookshelf as a multipurpose catchall for a range of everyday items. This is a great way to corral everyday items into one central spot. Assign each shelf a function—two lower ones for bins that hold cords and electronics, one shelf for music and a record player, one for plants, etc. If you live in a small space, this is a stylish storage solution.

Style Tip: Decorating shelves is all about play and experimentation. Try arranging your shelves for different uses and with various objects and decor to see what works visually and what suits your everyday needs.

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19. Turn It Into A Vertical Garden

Draw inspiration from vertical gardens and make leafy greenery and plants the main focus of your bookshelf decor. Unlike an elegant display of floral arrangements and delicate greenery, this approach is all about adding plants to your shelves over time and building it out into a full garden display.

Style Tip: Mix different varieties of plants, like cacti, philodendrons, and ferns, with interesting garden accessories, such as lanterns and a watering can, to play up a greenhouse vibe.

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bookcase styling

How to Style a Bookcase: 5 Takes on this Storage Essential

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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bookcase styling

1 Bookcase 3 Ways – Tips for Styling this Storage Essential

bookcase styling

Picture this – you decide to design your living room and all your furniture has finally arrived. You get it set up just how you want it and are ready to congratulate yourself (or take a well-deserved nap on your new sofa), when you realize something is missing – all of your decor!

From your coffee table, to your bookcases, finding the right decorative pieces to fill up the empty surfaces in your new room can be a challenge. To help, our designers are sharing their best styling tips for every surface in your home. Today, we’re dishing our best tips for filling up your bookcase.

Read on for some new bookcase styling ideas and shop the looks in our bookcase styling studio!

bookcase stylingClean and Contemporary

If you need a bookcase that balances style with function, this approach might be your perfect solution.

Start with the essentials and use your bookcase as a main hub for books, baskets, and little places to stash odds and ends. This gives you a nice mix of open and enclosed shelving, so you won’t have to stress about keeping your bookcase neat and tidy 24/7. Be sure not to overstuff your shelves with items, as that can make your bookcase feel more cluttered than curated.

Then, sprinkle in a few decorative accents like a few succulents, some small art pieces, or a few unique decorative objects for that final polish.

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bookcase styling

Minimal and Modern

If you’re looking for a bookcase styling idea that embraces form alongside function, then this might be the perfect look.

With a modern and minimal design, your bookcase will be decorative but never crowded. This pared-down approach means treating your bookcase more as a vehicle for displaying a few well-curated artworks and objects. Of course you can still use it to house, you know, books, but consider a smaller number of carefully chosen volumes.

Bonus tip: Try placing large and bulkier items on the bottom shelves so that the eye is drawn up, up, up! This will help create balance and direct attention to your more delicate and striking items on the top.

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bookcase styling

Artful and Eclectic

If you are a design rule-breaker, try dabbling in a more eclectic bookcase styling option. Play with mixing up unique items to make a statement, such as bowls, vases, or your favorite decorative objects. This look is all about making unexpected design choices, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box and display a few pieces that you wouldn’t traditionally think to put on a bookcase!

Eclectic doesn’t mean sloppy or random, so be sure to keep your bookcase design feeling balanced. A great way to do this is to pick a theme or color palette that will help guide your approach to styling and ensure the results feel cohesive.

Another great tip is to choose items of different heights and shapes and stagger them along your shelves. This will keep your bookcase from feeling too matchy-matchy and create a lovely layered effect.

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Need help finding the right bookcase styling ideas for your space?

From finding a layout to picking furniture, Modsy Designers are experts at helping you bring your design vision to life. No matter if you just want to see it in 3D or need help from start to finish, there’s a Modsy Design Package that’s just right for you. Start a project today and bring the room of your dreams to life.