Tips for Styling a Bookshelf

So I finally tackled our bookshelf the other day during one of Violet's naps. We hang out in the back room all of the time, and every time I looked at the darn thing I wanted jump up and start rearranging things. Doesn't it feel good when you finally get to accomplish something that has been bothering you for a long time? Here's how I went about it:

First let me say that this is mainly about styling books along with a few accessories. We have a lot of books, some pretty, others not so much, but I wanted all of the books that we use to be on the bookshelf - not just the good-looking ones. So books being the focus, I started with three basic horizontal rows, simply because it's the best way to get the most books on the shelf.

I started at the bottom, as you want the most visual (and literal) weight to be there. On the VERY bottom shelf (which you can't even really see so it doesn't matter much here) I added some of the babes toys. Small items were groups in two larger containers on either side and larger items were placed in between. On the shelf above that I started the first horizontal row of just books. This is where I placed Violet's books as they are obviously easiest for her to access on one of the lower shelves.

Larger books (again, for visual/literal weight purposes) and those that were not the prettiest colors went on the next shelf up. You want most of your 'pretty' things to be at eye level, so if you want to include the uglies, keep them lower if possible. I skipped the next shelf as another horizontal row would've just been plain boring and moved on the the second from the top. On this shelf I added another horizontal row - both for balance and to maximize space, but on this row I included books that were smaller/thinner and prettier colors. When I did add larger books I kept them on the far left and far right sides of the shelf.

Finally, I tackled the remaining two shelves. I saved the VERY tall books for a vertical stack, as many of them just wouldn't fit standing straight up and down. I plopped that on the lower shelf (third down), again - the weight thing! (I feel like I'm writing a dieting post or something here - seriously!) I topped these books with a small 'pretty' object. In this case - a picture frame (although I really wanted a little ceramic bird - note to self - must purchase a little ceramic bird). On the left and right I stacked a few more large not-super-pretty books and hid them behind some much prettier items - a vase of fresh flowers and a piece of art on an easel. This broke up the books a bit but still allowed me to pack more books onto the shelf. Win - win.

And last, but certainly not least, I styled the top shelf. I took one of my prettiest books and set it in the middle facing out. This helps to balance the large vertical stack of books a couple of shelves down. In front of this I placed a glass cloche with some geometric hand-painted blocks - the vibrant colors helped to bring out the pretty colors of the books. On the left and right I did two more vertical stacks. I kept these stacks slightly more monochromatic in order to keep the focus on the center of the shelf.

After styling the last two shelves, Violet's shelf looked a little off, so I added the piggy bank in the center and it seemed to all come together.

The last thing I still want to do is to add some globes to the very top of the bookshelf. I currently have a wooden xylophone-type instrument that my father-in-law made, but I'd like a little more height and color (and I love globes!)

So there you have it! To sum things up:
  • Keep heavier/uglier books near the bottom (for both visual and practical purposes)
  • Place prettier/lighter books at eye level
  • Balance out horizontal rows with vertical stacks
  • Add a few accessories for visual interest and to break up the rows of books
  • Use the accessories to 'hide' uglier books and choose accessories that bring out the colors you'd like to emphasize.
  • Place children's books and toys on the lowest shelves for easy-access
Now I am so much happier when I happen to glance over at the bookshelf. No more rearranging urges here! Someday when I'm rich I want a library, but for now I'm content with my one little bookshelf.


  1. great post! love the idea of organizing my bookshelf and integrating a few of my favorite miniature treasures. I must admit that when I'm browsing vintage books for tea themed reads a pretty color always grabs my eye. time to find a bigger bookshelf...



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