How to Aesthetically Style Your Bookcase

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Design Tips & Trends

Got a shelf but not sure how to style it?

Maybe you’re wondering where to put that vase you love without it looking out of place. Or perhaps you’ve got a really busy bookshelf and you want to know how you can make it look more organised and less busy.

However you plan to use your bookcase, in this week’s blog post I’m walking you through how to go back to basics and style a shelf like a pro.

Start with your books

Your books will be the anchor on your shelf, and we start with the largest. If you’re not using books to style your shelves, just start with the largest item you’ve got (vase, sculpture, lamp etc)

After you’ve got your books (or largest item) on the shelf, we’re going to go down in size. Go ahead and add your medium sized pieces before moving on to your smaller items.

You can absolutely mix books and ornaments on the same shelf too.

Where is your eye drawn?

When you’re styling a bookshelf, think about where you eyes are drawn. We naturally follow the larger items with our eyes, and rather than aligning everything to the same side of each shelf, try a zigzag pattern instead.

So on the top shelf you might have a selection of books on the left and on the shelf below the books will be on the right, and the shelf below on the left again.

The same goes for color too. If you’re using pops of color, arrange in a zigzag pattern. This eye pattern can best be described as a triangle, thing of your gaze being evenly drawn to all three corners of the triangle. The eye can be drawn by color, books, the same 3 frames, etc.

Keeping things tidy

Having a lot of books on a bookcase doesn’t need to look haphazard. There are a few simple hacks you can use to keep things tidy. Books are a beautiful statement in a space though, I love what your collection communicates to all of those who enter. You can arrange your books as “one” piece of art, creating a solid end to end arrangement, or use a set of books as individual pieces, stacking 5 or so in one area and using that as a grouping item.

Start by bringing your books to the front of the shelf and aligning them that way. It immediately makes the shelf look neater. Then organize the books by height. There’s no hard and fast rule here, so just go ahead and organize by eye. Just a note that this process of straightening your books will need to be touched up once a year or more depending on how often you access the books!

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Hey there, I'm Michelle!

Interior Decorator in Austin, TEXAS

As the founder and lead interior decorator here at Cultivate Your Space, I'm here to bring you the vision your space—from the baseboards to the ceilings—even if you have no idea at all what your decorating style is.

My job isn't just to design a space you love. I want your living space to be a source of peace, comfort, security, and joy...not just somewhere you lay your head each night.

Most Austin interior decorators only focus on how your space looks—but not me. I care about both how your space functions AND how it makes you feel.

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