Style the Perfect Shelfie

When styling the perfect “shelfie,” there are a couple of guidelines you should follow. No matter what shelf style you have, whether it be contemporary or traditional, the rules are simple. They may seem obvious, but they are the universal styling rules for all shelves in your unique space.


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Looking for an easy and practical way to add style to your living space? Whether you have an existing bookshelf that needs a face-lift or are planning on adding one to your home, decorating and organizing it can be a little tricky. First and foremost, bookshelves are for storage, so it’s easy to clutter them and create more of an eyesore than a style statement. If you’re using a bookshelf to display keepsakes and decorative accessories, keeping the look consistent with a good visual flow can also be a tough thing to achieve. With a few quick tips, we’ll have you well on your way to a beautiful bookshelf that’s part storage, part display, and completely stylish!



The first step is to start from scratch! If you don’t already have a ready and waiting empty bookshelf, then take this opportunity to de-clutter and only keep items you really love or need.


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The second step is to know your style. If you’re decorating an existing piece, this will be the simple part! Do sleek and simple chrome accents and an high contrast color scheme catch your eye? Or do you love industrial and vintage elements that have a more classic flair? Either way, your accessories should tie in and reflect the style of your shelving units and the rest of your room.

In the antique/industrial shelving pictured above, you may be surprised to find that there aren’t more books! There are quite a few gaps filled in with wicker baskets, vintage boxes, figurines and conversational pieces. If the bookshelves were filled to the brim with books, the overall look would be quite heavy and uniform. Depending on what you want to display, a ratio of half books and half accessories would be just about right. The visual interest the better. Even if you’re going with a contemporary design, hardcover, leather bound books are always a safe bet! Paperbacks aren’t as stylish or versatile. Have a few old text books sitting in your closest since college? Put those over-priced dust collectors to good use and make trendy book covers for them with burlap or linen! Vintage books are also inexpensive and plentiful at any antique or thrift store.

Be creative when stocking your shelves with books, stack some horizontally and place an accessory on top, or go for a messy look and put a few volumes strategically out of place. It’s important that the decorations and design of your bookshelf reflects not only your personality and lifestyle through the items it displays, but also through the way you display them. Make it unique to you!


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For a fresh and modern look, choosing accessories that are simple and clean will help give you that striking, minimalist style. The key elements to making monochromatic pieces work together are shape, texture and balance. Ceramics are a great way to collect similarly colored pieces in all shapes and sizes. Choose two or three large pieces for the entire bookcase, and grab smaller, supplementary items to fill in the gaps. Always look at the shelving unit as a whole, instead of shelf by shelf, and start by positioning your bigger objects first. Never place two large items next to each other on the same shelf; you’ll disrupt the flow. Instead, place the pieces in a slight zig-zag composition, like the sea shell, textured orb and vase on the second, third and last shelves respectively. This will create a natural sense of balance.

In addition to the white ceramic objects, feel free to use a variation of accent materials—like the silver lantern and mirrored box. These pieces draw on the bookshelf’s finish and complete the modern look. A few pops of color certainly won’t hurt either, but don’t go too overboard. The beauty here is in simplicity.


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In the end, decorating a bookcase is about looking at it as a whole, and evaluating how the books, pieces and accessories fit together to create a harmonious look. It’s a great place for eclectic interests to collide, but color, pattern and repetition of elements should create visual relation interests to collide, but color, pattern and repetition of elements should create visual relations. In the elegant, vintage inspired bookshelf above, the limited neutral color scheme creates a sense of refinement while the creams, beige, and dark browns add variation and contrast. The natural materials like the light, unfinished wood, ivory ceramic vases and wicker baskets recall one another throughout the overall composition, while a few unexpected elements, like the pewter jars or black metal lantern, give the style a special touch.

Because this shelving unit is so large, the need to keep things from crowding is important. Only one to three larger pieces are chosen to occupy a single compartment. This may seem counter-intuitive to all the available space, but this way, you’ll be able to enjoy your carefully chosen items and nothing will seem lost or unorganized.

Inspired to re-organize and decorate your bookshelf? Less can be more, a color scheme will help keep your design unified, and accessories that vary in size, shape and texture will bring interest and balance to your overall composition. No matter what your style is, always make sure to put your own personal touch in your bookshelf. After all it is your shelf, so make it meaningful to you.