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How to Decorate Bookshelves

Posted by Watson's on Feb 17, 2021 8:26:12 AM

How to Decorate BookshelvesBookshelves are about far more than books. 

A well-styled bookshelf adds both functionality and style to your space.

Here are a few tips from our designers about what can go on a bookshelf and how to arrange it. 

Inspired and need a new display shelf or home accessories to decorate with? Shop all bookcases and display cabinets here, or browse our home decor here.

Bookshelf Contents


The first items that go on a bookshelf should be the book themselves. Any book looks great, no matter what’s written on the pages. Old or new, small or large, soft or hardcover books can all make a fine addition to your bookshelf. If you’re using a large number of books, remember to vary the way you display them. Some may need to be displayed vertically, while others might need to be displayed horizontally for extra visual interest. 


Book shelves are the perfect place to show off beautiful pieces of art like paintings and small statues. You can prop smaller paintings in front of books or lean them against the back of the shelf, layering small items in front. This varies depending on the size of your artwork. 

Photo Frames

Small photo frames can be easily layered in front of books to create depth to your bookshelf layout. Most photo frames look best when placed on a shelf that’s between eye-level and waist-height. Avoid adding too many photos to your bookshelf, since small frames tend to look cluttered when several are grouped together. A good rule of thumb is to display no more than three photo frames per shelf, unless the shelf is the complete length of the room. 


Baskets are a great addition to bookshelves, as they fill a lot of space and hold a great amount of items. It is best to place the baskets near the bottom of the shelf, to anchor the bookcase visually and make the things inside easier to reach. 


Decorative boxes are a great accessory for stylists and designers that need to fill an extra bit of space on their bookshelf. You can find a box to suit your bookshelf no matter the style, since they come in a wide variety of materials and colors. Stacking boxes and layering items on top can add depth to your bookshelf decoration as well. 

How to Style Your Bookshelf


When layering items on your bookshelf, remember that displays should never be one dimensional. Be sure to layer a few items in front of each other. An easy way to do this is to put the tallest items in the back and the smallest items in the front. Layering little decorative objects in front of books or placing books in front of a piece of art can add personality to your composition. Do not be afraid to partially cover some items.


The key is to make sure that all of your items relate to each other in some form. A common color, style, theme, or a combination of all three will pull everything together, making it look well thought out and more visually appealing. Making multiple items work together starts by thinking of them as a single unit. 

Size and Scale

It is important to find balance in decorating, no matter the type of furniture or room. Whether you’re decorating a bookshelf, coffee table, or mantle, finding balance is incredibly important. You don’t want anything small that will get lost in the composition, nor do you want anything large that overwhelms too much space. Try to keep your items related to each other while still varying them by shape, size, and height.


When items are too similar, they can begin to look flat. A little bit of contrast is important whether you’re adding color, material, or shape to your composition. For instance, if you have a stack of rectangular boxes, add a little rounded object on top. If you have a collection of leather-bound books, add a decorative object or piece of art made of glass. A little bit of contrast can go a long way. 

Bookshelf Embellishment

Spruce up your dull bookshelf with these simple DIY upgrades:


Adding wallpaper to your bookshelf can spruce up the inside by adding color, pattern, and highlights. An easy way to install wallpaper is to cut pieces of foam that fit snugly in between the shelves, and then glue the paper to the foam instead of directly on the shelf. You can simply slide the papered foam core into place, and remove it easily if you decide that you want a change later down the road. 


With a little preparation, adding paint to your bookshelf can add beauty in the overall composition of the room that your bookshelf is in. You can paint the interior and/or exterior a solid color or add a simple pattern. Whatever the style is, paint can be a simple way to give your bookshelf new life and new style. 

If you’re looking for a new bookshelf, we have you covered with a variety of colors, finishes and materials -- all at the guaranteed lowest price in the USA. 

Shop all bookcases and display cabinets here, or browse our home decor here.

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