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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Explore our gallery for more bookshelf styling ideas!