How To Decorate A Bookcase

Styling Ideas For Beautiful Bookcases & Shelves

Have you ever flipped through the pages of Southern Living or another home decorating magazine and noticed how everyone’s bookshelves always seem so put together? I have! And it certainly makes me take notice. Having just a few accessories placed perfectly in a room makes it feel finished. It’s the same with a bookshelf; a few well placed items gives it a polished look. Is this a look that you want to replicate in your own home, but have yet to pull off?  Me, too! Decorating and styling a bookshelf seems so simple at first, doesn’t it? Anybody can do it. Right? Well, I found  it’s just not that simple, so I set out to find the tricks and design tips to make my bookshelves (and yours!) look amazing…..and put together. So, if you want to know my tips on how to decorate your bookcase (reflecting you and your unique style) read on.            

Bookshelf Decorating Tips

A bookcase or shelf doesn’t just showcase your knowledge, but also your sense of style. Your beautiful home or apartment can be a testimony to your personal taste and flair. It can be an insight into your personality, highlighting places you’ve traveled, friends you’ve made and shining a light on important memories.

Expressing your style, flair and your palette of ideas can seem daunting, but the following tips will help you achieve something both functional and pleasing to the eye. Remember, the goal in decorating your bookshelf (besides lining up your favorite books) is to make it look cohesive and to capture the visual interest of your guests (and, of course, you!)

7 Ways To Decorate Your Bookcase

A Few Things To Remember About Decorating A Bookshelf

A bookshelf does not have to look like a formal library. This is your chance to put your personal taste on display. With a variety of accessories from artwork and figurines to clocks, vintage items and more, you can find a treasure trove of items here at The Kings Bay – perfect for your bookshelf decorating needs.

It doesn’t matter if your bookshelf is low priced or top brand, plain material or vintage, plastic, steel, glass, wood or metal; the same decorating ideas apply. You are going for a balanced look. This look is easily achieved by mixing timeless pieces with everyday accessories. First and foremost, this is your decor and you want to make sure that your shelves are interesting to you.

Bookshelves aren’t just for books, they make ideal places to display a variety of items from kitchenware to china and everything in between. This is where scrolling through other inspirational websites such as Pinterest can be very helpful. Seeing what others have used to break the mold will help you find your own personal style.

Decorating A Bookshelf Ultimate Guide

How Do You Style A Bookcase?

The first step in decorating a bookcase are gathering the books! The goal here is to lay them out with a balanced look and feel. Some you will want to stand up in the traditional style while others can be placed on their side and stacked. Horizontal books will give you a nice contrast against the vertically aligned ones. Stacking a few books will also give you little spots to elevate accessories at varying heights. When you lay out your books, it’s a personal preference if you want to group them by subject, author, or even color and looks.

If you are struggling with picking accessories and items to place on your shelves, consider using a theme. This is an easy trick that will help you focus on decorating in a uniform style without making your bookcase look like a hodgepodge of random items. Is the room where your bookcase is more formal? Globes and pen holders will be in order, perhaps even a victorian quill pen. Is your home or room more full of country charm? Maybe some vintage gas station signs, old metal art or colored glassware would be in order. Keeping a unified look is important. Balance and contrast are good, but you don’t want your space to have a frazzled and disordered look to it.

A great way to vary the look of the shelves is to mix in vintage books. Now, real vintage books can be pricey and you may not want to use these treasures as a decorating vice. However, we, at The Kings Bay, sell a perfect alternative in our Three Vintage Book Sets. Each set is perfect for that aged look with exposed papers tied with real hemp twine. Something that is often overlooked when arranging bookshelves is being sure to place “attention grabbing items” at eye level. If you have a piece of artwork or a family heirloom that really adds some punch, put it right where the eye will be drawn to it. Not only will guests and visitors be able to see it easily, it can also assist in being a conversation starter when entertaining.

What Do You Put On A Bookshelf?

Here Are 7 Things You Can Use To Decorate A Bookshelf :


What better use when decorating your bookshelf than book ends! Bookends can be used in pairs on the same shelf creating nooks on each side or separated and used individually. With several styles and motifs, The Kings Bay has something to meet your flair.


Nothing draws the eye like an interesting sculpture or small figurine. In a flash, a small sculpture can dress up a bookcase and also offer an opportunity to create a whole theme to carry throughout your decor. Here, you will want to focus on texture, style and tone of the sculpture

Candle Holders

Instantly adding some breathtaking style to even the plainest of shelves, a candle holder can highlight an area, draw your attention, focus on design and, of course, offer to brighten up the space if you actually light the candles.


