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.)

zebra chair Bookshelf Styling 101

A pop of color goes a long way


wall light Bookshelf Styling 101

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. 

iron bookshelf Bookshelf Styling 101

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.

abby rd Bookshelf Styling 101

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. 

bathroom shelf with basket Bookshelf Styling 101

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.

painted back of shelf Bookshelf Styling 101

No books? Use magazines.


black built ins Bookshelf Styling 101

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.

yellow back shelf Bookshelf Styling 101

A cheerful option


kids shelf with clown Bookshelf Styling 101

A great mixture of toys, books and artwork


built ins with frame Bookshelf Styling 101

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


kitchen bookshelf Bookshelf Styling 101

Beautiful color scheme


plant book shelving Bookshelf Styling 101

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


mirror Bookshelf Styling 101

Love the unexpected detail that the mirror brings


bookshelf with metals Bookshelf Styling 101

Obsessed with the collection of old hammered metal tops


brass bookcase Bookshelf Styling 101



kids bookshelf with baskets Bookshelf Styling 101


bookshelf w linens Bookshelf Styling 101

Prettiest linen shelf ever


purple couch Bookshelf Styling 101

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.

emily built in 620x413 Bookshelf Styling 101

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


lp shelf Bookshelf Styling 101

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


Den Built Ins LH Bookshelf Styling 101

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


greer shelf1 Bookshelf Styling 101

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.