november 7, 2019

Our Stylist’s Guide to Bookshelf Styling

You’ve asked, we’ve answered! Today, we are so excited to share our guide to styling bookshelves. Practice makes prefect and, boy, have we had our practice putting together beautifully balanced bookshelves (say that 3 times fast!).

Our wonderful in-house stylist, Kelly, took your questions a few weeks back on Instagram and there were so many great ones. Thank you! She’ll be answering all of your specific questions today on stories so make sure to follow along.

However, here on the blog we’ll be focusing on our step-by-step guide that we almost always follow when styling bookshelves. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Use Books to “Ground” Objects

Start by gathering a variety of books that you love. If you place all of your accessories in a row, it tends to look flat and one-dimensional. By starting with books, you can then create different layers and height variations. Book size doesn’t necessarily matter either. We’ve used coffee table books for larger, deeper shelves or hardcover books smaller, narrow shelves. What matters is the height you get by stacking them on top one another.

Step 2: Add Larger, Vertical Layers

One of the biggest issues people tend to have when styling bookshelves is trying to make sure it doesn’t look cluttered or busy. Our solution to that? Incorporating larger, taller, vertical pieces like artwork, photos, and trays. We love leaning them up on the back of a shelf to break up the white space to create layers and fullness. Remember: less larger items always tend to look better than a lot of smaller items.

Step 3: Work in Softer Shapes

Now that you’ve placed books and artwork that tend to have harder lines, we like to soften it up with organic, round shapes through vases, jars and bowls. This is also a great opportunity to mix in real or faux greenery and flowers. It gives the overall look a more feminine, softer feel.

Step 4: Incorporate Natural Elements

To give your bookshelf a collected, genuine look (instead of it looking like you just went out and bought a bunch of stuff), we like to mix in natural, organic textures. Think wood, wicker, stone, and ceramic. This adds a bit of vintage, cozy, grittiness that will give your bookshelf the feeling that you’ve accumulated all of these pieces over time (even if you didn’t!).

Step 5: When in Doubt, Work Large to Small

When purchasing pieces for your bookshelf, keep size in mind. Don’t buy a bunch of accessories that are all the same height or width. If you don’t know where to start, begin by selecting your larger, staple pieces and then over time work in the smaller items.

Shop the Look


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  • How To: 12 Ways to Decorate Living Room Shelves • Emily Rone Home November 28, 2022, 4:54 pm

    […] Bria Hammel Interiors Source: Cottage Home Company. Shuman Mabe Interiors, […]

  • Natalie January 1, 2024, 3:27 pm

    I love everything about the shelves in your picture above. Can you share the links to access these items?

    • Bria Hammel Interiors January 3, 2024, 2:39 pm

      Thanks Natalie! All the sources we are able to share can be found in the 'shop the look' section at the bottom of the blog post.

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