Bookshelves: Things Of Beauty For Stylish Book Decor

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Bookshelves are more than just a place to keep our books. They provide aesthetic value too. Here’s how to spruce up your bookshelves and the rooms they’re in.


Bookshelves are a thing of beauty, if you ask me. Not the average bookshelf, sadly, but some bookshelves are works of art, and not because they’re expensive or super-fancy, but because of how they’re organized or presented.

Back in the day, I got my dad to help me make rustic bookshelves that were just made from rough cedar. Me, I didn’t know how to make bookshelves, so I needed some help, but I designed them fairly simply. All told, I think my dad used about $100 in lumber and a day’s work to bang them out. For the next 15 years, everyone who entered my home raved about them.

Bookshelf magic

All I did was whitewash them with paint, but then I never crammed them full with junk, and that’s the sad state of affairs I see with many bookshelves.

It doesn’t matter if they’re corner bookshelves, ladder bookshelves, built-in bookshelves, or even a wall-mounted bookshelf, the same thing is always true; making your shelves look great is all about presentation of what’s on ‘em.

stylish bookshelves living room french doors rug

(image: Philip Fibiger)

Bookshelves crammed full of books might make you look smart, but they also make your home look cluttered. If they’re packed with DVDs and music, it’s the same deal. Instead, selective space is the secret. And so is how you handle the background.

Easy tricks to improving dull shelves

The home I’m in has lovely bookshelves – boring IKEA shelves, but it’s in making them personalized that they shine. This is a beach house, so it’s all about blues and whites here, and by taking a dark brown IKEA bookshelf and sprucing it up with some geometric-patterned blue-and-white wallpaper on its back, suddenly they’re fancy shelves that add a lot of pizzazz to a space.

You can do this in all kinds of ways, too. You can personalize your bookshelf by adding an accent paint at the back, or turning it into an art display. I was a big fan of using framed photography to bring visual interest to my bookshelves.

floor to ceiling bookshelves

(image: Ross Grady)

Use of space

The secret is to always have space between stacks of books. I like to arrange some books vertically, some horizontally. The horizontal ones can almost act as a pedestal for small objets d’art, knickknacks, and mementos.

Other things, like mirrors, colored glass, decorative plates, even nicely printed sayings and quotes on nice paper can all make attractive visual backgrounds on bookshelves. What about stenciling some imagery or words? Have a look for some fun adhesive shelf paper and instead of using it in your kitchen, put it up on the backside of your bookshelf. Maybe other things like metal adhesive backsplashes can be the dramatic intervention you’re looking for.

It’s the company they keep

When organizing your books, you can do so by grouping them into genres, which can be a fun little organizing task. (Can you tell I’m a nerd?) Another way is to do it in color-blocks. All those orange-spined Penguin books in one group, blue spines in another.

minimalist bookshelf

(image: Zetalab)

It’s like “reading by Pantone” or something, but it looks really stellar, and when you punctuate the color blocks with an object that contrasts them (think a rich turquoise glass art vase next to those orange Penguin paperbacks), it can be a really sassy, cool look for any shelving.

By paring back clutter and instead creating pockets of interest and using bold colors, paint, paper, and more, you too can turn your bookshelves into the statement they deserve to be.


browse bookcases


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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.