StyleBlueprint Deal

Bookshelf Styling 101

Posted by on Aug 21, 2012

Today’s post is from StyleBlueprint Memphis writer Lauren Patterson.


More and more it seems these days, bookcases and built-in cabinets are being styled in wonderfully artistic ways. Back when built-ins served a more functional purpose rather than being the focal point of a room’s design, the old way of styling a bookcase basically involved throwing some books on a shelf and hoping it worked. Old awards and every school portrait you ever had taken (even during those awkward teen years) would be displayed with no rhyme or reason. In return, those objects that were important became the clutter of one’s home instead of collectibles that could tell a pleasing story. Thankfully though, dressing up bookshelves is making a comeback in a big way. And with the the overload of ideas popping up everywhere, we wanted to show you our favorite ways we’re seeing this trend play out to help you get your creative juices flowing if a do-over is in order for your built-ins.

(Click on images to link to sources.)

A pop of color goes a long way


Add a light to your bookshelves

When gathering books for your shelves, keep in mind that you do not have to go out and buy a lot of expensive coffee table books. They can easily set you back $50 a book and drain your budget quickly. Instead, take advantage of thrift stores, garage sales, or used bookstores. Amazon is a great place to get used books, too. And remember, if you have any books with ugly covers, try taking the cover off and see what’s on the inside. Often the actual book is much more appealing than the outside cover. 

Great accessories

I love the depth added by leaning the artwork against the books in the bookshelf above. Adding lighting can also help showcase some of your most unique possessions and allows the books be the backdrop.

Love everything about this

To keep the shelves looking uncluttered, it helps to stack books both vertically and horizontally. This gives the space a little more dimension and keeps everything from looking so uniform. Having books stacked horizontally provides display space for those smaller objects. 

Don’t forget about those shelves in your bathroom

To create more space elsewhere, utilize open space on your shelves with baskets. For bathroom shelving, you can store toilet paper, toiletries, towels and many other necessities in a pretty and organized way, without using up closet space.

No books? Use magazines.


Add wallpaper to the back of the shelves for a dramatic look

Another trend with built-ins is painting the back of the shelves a contrasting color. This is a great way to add more color to the room and helps your accessories really stand out. Just remember to use a paint that is a couple of shades darker than the room color. If you are really brave, you could paint the entire built-in a separate color or even add some great pattern with wallpaper.

A cheerful option


A great mixture of toys, books and artwork


Hanging picture frames or artwork on the shelf fronts really adds dimension to your bookshelf and is a creative enhancement to your overall look.


Beautiful color scheme


For maximum pop, include solid color accessories, such as a vase or bowl.


Love the unexpected detail that the mirror brings


Obsessed with the collection of old hammered metal tops





Prettiest linen shelf ever


It is always a good idea to mix textures, sizes and shapes on a bookshelf, but try to stick with a similar theme ,and shelve items by types. For example, for kitchen shelves, try placing cups on one shelf, plates on another and then add in your favorite flowers or a piece of art.


Although I love all the glossy magazine shots, see how some Memphis friends have styled their bookcases in the next few photos. They make this look so easy – and really, it is.

Love all of the accessories that Emily is able to utilize without it looking too busy.


A great way to display all those manly things without having them all over your house.


Lindsey does a great job of mixing rustic charm with modern chic.


A wall bookshelf allows you to showcase your prettiest pieces without your little one getting their hands on them.

No longer do your book shelves need to be boring and lifeless. As you can see, sprucing up those shelves is simple to achieve by using your favorite things around the house. Get rid of the trophy-filled shelves and grab whatever inspires you – everything from baskets, vases, artwork and lamps, to plants, architectural pieces, mirrors and pottery – and a give your built-ins a makeover.