12 Tips for Styling Bookshelves

Just because it's functional doesn't mean it has to be boring—turn your bookshelves into a chic showcase for novels, collectibles and travel finds.

Treasure Trove

Photo: Lisa Romerein

Treasure Trove

Don’t let your travel treasures gather dust in a closet—use your shelving as a way to display souvenirs such as pottery and woven baskets. They give a special touch to any room and serve as a daily reminder of your trip.

Living Large

Photo: Mike David Wakely

Living Large

Floor-to-ceiling built-in cases provide a sizeable storage space for books, CDs, and records in a family room—without looking messy. By varying shelf height and reserving a few shelves for vases, bowls or other other decorative, you can avoid an overly-cluttered appearance.

Chic Chinoiserie

Photo: William Waldron

Chic Chinoiserie

Highlight a china collection by displaying it in a living room or sitting area built-in. Amp up a matching blue-and-white set by painting the inside of your shelves a vibrant shade of electric yellow (or, in the case of all-white china, a dark, moody blue pairs well).

On Display

Photo: Keith Scott Morton

On Display

Have an affinity for collecting conch shells or fishing floats? Try sporadically placing them around your shelves for a look that conveys beach style without going overboard. The shells shown here are used as book ends, weights atop a horizontal stack of tomes, and as accents on opposite sides of a nautical piece of artwork.

Playroom Posh

Photo: Dominique Vorillon

Playroom Posh

Functional meets fun when shelves are used in a play room to store kids’ books, board games, and toys. Create a studious yet stylish vibe by lining the top of the shelving with a collection of vintage globes and maps. To avoid a mess of crayons, papers, and rogue game pieces, install pull-out drawers to hide what you’d rather keep hidden.

Mirror Image

Photo: Lisa Romerein

Mirror Image

If built-in bookcases flank a fireplace or doorway, outfitting them in the same way will bring a clean, cohesive feel to the room. Here, books, artwork, and clear glass vases require minimal styling but make a big impact.

Coastal Cool

Photo: Lisa Romerein

Coastal Cool

When it comes to styling your shelves, less can be more. With particularly valuable or special collectibles, such as these coral items and teal vases, consider letting them stand on their own to really showcase their beauty. Keep it visually interesting by painting or wallpapering the back of the shelving in a coordinating color.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Photo: David Tsay

Bohemian Rhapsody

Balance a busy, pattern-filled room by keeping your shelves neutral and minimal. Choose objects in the same color family and display them together. For a clean, ultra-modern look, spray paint pieces in the same shade of white as your bookcases.

In Reach

Photo: Annie Schlechter

In Reach

Diehard bookworms know that, when it comes to shelves, there’s really never enough space to pack in countless collections of page-turners. If space is an issue in your library, just build up. Accessorizing with a funky library ladder (painted in a seaside shade of turquoise) will ensure that no title is ever out of reach.

Show Stopper

Photo: Roger Davis

Show Stopper

Instead of hanging family photos on the wall in your stairwell, make better use of the space with creatively-styled shelves. Displaying a special collection in a high-traffic part of the home means it won’t get unnoticed or forgotten.

Shelf Life

Photo: Lisa Romerein

Shelf Life

Rather than traditional door-and-hinge cabinets, consider open shelving for your kitchen. The open-air look lends a more relaxed feel. Designate the higher, less accessible shelves for displaying collectibles or knickknacks picked up from your travels.

Colorful Craze

Photo: Annie Schlechter

Colorful Craze

Breathe life into your kitchen by revamping your cabinets. Paint the back of doorless or glass-front cabinetry a favorite coastal shade. When paired with white dishes and wicker or wood baskets, it brings a shabby chic vibe to a casual beach home.

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