Annette’s 7 Golden Styling Rules for a Bookshelf

How to Style a Bookshelf

We asked Atlanta photo stylist and producer, Annette Joseph, to help us tackle a decorating dilemma we all struggle with from time to time: the artful arrangement.

BD: Knowing what to do with an entire bookshelf is a huge struggle for many of us. How do you do it?

AJ: When styling a bookcase, it’s important to make sure each shelf tells a story. The scenarios in the shelves I styled are examples of some of the elements and themes you should keep in mind. The biggest no-no is putting too many small objects on a given shelf. In the business we call this “editing.” Editing means picking the very best objects you own and displaying them with a plan in mind. There are several design rules you can use to make styling shelves a no-brainer, so you end up with a concise and pretty result.

Annette’s 7 Golden Styling Rules for a Bookshelf

1. Storage—Use interesting baskets to store bits and bobs.

How to Style a Bookshelf

2. Artwork—Incorporate small pieces of art to create visual interest.

How to Style a Bookshelf

3. Book Stacks—Create vignettes using books with pretty and colorful bindings.

How to Style a Bookshelf

4. Collections—Display collected, themed objects on a shelf to create instant impact.

How to Style a Bookshelf

5. Repetition—Use an odd number of like items in a row (3, 5 or 7) to tie a shelf together.

How to Style a Bookshelf

6. Flea Market Books—Tear off the covers and tie bundles with jute or twine for texture.

How to Style a Bookshelf

7. Pops of Color—Throw in a couple of objects that unites the color scheme in the room.

How to Style a Bookshelf

BD: Each shelf is its own story, or landscape, while also contributing to the collective whole. How do you make this work without creating a lot of noise or distraction?

AJ: Now that you know how to edit and what themed elements to use, your bookshelves should be beautiful without “noise.” One of my golden rules is to put “like with like.” If you follow this basic styling rule, you should have organization, not only on your shelf units, but throughout your home.

BD: Often, you can create that great eclectic mix with items you already have in your home. What is your best advice for gathering these little treasures and knowing whether they’ll work together?

AJ: Think in themes. Tear pages out of magazines or download looks you want to imitate. Be a student of design. Get rid of anything that does not “go” with your decor. People have a tendency to hang onto things for sentimental reasons, even if the object does not go with their decor. Be strong: donate it or throw it out! Editing paired with simple displays of objects always works.

BD: Shouldn’t displays reveal something about the person who lives there? How do you create that personal touch?

AJ: I am all about personal style. I am a firm believer that if you buy objects and artwork you love, it will all work together.

BD: Color is very much a part of your vignettes. What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate color into an arrangement and how do you know what colors to use?

AJ: Take a look around your home and at what’s hanging in your closet. Chances are the answer’s right under your nose. Everyone gravitates toward colors that please them. Look at decorating magazines and websites to see what’s current if you intend to update your color scheme. The bottom line is, if you start with a neutral and add colors you adore, you can’t go wrong.

BD: Are there any other words of wisdom you’d like to share?

AJ: I am a student of decorating magazines. I shop and am in stores all the time looking at new trends. But with all the information I gather, I tend to stick to the classics, whether modern or traditional. I like to add touches of trends, but making a house a home is totally about the family who lives there. Buy quality and not quantity, collect things of interest and stick to basics.


Learn more about Annette Joseph:

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.