How To Decorate A Bookshelf With More Than Just Books

Sure, bookshelves are for books. There is no denying that. My preferred look for a bookshelf in an office is the simplest design: All books from left to right, top to bottom. But bookshelves in living spaces can serve as both a functional space and a centrepiece of your home design.

It isn’t easy to get just the right look. You need a balance of large items vs. small and bright objects vs. dark, particularly if your bookshelf (or shelves) are large. So Sherry Petersik of Young House Love styled two large bookshelves to show us how it’s done (and get a glimpse into her process).

The whole thing took her about 25-30 minutes, but she sped it up to just over three minutes for us (with a little explanation afterwards):

Throughout the video, she gives some extra tips for how to make the design look its best:

  • Start with large objects and groupings to help anchor each shelf.
  • Mix both vertical and horizontal stacks of books.
  • Give books more impact and height by pairing them with decorative objects.
  • Add real or faux greenery.
  • Try placing similar items in similar spots on both sides for balance.
  • Incorporate framed photos or artwork.
  • Balance your dark and light objects to avoid “heavy” spots.
  • Add a few smaller objects to existing groupings to fill gaps.
  • Move reoccurring colours so they appear on both sides (same for metal finishes and wood tones).
  • Step back frequently to check your progress.

To make the shelving more functional, she also included decorative boxes and bins for storage. You’ll know you’ve hit that sweet, sweet balance when your eyes flow easily up and down the shelves, rather than getting too pulled to one side or the other.


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