5/29/14

Tips for bookcase styling

So picking right up from last week's post all about my favorite decor books, I thought we'd continue the whole party with decorating the actual bookcase.  They can be quite difficult to get right. Of course, there will be no rules or right or wrongs in this post, but I think that's what makes getting them right even more difficult.

At our last house, one of my favorite things about it were the built-in "bookshelves" in the family room.
I had to do some serious digging (on my iPhone) to find this one, but here's the best shot of those I could find (well one of them at least...just imagine the other one on the right).


This shot probably doesn't do them justice, but they were HUGE. Like 3 feet deep. Ok maybe not that much, but you feel me. Definitely too large for just books. I had so much fun decorating those, but I could never quite seem to get them right. I was constantly "shuffling" everything around.

So fast forward to the new house hunt early last year. I knew that built-ins in the family room were a must-have for the new house wish list for me.  I just love a good set of built-ins in a family room. Not just for books, but for storage (check out all the cabinet space beneath them), and displaying random tchotchkes.
I love me some random tchotchkes.

While iPhone-digging for that last photo, I also came across this one on moving day into the new house last year...


Total chaos.

The first place I decorated in the house was literally the bookcase area. I really love ours. They aren't as deep as the last ones, but they are much taller with one more shelf and some recessed lighting.


Funny enough, I haven't majorly changed anything in them since.  Because I'm really happy with how they turned out, I think I can *hopefully* provide some basic bookcase styling tips that may help you out if you're stumped!

Just for some reference as to how big these are (because photos make them look deceivingly smaller than they are), when I'm standing in front of them, my head comes right to the top of the second shelf (I'm 5'7").  Also, the paneling is right at 11' tall. You can see where it ends better in the photo above.

Here's a better shot of them...


That's why decorating shelves like this is difficult. Unless you own a small library, you're not going to be able to fill up large shelves like this with actual books. Plus I like the look of some interesting things on shelves mixed with the books as well. Problem is, when you add a lot of random things it can begin to look as chaotic as the moving day photo above.
Because I have a good bit on the actual shelves, I like to keep the mantle really simple. Sometimes, I go around and "de-clutter" and remove everything from the mantle completely. But that's another post for another day.


Funny because I remember in a decor post a while back, someone commented that they found it funny that we had no books on our bookshelves. I counted. There are 34 (not including the little fake white ceramic ones and magazines, of course). Some are hidden around the corners of the shelves.  There's just a whole lotta' shelf. You can see that a bit better below.


So let's just get down to my tips...
  1. Start with your books, then add a "collection" of similar items. For me, it's white ceramic things.  I've had all of these items forever and while they're all different, the similar color and material help to pull the entire shelving area together when scattered about. 
  2. Go heavier on the bottom shelf and lighter on the top. To me, it just visually feels right and gives you more to look at and actually be able to grab from on a more accessible shelf. For us, this works out perfectly also because the bottom shelf is a bit deeper and holds more stuff. Use some trays in this space to group lots of smaller items together without feeling cluttered.
  3. Don't just arrange books vertically, arrange some horizontally as well with some items grouped on top of them. This works really well to display tinier items as well.
  4. Mix in some photos and some "sparkle". I added some gold and mirrored items to ours. Even if you don't want anything super "bling-y" or crazy, adding something metal works well to add some different finishes.
  5. Don't make every shelf look the same. Stagger items, group things by twos or threes, and add items of different colors and types to sort of balance everything out.
  6. If you have a favorite magazine, save the issues and display them behind a bookend to add some more reading material to the actual shelf.  I love to collect Elle Decor.
  7. Remember that you can't really make any major mistakes. Just play around with the items and keep stepping back to see if it "feels" right. Sometimes I find it helpful to snap a few photos with my iPhone and look at it that way. For some reason, I can always see more things I don't like or that feel unbalanced from a photo.
Ours definitely aren't perfect, but I always smile when I look at them, which I think is a good sign.  I like that they are definitely "arranged" and feel put-together, but still feel inviting enough to actually grab books from and look through when you want something to read.

So those are just the tips that work for me.  Maybe they'll help you if you're stumped with your shelves or just feel like they're never "just right".  Part of feeling "just right" for me is not being so perfect. Flip some books around, lean them in different directions... just have fun with it.  That's what shelves are to me anyway... A fun place to display your favorite things. 

So do any of you struggle with your shelves? What types of things/collections do you display on yours??

29 comments:

  1. I adore your home decor posts. These are some great tips, thanks! I like the bookshelves in the new house the best!

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  2. i love the white ceramic faux books. where are they from?

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    1. thanks! They're great space-fillers for big shelves :) They're from ZGallerie

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  3. Tiffany, do you know where your fireplace screen is from? :) Love this post - very interesting.

