Decorating Bookshelves 101

        Lets face it, bookshelves can be a challenge to decorate.    They can end up as a catch all space that never looks put together. 

Just stuff another book in that space that’s already too crammed.  If the shelves are for a library, office, or den where they are simply stocked with books, it’s no big deal.  However, if your bookshelves are in a room where you entertain, this can be embarrassing.   How do you get them to look amazing?    Here are my quick decorating bookshelf tips I’ve collected along the way that can  help you decorate your shelves like a pro.

Living Rm Shelves

Less is always more eye appealing.  You may have tons of books you need to find a home for, but if the bookshelf is in a main room, take most of your books off the shelves and keep only your favorites out for display.  Buy other shelves to place your library somewhere else in your home.  Or if  you haven’t picked up some of your books for years,  consider  donating them to the library or a thrift store for someone else to enjoy.    

Place items in groups of one, threes, or fives.  bird nest on booksItems placed alone or  together in odd number arrangements  are also more appealing to the eye.  Keep this in mind to simplify the look on your shelves.


Be creative with your bookends.   Try to find something non-traditional that will catch the eye.   Try using  things outside the box, like this stone owl, corbels, beautiful rocks and even other books.  

small owl on shelf

Shop your home before you hit the stores.  You probably have interesting items to use as bookends or to decorate  your shelves with.  It could be something from a trip like this  Coke bottle I brought back from Hong Kong or a photo from a special family trip or occasion.  Mix colors, sizes and textures.  All of these will create more visual interest for your shelves.  Rather than just  reading your book titles, your guest’s eye might be drawn to a piece of pottery, basket or an item from a trip you took which will spark a conversation.Metal basket with books

Latte pic & plantAdd some greenery to your shelves.  I use faux plants so I don’t have to worry about  light or watering them.  You can also use interesting containers for your plants like a tea cup or small drawer.   Plants always freshen up a room and can be changed with the seasons.

Consider the back wall color of your shelves.  If you have dark shelves like I do, make sure to use mostly lighter objects that can be seen easier.  Shelves with light or white back walls will be able to pull off a variety of  colors easier.  And if you don’t like the color of the back wall, you might consider painting it or taping some wall paper that you love to it to change the look.  Wallpaper  is a easy and quick way to do a seasonal change that can be pulled off later when the holiday is over.  

Use containers for storage.   This metal grain silo is not only cute, but also useful to hide objects I want to keep hidden, but close by.

silo open

       Here are a few more pictures to help you visualize the tips above.  The first two below are of a shelf along the wall to my basement.

Bookshelf to bsmt

       And here are some simple shelves from a beach condo I enjoyed this past year.  Notice the arrangements done in quantities of odd numbers and all the different textures, shapes, and heights.  

Bookshelf _ DI

Bookshelf - DI

A beautiful bookend.

Balls with texture

Lovely textures, colors, and a variety of shapes that create visual interest.  


         The next time you see a display at a store that catches your eye,  ask yourself what you like about it?  Is it the texture, color, how it’s arranged, the uniqueness of it, the scale, or it’s simplicity.  Pay attention to what you pay attention to.  What are you attracted to and why?  Then try to repeat it in your home.  Play with the designs on your shelves until you get them just the way you want.         

Amish Store Display

From  “Country Gatherings” Store in Amish country – Berlin, Ohio.


       Finally, remember these words:  Does it make my eyes happy?

        Years ago, my sisters and I would get together to make jewelry, mostly earrings and bracelets, just for fun creative time.   When we were trying to decide if we liked our creations, my one sister asked the question, “Does it make your eyes happy?”   These words became a mantra for me that I still use to this day.  When I ask that question and the answer is “yes,”  I know I’m done.   

         You can trust your eyes too.  These tips are here for you as a guideline, not a hard fast rule.  That’s what makes being creative so wonderful.  YOU can create something that is uniquely yours, only in your home. And if you love how it looks, that’s all that really matters.  

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