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How to Decorate a Bookshelf: 15 Bookcase and Bookshelf Decor Ideas

How to Decorate a Bookshelf: 15 Bookcase and Bookshelf Decor Ideas

How to decorate a bookshelf is a popular topic among homeowners, given that nearly every home contains at least one bookshelf. Bookshelves can be used in a more functional manner, a purely decorative one or even somewhere in between.

If you are looking for functional yet unique home library ideas or just how to design a bedroom bookcase to be aesthetically pleasing, you’ve come to the right place.

Here, you will not only learn the process of how to decorate a bookcase but what can be used for such a project as well. For instance, setting books aside for a moment, plants, mirrors, family photos and even clocks and thermometers are all popular bookshelf décor.

However, if your bookshelves are brimming and cover an entire wall, buying rolling library ladders might be a necessity that also adds to the sophisticated ambiance of your home library.

But before getting too deep into the seemingly endless world of how to decorate a bookshelf, let’s take a moment to add some structure and outline a definitive process for producing wonderful-looking shelves.

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How to Decorate a Bookshelf: The Process

First, it is worth mentioning that there are no hard and fast bookshelf beautifying rules. Instead, what follows should merely serve as a guide to provide you some direction for your decorating adventure.

Some steps you might want to follow include:

Step 1: Begin with a Clean Slate

Start by taking everything off of the bookcase you plan to decorate, as doing so will enable you to reimagine the space without any restrictions or constraints.

Step 2: Gather Potential Decorations

Next, harvest all of the potential items that you plan on putting on the bookcase, whether those are mirrors, plants, DVDs, organizational boxes, books (of course) or other curiosities.

Step 3: Begin Grouping Items

Again, there are no steadfast rules by which you must abide when figuring out how to decorate a bookshelf. Therefore, you can start mixing and matching objects at your own behest.

You might consider strategies like using greenery to add height and movement to a shelf. Alternatively, you can try creating a sense of balance by integrating various tones, textures and materials.

While grouping like items together might seem natural at first, it can quickly make things appear too uniform and stale. For this reason, mixing items up can help to create a more pleasing and interesting appearance.

Step 4: Assess and Adjust

Once getting a shelf to where you think you might like it, take a step back, analyze it and make any adjustments you feel are needed.

From here, simply add things in and take them out until the shelf feels right.

How to Decorate a Bookshelf: 15 Different Décor Ideas

With the outlines of a process laid out, let’s go ahead and turn our attention to some specific strategies that you might employ to get the look and feel you are seeking from your bookshelf-decorating experience.

Use Vertical and Horizontal Stacking

1. Use Vertical and Horizontal Stacking

Vertical and horizontal book stacking is a great way to vary things up and add interest to your bookshelf. When utilizing this technique, it might be wise to horizontally stack larger books and place them toward the bottom of the shelf. Moreover, it is also a good idea to zig zag their placement if more than one stack is to be utilized.

As for other objects, larger ones should be placed lower on the bookcase to help ground the entire cabinet.

2. Leave Room to Breathe

While you might have plenty of things to put on display, it is best not to pack each shelf full. This means that it is important to let the items on the shelf have some breathing room.

If you end up with too many items on your shelves, it will just end up looking cramped and cluttered, thus minimizing your efforts and its aesthetic value.

minimal bookshelf

3. Highlight a Collection

If you are a collector of some sort, it could be wise to showcase your collection on top of the bookcase.

Taking this approach will not only help to fill up the empty space above but enable you to display your beloved collection without taking up precious shelf space.

4. Add a Background Color

Painting your bookcase is a fantastic way to not only add tons of personality to a room but attract tons of attention to your shelves. Using this decorating tactic, you can go as subtle or as bold as you want. However, when painting the background of a bookcase, it does make it all the more important to leave breathing room on the shelves to allow the paint to successfully add to the atmosphere.

If you like this idea but are hesitant about painting the back of your bookcase, you can always utilize temporary wallpaper in a solid color to achieve the same effect, albeit in a less permanent way.

5. Get Playful

If the bookshelves you are decorating are in your children’s room, then it is important to consider the setting. This means that the shelves should not just be practical but playful as well.

This means that you can mix things up and mingle books with stuffed animals and colorful toys, or even include some baskets to help keep trinkets and playthings well organized.

Pick Up Some Entrancing Bookends

6. Pick Up Some Entrancing Bookends

The whole idea behind learning how to decorate a bookshelf is to make the space as appealing and interesting as possible. Therefore, if you have a bunch of books on your shelves, it is essential to liven up each ledge with some bookends that speak to your personality or the character of the room overall.

