9 WAYS TO STYLE YOUR BOOKS BETTER ON THE SHELF

May 30, 2018

 

I feel like I'm not a proper design blogger until I have a post about bookshelf styling.

While there's not a wrong way, there's definitely an art to it.

There are a lot of things to consider when building a great bookshelf — like shape, getting the overall scale right, choosing a color scheme, selecting metals, how much to fill the shelves, how to incorporate decorative objects and, of course, the books, which are the star of this post.

Books are the heart and soul of the shelf and the last thing you want to do is stack your favorite ones on the shelves without giving much thought to how they're styled.

But don't worry if that's been your m.o. because this post will help you devise a plan. 

Whether you select books by color, arrange them to tell a story or strip away the book jackets for a more clean look, the practical ideas in this post can help make your bookshelf more of a stylish focal point than an arbitrary place of storage. 

 

1. BUILD YOUR COLLECTION 

When styling a bookshelf you usually end up needing more books than you think so it's important to build a solid collection. If you don't have a lot of books you love (or want to display) start collecting them on topics that interest you. Save money by ordering them used online or going to a discount bookstore. Below are a few design coffee table books I love to style with:

  • The Finer Things: Timeless Furniture, Textiles, and Details: Christiane Lemioux
  • Living with Pattern: Color, Texture, and Print at Home by  Rebecca Atwood
  • The Big Book of Chic by Miles Redd
  • Liaigre by Christian Liaigre
  • Tom Ford by Tom Ford

 

2. ARRANGE HARDBACKS AND PAPERBACKS DIFFERENTLY

With paperback books, you get what you get in terms of color and design. With hardbacks they often have nice book jackets or a beautiful shell underneath.

To create a bookshelf that's pleasing to the eye and doesn't overwhelm you with different text, fonts and colors, play with styling each type of book differently.

Stack paperbacks laying down, spines facing towards the back of the shelf so only the pages are visible, and pile them on top of each other.

For hardcovers, stack them vertically or horizontally with the spines facing out.

Photography by annawithlove | Design by Lark & Linen

 

Image source unknown

 

Image via Amber Interiors

 

3. SELECT A COLOR SCHEME

You know I can't help a good black, white and neutral scheme, but consider styling with colored books as well.

Take a look at your room and select colors you're already using in the space so the books on the shelves blend seamlessly and become part of the overall color scheme.

Stick with 2-3 colors for your bookshelf and feel free to use various shades of those colors.

For a more bold approach, try stacking books by color.

Image and styling by Bespoke Interior Design, NYC

 

Image source unknown

 

4. DON'T FILL THE SHELVES WITH BOOKS

Even though you're styling a bookshelf, you don't have to fill it with books. Remember to leave room for other decorative objects, art and maybe even a bit of greenery.

Image via Seattle Showhouse

 

5. STACK BOOKS HORIZONTALLY & VERTICALLY

Give your bookshelf visual balance by stacking books both vertically and horizontally. It also adds interest to the overall bookshelf and gives the eye lines to follow.

Image and design via Paloma Contreras

 

Image and design via Amber Interiors

 

6. TELL A STORY

When selecting books for your bookshelf consider them part of a larger story you're going to tell with art and objects. Make sure to consider details, like how many solid color books you use versus white. Look at the size of the books you place next to each other.

Know bold titles will catch the eye, so be conscious of the words that will be displayed and how they can contribute to the look and feel of the shelf.

You could display books from places you love, things you're passionate about or hobbies you have.

The more intentional and thoughtful you are about choosing books that help create a story you love, the more soul and feeling the bookshelf will add to the space.

Image via Amber Interiors

 

7. TEAR OFF THE COVERS

Another book look is to tear off the covers and tie them into bundles with jute or twine. Add the bundles to the shelf stacked vertically, horizontally or in a basket. This gives the bookshelf a soft, vintage look.

Image source unknown

 

8. STYLE YOUR BOOKS FACING OUTWARD

Consider a bookshelf that allows you to style books facing outward. To achieve this aesthetic, think of the covers of the books as art. You can layer them by overlapping edges a bit, or pairing a large book with a very small one. For this style magazines work well, too.

Image via Mia Mia Mine

 

Image source unknown 

 

9. BALANCE YOUR STACKS

Books are often what create the most visual weight on the bookshelf, so the eye is going to notice the overall balance of the books on the shelves. The eye will "feel" if there are more books stacked on the right side versus the middle and the left. The overall look will feel out of balance and "heavier" on the right side. This doesn't mean you have to have an even number of books distributed across the shelves, but pay attention to where the book stacks are placed and how many books are grouped together.

Design by Elizabeth Krueger

 


The best thing about bookshelf styling is that it's a great place to practice and refine your eye for design. 

Restyle your bookshelf often. Like I said, there's no wrong way to do it and you'll get better with practice. 

Thanks for reading and being here. If you style your bookshelf with any of these tips, please send pictures or tag me on Instagram @ashleydentino.

Do you have any other ideas or tips for styling books on the shelves? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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