Each year I run a survey to understand what content you all are looking for. With my last, a lot of you wanted guidance on styling shelves. I get it! You have floating shelves in your kitchen or a bookshelf that sits empty for a bit because you’re stumped or overwhelmed with what to place on each shelf. Today I’m walking you through six tips for styling a bookshelf. I have the other types of shelf requests in the works!

Our home is a traditional New England Cape style so the entire downstairs is open concept living areas. It includes our dining, kitchen, living and a soon to be done breakfast nook. I love the open concept because it makes hanging out as a family and hosting both a breeze. Everyone is together at all times! That said, you have to be very conscious when decorating to make sure each room rolls together seamlessly.

Between the dining room and breakfast nook is where the bookshelf in today’s post lies. It’s lived in my office and now downstairs. It looks a little different from this post, huh? Well I spray painted it!

This bookshelf was purchased while living in our last apartment before purchasing our first house. Since moving in a couple years ago, I knew it may need a face lift in order to mesh with the rest of the home. You can see that our globe light fixture is gold and in an effort to mix metals, I knew it was time to color swap it. I’ve been adding touches of black to our home lately, like with this mirror above our fireplace mantel, so I knew black was the color it needed to be. It took awhile to get to that lightbulb which is why it shows that taking your time when decorating a home and living in the space for a length of time is important!

The good news is that you can purchase the exact bookshelf in black here or gold here! This black one with varying shelf heights is a great option for a modern look as well. Looking for one a bit thinner? This one is a great option!

So Let’s dive in.. 

Shop bookshelves

how to style bookshelves
  • Vary the materials. To create a cohesive look with any area styling, like a tablescape or coffee table, mixing items with vary materials, texture and finishes is best. From wood to metals and glass to greenery, mix up the items placed on each shelf.

    My plants were sunbathing during this shoot lol, but normally I have a pathos on the top!

  • Vary the shapes. And just with a variation in material, ensure a healthy mix of shapes too! From round wooden beads to rectangle picture frames to geometric terrariums, you’ll see that my bookcase has a variation of  shapes to reduce any “matycy-matchy” feel.

Shop bookshelf decor

how to style bookshelves
how to style bookshelves
  • Vary the sections. On each shelf, strategically vary the “sections” of items. Meaning, rotate through one, two, two, two, etc. to create a cohesive look.

    On my example, you’ll see a shelf with two sections – a coffee table book with a bowl on top filled with seashells and then a picture frame. Below and above that, the shelves each have one section, a vase on the top shelf and a wooden box with wooden beads on the below shelf.

    You may find that rotating consistently – one, two, one – works or mixing in a repeated layer, like mine shows, does as well. Depending on your shelf size, you may also be able to mix in ever more “sections”. 
  • Don’t over do it. Just like with coffee table styling and dresser styling, don’t over due it. Less is more! Always opt for empty space on each shelf to avoid overcrowding and clutter.
  • Add greenery. I realized after I photographed this post that my plants were outside sunbathing! Normally I have one pathos plant on the top of this shelf instead of the pink round vase. Whole Foods has very affordable, easy to care for house plants lately. They also come in very sleek pots and the pot/plant bundle is very affordable at only ~$10. Anyways, adding faux or real greenery, flowers or plants in every room brings life to the space. Check out my blog post on faux plants here.
how to style bookshelves
  • Add personal touches. Many home decor accounts advise on art over family photos. I for one love framing memories made with my friends and family so I totally disagree. While photos may not be “chic”, we are all looking to make our space feel like us and bring joy. What does that better than framed memories? For my bookshelf, I have a combo actually – artwork of my sweet baby. 

    If you want to make your photos blend in aesthetically, opt for black and white! 
how to style bookshelves
how to syle bookshelves 8

Shop bookshelves


Comments +

Servello & Co. Interiors

Follow along

Hi there

I'm a Maine native residing in the Boston 'burbs sharing my love of interiors through decorating my husband and I's first home.

Through this experience, I discovered I have a knack for curating spaces that feel warm, cohesive and inviting. That passion turned into friends and family asking for interiors help and now we are here! 

Home should be a place you love to be. I'm here to help you achieve that!