How to Style a Bookcase


Yes, bookcases are utilitarian by providing much-needed storage, but they also add a major style statement to any room. They’re the perfect solution to a blank wall, lending a sense of height and space. And with your own artful arrangement, you get to add your stamp of personality. Check out our images and tips below to achieve a well-styled bookcase at home.


If you’re a voracious reader or fanatical collector of coffee table books, chances are you have stacks and stacks of books. This is perfect, because you should start with books — the basic building block — when styling a bookcase. The most important thing is to create visual interest by mixing up the composition of the books on every shelf. Arrange them both vertically in rows and horizontally in stacks. And if there is a particular cover you especially love, display it outward as you would a special print, as we did here.

Don’t have a lot of books? Display a magazine collection or scour used book stores and flea markets for interesting looking hardcover books.


Once you’ve got your books how you want them, fill in the gaps with trinkets and decorative accessories. Top a stack of books with a small cherished object, layer in a favorite framed photo and use a tall sculptural object to fill in any major spaces. Anything is fair game: trays, natural objects, dishes, framed art, vases, clocks and more. For a more edited look, don’t put too many small objects together on any given shelf and group like objects together.


Books can create a lot of visual busyness. If you don’t like a lot of color, go neutral, like the office space above. There are several ways you can go about achieving this decidedly more quiet look: limit books to only those with neutral-color spines; display books with their spines turned in so you only see the whites of the pages; or wrap book covers in brown kraft paper. Of course, you could use a combination of any of these tactics, but the latter two only work if you don’t actually need to locate a book anytime soon.

Next, choose decorative accessories that fall in line with your neutral color scheme. We especially love to use natural woven baskets and bins for creative storage that also cuts down on visual clutter.


You also can use your bookshelf to reinforce your room’s color scheme and highlight a beautiful collection like we did here with our Blue and White Porcelain Vases. Just imagine one vase on the shelf. It wouldn’t make much of a statement, would it? But  remember, if you’re grouping several objects together on a single shelf, use odd numbers for the best impact.


If you have a small space, then transform your shelves into multi-taskers. We created a mini-bar on a tray and paired it with a lamp for mood lighting. Attractive and practical additions, both will come in handy when you’re entertaining guests.


Nothing says you have to use a bookcase for storing books. Here, we used the grid design of the shelves and glass doors to frame nine individual vignettes. The trick is in using various objects, colors and textures to make a statement. We love this look in a library or dining room.


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.


  1. Reply

    Lynn hanna

    August 28, 2015

    Which Ballard rug is that in the picture under How to style a Bookcases? ( the one with yellow tones, antique pattern). Thank you

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      August 31, 2015

      That is our High Clere Rug.
      The How to Decorate Team

  2. Reply


    April 5, 2015

    What are the wall and door colors in the first picture with the yellow book shelf and the gray sofa? The whole look is lovely.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      November 5, 2015

      Hi Hollie,
      The wall color is Benjamin Moore’s Silver Mist #1619, and the door color is Benjamin Moore’s Raindance #1572.

  3. Reply


    March 24, 2015

    Thank you for acknowledging color-coordinated books aren’t very realistic and for giving a good way to work around this!

  4. Reply

    carole wasielewski

    March 17, 2015

    LOVE the new Lily Console and want to purchase it, however white finish does not work in my home. PLEASE offer this in darker shades. The size is perfect and has great style.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      March 25, 2015

      Hi Carole,
      We’re thrilled to hear you like. We’ll pass your suggest along!
      The How to Decorate Team