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    1. Hi! Thank you! I ordered it from Pottery Barn maybe 4 years ago? Not sure if they still have the exact one, but I know they'll probably have something similar. Also, when Fall starts to roll around each year, target comes out with some that are similar and a fraction of the price. Probably would have bought something cheaper looking back.

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  4. Absolutely love your decor post Tiffany. Counting the days til we move into our new home!
    mommynheels.blogspot.com

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  5. TD,
    Did you put up the white boards behind your TV yourself? Would this be too big of a project for me to handle?

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    1. Hi! The paneling goes all the way around the room 11' up and was already there when we moved in. It seems like it would be a pretty big job so I'd probably hire that out if you were wanting to do a whole room. Maybe one wall would be do-able! But I suck at stuff like that...haha freaks me out. So it just depends on what you're comfortable doing.

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  6. Wonderful tips. I love the abundance of white. :] // itsCarmen.com ☼

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  7. I hate the look of too many books on a book shelf. I'm more of a "keep things simple" kind of person, so all my books are hidden in a book case. It's the same way for DVDs. I hate the way the cases look, so I throw them in DVD binders. It makes keeping my home look uncluttered and tidy.

    I love the tips you gave, especially the "go heavier on the bottom" one.

    Connie | Sponsored by Coffee

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  8. your sitting room is my favourite in your home in which I have seen thus far, love the shelving and am totally on the same page as you with not having JUST books. That is what a book case in the library or study for! Can't wait for more home decor posts.

    Jacqueline xx

    http://the-prettylittlethings.blogspot.com.au

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  9. Your bookcase decoration looks very pretty. I like the color coordinated aspect and the little objects that add interest and invite to take a second look. We got two huge bookcases in our living room filled with encyclopedias that we bought second hand. They are all unused and come with in different sizes. I mixed some small lamps between the series, little (fake) flower pots, some CDs and also a few of my favorite books. The books don't catch that much dust, but the rest does. I do not feel that I haved to redecorate or shuffle, but I know that one day we will probably replace it all for a huuuuge flatscreen TV mounted to the wall. Until then we very much enjoy the bookcases. Thank you for sharing your tips.

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  10. I LOVE the way these look! I love how well you use white, a lot of people are afraid to use white because it can get dirty but you use it a lot and it's beautiful! I usually display books both vertical and horizontal in bookshelves and add some pictures and artsy things!

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  11. Looks awesome! I love that the placement of things on each shelf kind of mirrors the one on the other side
    (ceramic white books, vases/white pieces in the middle of the 1st & 3rd shelves, etc.). I think it looks best like that, even when it's unintentional!

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  12. Your home is so light, airy, and neutral. I love it. The bookcases are perfectly arrange! Not too much, not too little! Great for home staging tips. I will share with my real estate clients! Thanks!

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  13. Tiffany, where are your curtains in the living room from? I love them.
    Loved the post too. Maybe one day my house will look as put together as yours. Or maybe I just need more time. HAHA.

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    1. hi! Thank you! I got them from curtainworks fairly recently. I have a post about them if you're curious. Don't worry about your house coming together- it takes time. Most of our stuff is from our last place. It's complete trial and error. Don't rush it! :)

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  14. I love your white swan. Would it still be available some where? It would look great on our dinning room buffet next to an old pair of Stiffel lamps with little swans in brass on them.

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  15. thank you so much for sharing the info with us, I hope this website is always crowded visited and liked by many people

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  16. Gorgeous Tiffany!
    I love the ceramic books... a lot!
    Love the tones and the stunning but simple decor!
    xo Holly xo

    HollyDolly. 

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  17. Do you happen to remember the paint color in your old home in the first picture?

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  18. I think bookcases tend to be the only things I get right when it comes down to decor. Great post, thanks for the helpful tips :)

    http://rpgsandlipstick.blogspot.com/

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  19. Great tips! My current residence has a built in bookcase, I love it for this reason!
    Carolyn | BLOG

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  20. Tiffany you have such a lovely decor style. Where is your leather furniture from? I am having the hardest time finding quality leather furniture. Thanks for the help.

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    1. We got it from a local furniture store. The actual brand they are (my mom was recently looking for similar ones, so we investigated), is no longer around. :(

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  21. Do you know where you got your swan from? It's darling and I need one!

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    1. thank you! I got the swan from Z.Gallerie about a year ago!

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  22. what is the paint color in the den of your old house. We are planning on painting our kitchen/family room and are looking to use a color like that. I was running back and forth to Ace Hardwarde last weekend and my head was spinning. Colors looked good in the store, but not at home on the walls or looked good in one light, but once it got dark, looked totally different. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!

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