Bookshelf styling is one of our favourite hobbies. It’s always fun to look at our book collection and consider which titles we’d like to showcase. This can be driven by content, genre, theme or cover artwork. We go with our instinct and whatever interests us at the time, but we always try to present the books as beautifully as we can, especially on our feature bookcase which is in a prominent position off the hallway.
In this blog post, we’ve shared 8 bookshelf styling ideas that we’ve displayed on one set of white built-in bookcases in our study to share multiple ways of how to set out your books. These displays can be adapted to include many different types of books and bookshelf units.
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Why Style Your Bookshelves?
Good question. There’s a purist school of thought that bookshelves should only be arranged by content – so by author, subject or genre – and when it comes to easy reference, this is certainly the best way. However, there are numerous reasons for styling bookshelves in visual ways:
- Appreciation of Book Design – Book artwork remains hidden when books are arranged by spines. Reframing your book collection can highlight hidden beauty.
- Rediscovering Your Book Collection – If you have a sizeable book collection then it’s easy to overlook certain titles. You’re more likely to resdicover hidden gems by occasionally reviewing the design of your bookshelves.
- Highlighting Themes – If you break the usual rules, you can highlight themes on a feature bookcase in a startling way – using covers, colours and book stacking methods.
- Inspiring Home Interior Design – A thoughtfully-styled feature bookshelf can transform the design and mood of a room. Minimalist inspires simplicity, monochrome sparks the intellect, rainbow lights up a sombre corner, pastel relaxes.
Bookshelf Styling Designs
We’ve purposefully used a standard white bookcase to share eight different bookshelf styling designs to make it easier for others to replicate the setups. We have four shelves in our book unit with the biggest space at the base and the smallest at the top. As with most modern bookcases, the heights are adjustable.
If you’re looking for more unusual book display suggestions then check out our Creative Ways to Display Books post.
Black and White Bookshelf Design
Combining black and white books can be a startling way to style your bookshelf, especially if you break up the design with other objects such as prints, ceramics and plants. In this layout, we have chosen titles with cinematic front covers to highlight the dramatic look and tie in with the film theme.
The accessories add a pop of colour and shape. When including these, think about selecting forms with rounded edges to contrast with the hard angles of the books.
Bookshelves with a Nature Focus
We grouped all our titles with a nature focus in this bookshelf layout and then added variety to the arrangement with accessories that match the dominant colours. As with the black and white bookshelf design, we’ve staggered the heights of the books and objects to create interest.
The prints add space to the visual effect. We selected these based on tone and their simple style.
Finding Prints for Your Bookshelf
If you don’t have any prints for your bookshelf, you can find affordable artworks online. If you’re displaying them in a bookcase, make sure they fit the dimensions first. It’s also essential to check recent reviews and shipping costs before you buy. We’ve shared a couple of designers that have caught our eye on Etsy below:
Obvious State design beautiful artworks inspired by the written word making them a perfect choice for book lovers. We have a set of postcards by them and these make lovely additions to our bookshelves.
Whoom in the UK are another design company who’ve caught our eye with their literary illustrations. These novel imaginings from books by the Bronte sisters would be ideal for a more classic bookcase.
The choices are endless. If you prefer, you also could start with the artworks and then match your book spines to the dominant palettte.
A Literary Portrait Gallery
If you don’t feel confident about adding prints, then why not try turning your books so that the covers are displayed face-out? You can either do this sporadically or go for broke and create a book wall. The beauty of this method is that you can experiment with the books you already own to find an aesthetic that suits you.
In the bookcase design above, we arranged all our book covers bearing faces side-to-side to create an unusual literary portrait gallery. An additional bonus with this bookshelf styling idea is that you can store books behind the front rows.
Books Arranged Backwards
For a controversial bookshelf decor idea, turn your books around so that only the pages show – it’s bound to get guests talking! Personally, we wouldn’t advocate having this as a long-term bookshelf option, but if you’re in need of serenity, it can make a calming change to replace information overload with the subtle tonal variations of book pages.
Another way to play with this idea is to only reverse the books written by certain types of author. For instance, for a Bookstagram challenge we once turned around all the books written by men – leaving only those penned by women. It was a revealing exercise.
If displaying books backwards is a step too far, then try blending pastel spines to create a soft effect instead. You can mix them up as we have done or colourblock to create a pretty aesthetic. The plants add a fresh touch to the overall display.
This bookshelf style particularly suits a lighter interior, especially when complemented by spring flowers.
Vertical Rainbow Spines
During the darker months, we love to have rainbow bookshelves in the house to add colour to grey days. If you have enough books to build up a spectrum then this is a popular way of arranging your spines. This bookshelf design is versatile too – matching all kinds of interiors.
Rainbow Book Stacking
If you are bored of a vertical arrangement, simply turn to book stacking instead. You can assemble by colour as we have done here, or form mini rainbow books stacks interweaved with objects. This is a great base for displaying bookish merchandise such as postcards, figurines, quotes and even mugs.
Creative Book Sculpture
If you are feeling particularly creative, then book sculpture can be a way to wow your visitors. We built this heart and LOVE sign for Valentine’s Day. It took around 4 hours to make and contains 100 books.
If you’re aiming to try something like this then you can buy book bundles by colour on Etsy. This link will take you to all the sellers who have red book bundles for sale right now.
OMG these are dream shelve. So pretty and eye catching x
Thank you Susan! This is the bookshelf that everyone sees when they walk in through our front door so we always aim to make it look special x
Love these Mel
Cheers Kerrie – this has been a little lockdown project of mine. I’m hoping to come up with a few more!
Those arrangements are delightful, Mel! The effort payed off x
Thanks so much! I really wanted to keep them all but we have limited room. Think I might do a reshuffle again soon x