Bookshelves are not only for storing books; they are decorative elements in our homes as well. All of the items on your bookshelf create a picture. Together with the things around them on the same wall, and in the same room, they form a composition.
That’s why it is important to consider your space as a whole when designing your bookshelves. Does the space need more color? Does it need more texture? Is the room busy so the shelves should be simple? These are a few of things I consider when dressing bookshelves, having learned so much about what “works” during the 22 years I’ve been designing interiors!
After asking yourself the questions above, let these tips be your guide:
Take everything off the shelves
Sort the items you’ve removed by type, and by importance. It is likely you will not need all of it, so if that wedding photo must be displayed, it’s useful to know that now. Get rid of any items that are not special to you, that you’ve just been keeping “because”.
What do you need to add?
Depending on the needs of the room, could your shelves use some big statement pieces? Maybe in your accent color? Could you swap out a bunch of “littles” for a collection of larger uniform pieces? How about something organic? Curvy woods and greens for example.
When viewed together, the shelves must have balance. Place larger statement items in a symmetrical arrangement across the shelves. Sometimes a triangle works well. Or just 2 in the top center. If you have a lot of books, try using the 2 lowest shelves for all books as these have a lot of visual weight.
Let it breathe
Stuffed-full-to-overflowing shelves give me anxiety! Each shelf needs to be at least 1/3 empty. This allows the items you place on there to have importance, and for the display to feel like an art gallery.
Create still lifes
Each gathering of objects on each shelf should be able to stand alone as a beautiful still life…like a painting. Everyday objects that work together to paint a picture of serenity, balance, and beauty.