Interior design publications and websites often feature stunning bookcases that seem to be effortlessly decorated. Often found in living rooms, dens, home offices, bedrooms, and even hallways, bookcases can be the focal point of the room and are both functional and decorative. Whether you have built-in or free-standing bookcases, arranging the shelves can be intimidating if you’re not a design professional. Here are some tips to help:
1. If your bookcase has adjustable shelves, position them before you get started. Gather the books and other items you plan to use, and measure the tallest item and the shortest. Estimate how many shelves of each size you’ll need to accommodate tall items, short items, and those that fall somewhere in the middle. Positioning the shelves at the correct heights before you start can save you the time and frustration of emptying the shelves and starting over.
2. It’s usually best to arrange books by size or by subject matter followed by size. In addition to standing books vertically, stack some horizontally for visual interest. Place small objects on stacked books for added interest.
3. In addition to books, incorporate a variety of decorative objects and textures on the shelves. Some ideas include framed photographs, clocks, plates on stands, vases, bowls, potted plants, and mementoes. The decorative objects can also reflect a favorite hobby, interest, or travel destinations.
4. A good general rule of thumb is to fill lower shelves more tightly and place fewer items on higher shelves when possible. This helps visually anchor the bookcases and draw the eye upward.
5. If you have double bookshelves on either side of a fireplace, door, or room, balance the contents as much as possible. It can look asymmetrical for one side to have more books and objects than the other.
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6. If you choose to display a collection in a bookcase, try breaking up the items and scattering them throughout the shelves instead of putting them all on one shelf. In addition to showcasing the individual pieces of your collection better, this arrangement will complement the books and other items in the bookcase.
7. Lighting can help spotlight bookcases and add warmth to the room. Illuminate the shelves and their contents with undermount lights, small lamps, directional recessed lights, or gallery lights.
8. Paint or wallpaper the backs of bookshelves to add color and to make objects pop. Consider the room’s color scheme, then choose a contrasting shade for a dramatic look or a complementary hue for a more traditional feel.
Don’t forget to regularly dust the bookshelves, books, and decorative objects. It’s best to gently wipe books with a dry, soft cloth and avoid using spray cleaners on the shelves, which can leave a residue on book covers. Use bookends to support books and to help prevent warping.