9 Secrets for Styling Stop & Stare Bookcases

A living room with built-in cabinetry, a herringbone fireplace surround and hardwood floors design by Elegant Simplicity Interiors.

A well-styled bookcase can make a room feel special, put together + peace-inducing to the max! But we’ve all seen how the best of intentions can result in overflowing, jumbled, attention-competing shelves to the tune of “look at me… no, look at me…”

So let’s put down the craziness + amp up the heart tingling goodness!

Today, I’m spilling a few of the juicy design techniques we use to style bookshelves and tabletops for our clients. These tips are guaranteed to help create spaces when you design your home that you (+ your neighbors) will love to stare at--even if you aren’t quite sure why. ;)

1 | Less is More

First, remember that you are more with less + this holds true for your bookcases + tabletops. We want your stylish accessories to stand out, not compete for attention in the crowd.

Psst… wanting to decorate your home but needing the help of an interior designer? We can shop for new home decor as well as help pare down your possessions to the most loved and impactful pieces… and to finish it off, we’ll style them to impress!

2 | Select Items with Soul-Deep Meaning

Having shelves piled with a bajillion shiny new distractions sounds fabulous but if you don’t feel an emotional connection with those decorations, well… chances are your bookshelves will quickly fade into the background of your life + become invisible. Womp, womp…

But you don’t want invisible--you want joy, elegance, simplicity + a heart-tingling good time!! And we know the importance of adding personality to a space that hugs family + friends when they walk in. That’s why we source items (or keep your current ones) that have soul-deep meaning to you.

Home decor including vases, candles, accessories, greenery and plants in a white built-in cabinet.

3 | Variety is the Queen of this Castle

Bookcases aren't just for books!

Variety is the best way to keep a scene looking interesting, which is why we love to mix the types of items on your shelves + tabletops. For example...

Home decor items could include baskets, mirrors, vases or bottles, jewelry boxes, candles, greenery, frames + of course... books! So go big, girlfriend because the options for home decor ideas are literally e-n-d-l-e-s-s.

4 | Diversify Your Portfolio

In addition to type of item, part of a sigh-worthy bookcase is a variety of stylistic elements.

Having several colors, textures, heights and “weights” is just as important when creating drool-worthy interior design!

We love mixing a little shiny, a little organic, and that delicious “after-work sink into the sofa” feeling.

5 | Largest Go First

Here’s another trade secret you might not know… we always place the largest items first!


If we have a beautiful woven basket, we probably don't want to place it next to a large vase or they’ll compete for attention.

Rather, we want to create visual balance by spacing our largest items across the entire bookcase. Balance in your home is balance in your life and who doesn’t want that? :)

A formal living room with built-in glass shelving and a travertine fireplace surround.

6 | Back, Back, Back It Up

When we style bookcases or tabletops, we always place our tallest items in the back!

This creates a sort of frame + foundation for the pieces that will then go in front. Back-row items could be portraits, tall bottles or greenery, etc.

Which brings me to my next point...

7 | Create Item Groupings

Another trick of the trade is creating item groupings, a.k.a. putting together an odd number of items (usually 3 or 5) that look oh-so-fab together.

Each grouping will usually have a variety of heights, weights, sizes + types, like I mentioned before.

Brass and black finishes mixed and matched in this styled bookcase in a formal living room.

8 | Our Eyes Love Asymmetry

It's a fact--asymmetry is pleasing to the eye. Don’t believe me?

This means that when we're putting item grouping together, we usually favor a "stair-step" of heights instead of a perfectly symmetrical presentation. (As shown above!)

Asymmetry is a technique we use all around the home but especially for bookshelves and table tops! Can you say vignette? ;)

9 | Step Back & Edit

Finally, we’re here--the very last stage of styling your bookcase.

We edit + rearrange your pieces until we’ve created that warm, fuzzy collection of goodness that has you + your people sighing with bliss when you walk through the door each day. Ahhh…

If you’re ready for this to be you (it can, it can!), don't be shy. We’d be delighted to pow-wow it up with you for a virtual coffee date because there is literally nothing that gets us going like creating amazing home interiors!

— Sherri



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