Bookshelves can be tough. A well styled bookshelf is my catnip, but picking out a bookshelf for a space can be daunting (not to mention, expensive). A bookshelf was the biggest buy on my list for my office makeover. I still wanted to keep the price reasonable, and also try to get something good quality, since we had just recently had to get rid of a cheap bookshelf that was literally falling apart anyway, and eventually ended up going with this one off of Amazon.
After spending way too much time researching book shelves I thought it may be helpful to share some tips for anyone in the same boat starting to feel overwhelmed.
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Tips for Picking the right bookshelf:
It all starts with the right shelf. If you’re on a budget many thrift stores that carry furniture will often have a few. Other affordable options are Ikea, Amazon, and even Walmart sometimes has cute options!
Yup, when picking out a bookshelf, the most important thing to consider is size. Depending on the size, your bookshelf may end up being a focal point in the room. Making sure it’s the right size for the space is critical. There were other bookshelves that were closer to the style I originally wanted, but were much smaller and would have felt odd in the space, and in turn, thrown off the proportions of the whole room. You want it to fill your spot, but not completely overwhelm it. A general rule is to have just a few inches of space around your shelf and the wall/ceiling or other furniture (although depending on the shelf/space it may make sense for it to fill it entirely).
Inspiration is key.
There are so many different styles and types of bookshelves, once you start combing through them all it can be easy to fall in love with one that doesn’t fit with the rest of your room. Spend a little time pulling inspiration for your space and use it as a guide to refer back to when choosing. Of course, styling a bookshelf is a whole other ballgame. Striking a balance between beautiful and functional can be a hard spot to hit.
Bookshelf Styling Tips
Beauty or Function.
Depending on what space it’s going in you’ll need to figure out what balance of function vs beauty you need. I didn’t feel like I needed a whole lot of storage from my office bookshelf and went the more styled route. If you have more to store I would focus first on investing in cute storage bins. If you’ll need a spot to just throw things you should get solid bins (These are some of my favorites at a decent price!), but if you can be thoughtful about what you’re storing, you can opt for an open weave basket or metal crate (like this one!) for a pretty look.
Groups of Three.
A general design rule that works across the board is the rule of three. When doing a grouping or collection of items you generally can’t go wrong with a group of three. If I need to fill more space I’ll continue to stick to odd numbers. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing a matching pair if you’re looking to add some symmetry to your shelves, but especially with smaller items I’ve found sticking with groups of three is the easiest cheat!
Even if you’re planning on packing your shelves with books (a novel idea – hah!) you can add a little style by including some fun textures. Plants are always good to add for texture (I especially love air plants for bookshelves!). You can also create some interest in a book-heavy shelf by changing the direction some are stacked or turning some around to see the pages.
When grouping items you want to add some diversity. You’ll notice that none of the candles I have grouped together are the same size. By varying the sizes it creates a more visual interest. I also try to slightly vary the textures in groups as well, mixing different finishes that are all in the same general color family.
Room to Breathe
It can be tempting to pack a bookshelf full of stuff. Not only for the storage space, but it’s just human nature to fill the spaces we have (I used to think we could never get enough furniture to fill our house – hah!). Fight the urge to pack a bookshelf. Empty, or negative space is probably the major difference between a professional interior designer’s bookshelf and your aunt sally’s. Create sections and grouping, and then leave space between the next, when you step back I bet you’ll be surprised how much it helps!
When I style a bookshelf I like to have a general color pallet I work with that you’ll see repeated throughout. For instance, on my bookshelf I have a few pops of bronze. Not everything is bronze, but on the top shelf I have a bronze tray, two shelves down I have a small bronze cup, and another shelf down I have a plant in a bronze planter. By repeating the colors throughout the shelves it helps to make everything feel more cohesive. You will especially want to try this trick if you’re working with bright colors. If most of your shelves are neutral, but you have a stack of red books on one shelf, those books are going to grab your eyes the most. Add similar pops of red on the other shelves to create interest throughout the whole bookshelf!
I always see styling something bigger like a bookshelf as a chance to play a little. It can be overwhelming, so sometimes the best thing to do is just to jump in and have some fun. I like to spread all my different styling options out on the floor and just experiment. I’ll take pictures as I go so I can always switch things back if it’s not working out, or combine all my tries together to create the best version. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get it perfect the first time, just play around with it and have fun!
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these videos for more bookshelf styling ideas:
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