Tired of looking at the same old books and boring shelving? Use these tips to learn how to decorate a bookshelf like a pro.


Updated on 7/13/16 from an article originally published on 8/22/14.

Dressing up a bookshelf can be overwhelming, especially if you have more items than space. However, you can make your shelf look like something out of a magazine using many of the items you already have in your home. So set aside a weekend and start decorating!

1. Make Sure Your Bookshelf Functional

Even if a bookshelf is beautifully decorated, it won’t stay that way unless it’s functional. Take a moment to think about what you need to use that bookshelf for. Are there items you need to be able to access with ease? Set those pieces aside and place them in a spot where you can quickly grab them.

2. Make Your Bookshelf Beautiful With Paint or Wallpaper

Adding a little extra pizzazz to your bookshelf is what will bring the room together. Some homeowners paint the back of the bookshelf a contrasting color to make the shelving unit stand out. Lauren Frandsen of Better Homes & Gardens has a different approach to adding some contrast.

“Adding wallpaper or printed fabric to the back wall of shelves creates a unique look and is an easy way to personalize a bookcase,” she writes.

3. Arrange Books by Size and Subject

How to Decorate a Bookshelf.

via Nick Keppol, CC

The balance between beauty and function comes in how you store items on your shelf.

“Sort books by size and subject. Remove and discard any ripped dust jackets (unless you think they might have value),” recommends Elizabeth Mayhew. “Line books, some vertically, some horizontally, in a rhythmic pattern. This will relieve the monotony of rows.”

4. Incorporate Stylish Storage Boxes

Any functional shelf will have odds and ends that need to be stored. Coastal Living recommends people take advantage of storage boxes.

“Pretty patterned boxes keep less attractive items organized and out of sight,” according to the website. When you sort those items into decorative boxes, put a label on the end so you know what’s stored in there, and you can easily access it when you need it.

5. Choose Accessories That Speak to You

Your shelves are functional – now it’s time to add some of your personality. According to interior designer Debbie Wiener, your accessories should reflect your life.

“Your interests and hobbies should come through in your accessory choices. Kids’ framed artwork, books, decorative plates, baseball cards or boomerang collections. Your home should look like you.”

Look over your existing decor and see what you would like to feature on your shelf. If you’re drawn to something over and over again, find a space for it. If you’re not drawn to it, put it in storage.

6. Display a Collection on Your Bookshelf

Have a collection? Using your bookshelf to display it will bring attention to your shelving unit and make your collection stand out. Interior designer Megan Samuels says that collections come to life when you group like-items together.

“Like things together give the biggest bang,” she writes. “It creates a really nice, curated feel to your treasures.”

Even if it’s not part of an official collection, group items by material, texture, color, or theme to finish off the decor on your bookshelf.

READ ALSO:  10 Natural Room Deodorizer Recipes to Freshen Your Home

When you get the hang of decorating a bookshelf, it will reflect your personality and make your favorite belongings shine. Be confident in your design choices, and you’ll be the one everyone asks for decorating advice.

About the Author


Lauren Thomann

Lauren Thomann is a moving and storage expert. She attended the University at Buffalo and has worked in the storage industry for over five years. Here on the Life Storage blog, you can find Lauren covering everything from finding a home, settling into a new home and all the stages in between.

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