A good book can leave a lasting impression so why not let a shelf of books do the same thing? While the idea of a bookshelf is to – yes, you guessed it – house your books, they are becoming more than just somewhere you leave your novels to collect dust. Bookshelves are a finishing touch to an already furnished room but can bring a space from drab and disheveled to deliberate and well-designed.
“It’s all about layers,” says Kashmir Dhaliwal, senior certified property stager and partner of Fine Redesign Home Staging & Decor Inc. She describes how she starts styling her shelves with artwork and adds to them as she goes. “What you want to do is create small vignettes. It is all about layering other items in front; so the back being a piece of artwork, and at the front, I would probably do a stack of books. Next to that I would do a candle and maybe some greenery on top of the books – so you get that vignette style.”
Layering creates defined areas of visual interest. It looks clean and thoughtfully-organized, instead of crammed and cluttered. It allows you to add pieces with a purpose that add depth, bring balance and complement each other instead of competing for the attention of your eye.
“Don’t try and fill the whole thing,” Dhaliwal warns. It’s a quick way to create a shelf that just looks jam packed she says. “Don’t go from one end to the other.”
Dhaliwal details what she has on her own bookshelves at home and it includes only a few pictures of her children paired with a handful of books and greenery. “A few things go a long way,” she says about styling shelves, one of her favourite things to do. “Just nice and simple.”
Once you’ve lined your shelves with some select artwork, add your books. Keep in mind books don’t have to be lined up like you’re in a library. Try turning them on their side and stacking them horizontally to create different shapes throughout your shelves. This also allows them to act as a riser; a small sculpture or simple sign atop your pile creates height and adds variety.
If you’d rather not judge a book by its cover, Dhaliwal offers up one of her favourite tips, but cautions it may not be for everyone. “I like to use my books backwards. I like to use it so you can see the paper,” she says. “Because the paper is like a very neutral colour, I just find it more pleasing than looking at different titles and different colours.”
If you have any books worthy of their own display, don’t be afraid to show them off as you would a piece of artwork. Use a plate stand or prop it up against the back of the shelf so its beauty isn’t lost between the other covers.
Work a collection of items or a few of your favourite things in amongst your books, artwork and other novelties. You can create vignettes with a specific theme or spread your story throughout your shelves. A bookshelf can show off your personality if you pick artwork and accessories you like as opposed to picking them for their function.
Pick pieces of different shapes, textures, heights and finishes to add additional layers to your space. If you’re not afraid to get a little crafty, a can of spray paint can add a designer touch and a minimalistic look to your bookshelves. Mismatched pieces, like vases, small boxes and animals figurines, can be coloured in gold, or any colour of your choosing, to unify a cluttered-looking collection.
Rainbow bookshelves can be a visually stunning way to display and organize your books. Not only can it make quite the impact but you may be more likely to remember the colour of a book as opposed to its title or author, making it easier to find when it does come time to read.
However, if your bookshelf is more for a collection of objects and less about storing your books, you might want to stay away from colour coding all your titles. “You want to make sure you use [colour] randomly and not everywhere,” says Dhaliwal. This will pull together the pieces of your shelves better if the darker and lighter books are scattered throughout as opposed to grouped all together.
While Dhaliwal prefers her bookshelves to be neutral, she acknowledges the variety of items available for bringing in colour, noting that colourful frames can pair well with artwork or prints.
If you’re unsure about your decorating style or skills, trying your hand at a bookshelf is a good place to start. The items are light enough to move frequently, you can easily get an idea of what is appealing to your eye, and it’s the perfect place to let your personality pop. Let your bookshelves tell your story.