How-to Beautify Your Bookcase

When artfully arranged, it can be a stylish inventory of interests, not just a storage unit. Here's how to go from cluttered to curated.

Artfully designed bookshelf

Photo: David Hillegas

Add some art.

Bookcases are not just for books—and art needn't be just for walls. Here's a fresh idea: Hang small artworks from the shelves themselves. (Paintings can be easily removed for access to your books.) Sea life accessories and other objects d'art will give bookcases an added coastal feel.

Decorative Crystal Ball on Stand, $150, and White Coral Sculpture on Glass Stand, $130; for retailers

Vellum Books, $28–$38, Tara Shaw, Ltd.; 504/525-1131

Bookshelf paint colors

Photo: Ted Tucker

Call attention with color.

Painting built-ins a beachy shade that's different from the wall color makes them—and their contents—pop. Sandy taupe is a versatile choice, while an inky blue makes a bold statment. If you don't want to commit to a color for the whole shelf, warm turquoise on just the backs showcases your items beautifully.

From top to bottom:

Light Stone (9); for retailers

Pacific (23-30); for retailers

Summer Nights (777);

Bookshelf boxes

Photo: David Hillegas

Store stuff in style.

Pretty patterned boxes keep less attractive items organized and out of sight. For collections that deserve to be seen, choose glass boxes that doube as display cases—perfect for shells picked up during walks on the beach.

Julep Boxes, $6–$18;

Decorative book covers

Photo: David Hillegas

Wrap 'em up.

Dress your books with decorative jackets in one color for a cohesive look.

"Too Much of A Good Thing Can Be Wonderful" Book Cover Kit, $20;

Ralph Lauren Great Harbor Wallpaper

Photo: David Hillegas

Brighten the backs.

For an unexpected twist, try lining bookcase backs with wallpaper. A light pattern breaks up the heaviness of built-ins.

Great Harbor Wallpaper in White, $60 per roll; for retailers

Sloop Bookends

Photo: David Hillegas

Make for a happy ending.

Like a colorful necktie with a suit, bookends lend personality to a group of books. When placed on top of stacked titles, not just next to upright ones, these sculptural pieces get a chance to really shine.

Sloop Bookends in Solid Brass, $100 for two, Mayer Mill Brass;

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