Now, let’s create some visual real estate. Something that is both decorative and useful is a clock. Besides helping us to keep track of time while we curl up with a good book, a clock can quickly dress up (or down) the style of the bookcase. A reproduction Victorian may be more formal while a Steampunk style will be more vintage-modern.


Keeping with the quaint trend of using old storefront signs in your country decor, a small sign or tin letters on a shelf is definitely a nice touch and allows you to control how rustic the room can get. Smaller letters or signs that fit on a single shelf will offer just enough country charm, but will ensure that your entire room won’t be overpowered. Also, many old fashioned signs can allow you to introduce new colors into your decorating pallet.


An herb garden can be a point of interest and even a sense of wonder to your bookshelf. In our basket or bowl or bucket you can grow basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, sage and others. Can you smell the aroma? They surely will bring a fresh scent to your setting. A touch of nature is always calming and inviting.


Mirrors have long been used as a backbone of accessorizing a room and the same trick can be used when decorating a bookshelf. Small table top or standing mirrors are the perfect thing to place almost anywhere on a bookshelf. They draw the eye, enliven and brighten a room with their reflection and add functionality.


If you’re looking for something to really set your decor apart from the humdrum, this is for you. Artwork is sometimes overlooked but can work wonders in bringing out your personality and letting your taste show. You can use pictures or paintings at the back of your shelf to add depth to your overall effect. Different sizes strategically placed on the shelf or mounted on the wall behind the open shelf will allow the eye to be both engaged and rested as it moves along the visual rhythm you have created. This can really be the focal point if done well in terms of size/scale and color scheme. ** Remember let your art solo within your style concept **

Bookcase Decorating On Pinterest
Easy Ways To Decorate A Bookshelf

Seasonal Changes

You might also want to leave an area or two for seasonal changes. Consider adding a pumpkin or gourd in the fall. Perhaps a spray of holly in the winter. Leave some room for a nativity or menorah. Swap out one of your signs for an antique painted American flag print in July. You don’t need to think about all of these things right away, but having a place or two for seasonal items can really help in making the entire room seem festive. When adding seasonal items, remember not to over-clutter the bookcase. You can always put a few things away in a closed cabinet for a few days or weeks while you have your holiday things out. This gives your seasonal items a chance to shine without getting lost in a jumble of other items.

The Kings Bay Guide To Decorating Your Bookcase

Styling Notes – How To Arrange Bookshelves

Like any art project or decorating endeavor, you will want to stop at several intervals and check your project. Step back and evaluate your handiwork. Make sure your layout of books and accessories is balanced, has a nice flow and even makes coherent sense. Remember, we are not always going for that eclectic look, which sometimes is hard to pull off.

Now that we are this far along in styling your bookshelf, I am going to give you an important tip so as to keep everything both pleasing and balanced. As you develop your bookshelf, constantly assess, step back, and check your progress. This simple movement will give you a different perspective and will allow for ongoing changes. It’s hard to see when things are directly in front of us, but it can be easy to see if you’ve “gone too far” towards cluttered when you step back.

Design Blog - How To Decorate A Shelf

Another great style tip: take your time! Sometimes we all want to rush our decorating. Shouldn’t a bookcase be a quick and easy project? While technically, yes, I also think you might be more pleased with the result if you take a few days to decide things. Not sure if your grandmother’s vase looks best tucked into the second shelf or displayed on top? Try both spots. Sit with it for a day or two. How does it feel when you re-enter the room a few hours later? Something just doesn’t feel right? Move things around. Take another look. Come back in an hour. Sometimes we just need a second or third look.

Don’t forget about the practical side, too. Not only are we housing our beloved books and some knick knacks, but you can also use some space for your technology. A shelf on a bookcase in the study or living room might be a perfect spot for a cellphone and tablet charging station. Having this on a shelf can clear some clutter from a counter and allow for easy access to your devices.

Final Thoughts – Bookshelf Decorating Ideas

So, do you feel ready to tackle that bookcase? As we have emphasized, there are no real rules. Let your personality shine through. The only caveat is to concentrate on a unifying, eye pleasing, balanced scheme. We started out by saying that your guide should be to create a space that you will love. Using these tips and suggestions will help you decorate your bookcase in a way that will have you wanting to curl up next to it, in your favorite comfy chair, with one of those well-loved books.

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