I love watching home decor shows on TV. You know, the ones where a designer renovates a completely outdated room and makes it look like it could be on the cover of a magazine? I can binge watch those for an entire weekend – and then think of all the things to redecorate at my place.
One thing I’ve noticed through extensive research (i.e., watching Netflix for hours on end) is that nearly all of these renovations include a bookshelf. But not like a traditional bookshelf. These are statement pieces in the home. They hold more than books; they have vases, sculptures and artwork, among other things. So how do you put all of that together and make it look cohesive?
Well, I’m glad you asked. I talked with several designers from across the country to get the inside scoop on how to style your bookshelf in five easy steps.
Match the Density
Don’t worry; this doesn’t involve actual science.
Matching the density is about having enough on the bookshelf to balance the aesthetics of a room.
Holly Trick, owner of residential design company Collaborate Architecture, says, “It is important to match the density of the books with the style of the space. Since many of the homes I design have a more minimal aesthetic, I prefer to use small groupings of books with space around them rather than overflowing shelves. If a room is dedicated to reading, however, a dense wall of books is a great textural backdrop to plush furniture and calm colors.”
Essentially, if your bookshelf is in a sleek, minimal or modern room, you may want to consider going with less on the shelves. If the room has a rustic, homey or traditional style, you can put a little more on the bookshelf.
Make a Statement, Tell a Story
So now you know how much to put on the shelves, but how do you know what to put there? Books, obviously, but what about picture frames, trinkets, artwork or even plants? How do you make them all work together?
You’re in luck, because just about anything can go on the shelves. Mark Cutler, the chief designer at online interior design firm Nous Décor, suggests letting what you place there be a reflection of your personal taste and story.
“Small collections are great, or small groupings of framed photos. I always like there to be a link in your groups – so if its photos, maybe they are all of you and your family on vacations, or at schools. Keeping a tight leash on your narrative will stop it looking like just a random collection of stuff,” suggests Cutler.
If you’re not sure about placement of your collection, try alternating between books and decor. “This allows the books to appear more as decor themselves rather than just afterthoughts. It also allows the bookshelves to make a personal statement, as the accent decor has the opportunity to tell a personal story,” says Trink.
Add Some Texture
You know how to match density and what kind of things to put on the shelf, now it’s time to style the bookshelf to really make a statement.
One way to do that is by adding texture. Leslie Price, an interior designer in the San Francisco Bay area, suggests playing with how you display your books to add texture.
“Blend books in groups both vertically or horizontally and even reverse the books so the spines are in the back and the texture of the pages show in front,” says Price.
You can also add natural elements like coral, wood, crystals and rocks to add some texture. Even finding old hardcover books with different textures on them can spruce up a shelf (and they’re pretty easy to find at a thrift store or resale shop).
If you want to try something a little bolder than just adding texture that will really draw the eye, try color-coordinating your bookshelf.
“With books, the obvious way to display them is by topic; another way is by color of book. I am a very visual person, so I often can recall the color of the book I want more than the title; so this can be practical as well as cool,” says Cutler.
Not only is this eye-catching, especially if you have brightly colored books, it can be helpful. If you don’t care for the colors of your books, or you just don’t have enough in the same color scheme, don’t go on the hunt for more. You can cover them with different colored paper to make them match.
Keep color coordination in mind with your decor too. If one shelf has a certain color of books, keep the artwork or decor on that shelf in the same color family.
Take it to the Top
Last but not least, if you want your bookshelf to be a focal point in the room, try adding on to it.
“When I have the opportunity, floor-to-ceiling shelves with a fun sliding ladder can create a subtle but noticeable impact on a room. The ladder adds a sense of playfulness and can draw the home’s architectural style and materials into the bookcase design,” says Trick.
Not all of us have floor-to-ceiling shelves we can add a ladder on to, but you can prop one up against your bookshelf. Use it to hang blankets or even magazines.
If you want the look of floor-to-ceiling shelves, but your bookcase doesn’t quite reach the top of the room, use that extra space on top for storage. This will help elongate the bookshelf.
Now that you know what the pros do, you can style your bookshelf to give your space a new feel in no time! Once you’ve done that, move on to another room with some of these wall decor trends. (I told you I watch too many of those home decor shows.)
Do you have any bookshelf styling tips? Share your ideas in the comment section.
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