7. Embrace Entropy

Maybe you are an incredibly voracious reader. The shelves of your bookcase are stuffed to the brim. You quite literally have more books than you do places to put them. In this case, you might just opt to emulate the magic and allure of those dusty old bookstores that you can get lost in for days.

In this singular instance, breathing room is not only an afterthought, it is verboten. Wedge books in every crevice, stack weighty tome on tome in the case, and place piles of overflow on the floor next to the cabinet.

There is no doubt that this bookshelf decorating scheme is only suitable for a specific kind of person, but, when embraced by such a soul, this idea is accompanied by an unmistakable kind of eccentric charm.

8. Bring Your Bookcase to Life

Plants are a common bookshelf decoration for a reason. They are excellent at bringing life to a room and adding color to a bookshelf.

Plus, it doesn’t matter if your shelves are in an office, a bathroom, living room, kitchen or elsewhere; a houseplant always makes for a great bookshelf decoration.

9. Make Use of Colors

When it comes to organizing books, most people tend to do so by category, size or even alphabetical order. However, if you are looking for something a bit more creative and unique, then arranging books by color is a great way to attract attention to your shelves.

Simply organize your books by the color of the spine, and you can create a rainbow of color-blocked books that will delight your guests and make for an interesting bookcase display.

10. Opt for a More Functional Approach

While shelves that are used for decorative purposes can be a great way to liven up a space, they can also be functional. To this end, decorative boxes, magazine holders and other kinds of assorted bins are an ideal way to hide away loose papers, important documents and other sorts of clutter. After all, who can’t use more storage space?

Go for a More Worldly Look

11. Go for a More Worldly Look

Have you traveled abroad, collecting knick-knacks and trinkets from every corner of the world? Bookshelves are a perfect place to showcase some of the collector’s items that you have gathered over the years.

However, if you are going to display such worldly items, it is best to do it somewhere suitable. For this kind of display, a solid oak barrister bookcase is a perfect fit that will help to pull the whole look together into one cohesive arrangement.

From there, you can top off the cabinet with a classy-looking globe to stay on theme and easily convey the entirety of the bookcase’s contents.

Buy a Barrister Bookcase for Your Cherished Travel Décor

12. Top Off Book Stacks

Earlier, we discussed the possibility of placing horizontal stacks of books on your bookcase. If you want to take this idea to the next level, you can create short stacks of horizontal books (say, three to six, depending on their thickness) and top them with accent pieces.

Stack toppers could be just about anything you desire, as long as its size relatively matches the stack. You can try out picture frames, mirrors, small vases or anything else that comes to mind. The sky’s the limit!

13. Place Meaningful Items

If your home has beautiful built-in bookshelves, it is best to adorn these with items that are meaningful, such as family heirlooms, items collected from your travels, family photos and other memorabilia.

So, if you don’t have any built-in shelving, nothing is stopping you from building out your bookcase with items that mean something to you and which will help to bring a smile to your face.

decorative bookshelf

14. Double Up Your Shelving

While this isn’t exactly an idea on how to decorate a bookshelf, it can enable you the space to better decorate your shelves and add to your room’s appearance.

The reality of bookshelf decorating is that you can quickly realize how little space you have after letting items breathe a bit. Therefore, you might want to (if possible) place a second bookcase next to the first. This will give you twice the space and make your shelving feel a bit more impressive.

15. Add in Some Artwork

Again, this might not be a direct strategy for how to decorate a bookshelf but it will certainly add to the atmosphere of the room. Taking the last idea of two bookcases to its logical conclusion, you can hang a large piece of art between the two bookcases to create a more dramatic and authoritative feel. If you would like to round out the space, you can add in a formal sitting area where you and your friends and family can read, chat and admire your handiwork.

Incorporate the Unexpected

Bonus: Incorporate the Unexpected

Again, we would like to reiterate that when it comes to how to decorate a bookshelf, you are the ultimate authority and final rule maker. Therefore, if you aren’t sure if something is acceptable to place on your shelf, the answer is unequivocally “yes.” This is your bookshelf. Make sure it pleases you before anyone else.

Bury Yourself in Bookshelf Decorating

Learning how to decorate a bookshelf and diving into the project can be an extremely entertaining and enjoyable process. Allow yourself to get lost in the action of conceptualizing, arranging, rearranging, tweaking and admiring.

If you are still looking for ideas to decorate your home’s bookshelf or personal library, Van Dyke’s carries a panoply of home décor accents that can help to bring your vision to life.

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