View of living room with bookshelves painted in teal to accentuate contents

Decor by Pamela Hope Designs

Decorating your home can be joyous, exciting and fun. We get to select furniture, window treatments, art, lighting and rugs to fill our rooms with beautiful colors patterns and textures to make our rooms beautiful. Our accessories are usually the final details for our design. We add them to our coffee tables, end tables and even our countertops to add that designer finishing touch we love to our spaces.

Bookshelves are a perfect spot to add our beloved trinkets, treasures, family photos and favorite books to add interest as well as another element of texture to your space. We pay close attention to the most cherished items that a client has collected or keepsakes that have been passed down from family members. Then, we thoughtfully arrange them to be visually balanced between each of the shelves and look attractive for the onlooker. Bookshelves can be completely filled or simple, clean and classic. Accessorizing bookshelves is not only for bookcases. Shelves can also be floating on a wall above a desk or television or a standalone decorative piece of furniture. Let’s take a look at a few different ways to style our bookshelves for optimal beauty!

We like to begin our bookshelf assessment with the color of the shelves. Quite often they are the same color as the trim (white or off white) with no pizzazz. Painting your bookshelf an accent color is a great way to show off your style and have fun with color. We recently completed Sherwin Williams 6489 teal paint served as a great accent color on this client's living room bookshelvesa project for a client that started off with a folding chair for her furnishings. We took note that her living room was a large open space with very tall ceilings and her bookshelves flanked a modern fireplace. We loved the fact that she was not afraid to use color, so we jumped at the opportunity to paint her bookshelves a beautiful peacock green called Really Teal #6489 from Sherwin Williams. They turned out great and our client loves them! (You can see the completed project in the top photo in this post.) Our client is an avid reader, and you can see how the shelves now accentuate her books, family photos and colorful accessories. When we begin our assessment we also decide if we are going to keep the shelves equally spaced or adjust the shelves to make room for larger items that our clients would like to display. If the shelves are to be adjusted, we make sure they are visually balanced within the bookcase.

mirrored panels in back of shelves at Pamela O'Brien's home

Decor by Pamela Hope Designs

After deciding on a color for the bookshelves, we then decide if we are going to highlight the backs of the shelves. We love to add that additional decorative element and one way we do this is by adding wallpaper. A beautifully textured grass cloth, a geometric or botanical pattern in a color that complements the paint of the bookshelves or even using antiqued mirrored panels is a great way to add some style and highlight the accessories. (At left, Pamela added antique mirror glass to glamorize and brighten her own shelves. Read more on that post.) If contrast is desired, a wallpaper in a dark color can provide a dramatic look.

Use statement bookends to display books on shelves

Photo Courtesy of BHG; Photo by Scott Little

When deciding on what to display on shelves, there are always a variety of accessories. We like to use family photos and of course books! When using books, we ensure the spines are pretty. If the client has no objection, we prefer to remove the book jackets to reveal the spine for a clean and classic look. We then either line them up with decorative bookends on either side to keep them in place or stack them horizontally three or four books high at an angle with an accessory or small photo placed on top. If the books are different heights, we place the tallest book in the center of the group or “run” and then taper them down on either side according to height. You can even split up a run of vertically stacked books between shelves with a bookend on either side. Larger items such as a decorative vase, platter or bowl on an easel can be displayed alone. Family photos in various heights can be propped up on small easels, if needed, for visual interest. Large artwork can also be hung on the outside or the front of the bookcase for a different look.

We also suggest periodically swapping out the accessories you have on your shelves for either seasonal collectibles or other family mementos that haven’t been displayed in awhile. Taking time to revitalize your bookshelf display can give you a fresh look and inject a room with a new sense of energy. Plus, it’s fun to highlight a new collectible or more recent family photograph, while mixing in other favorites. Incorporate a natural element in the form of greenery in decorative containers to soften tokens with hard, artificial edges. Rattan or moss balls in a varying sizes are another way to add texture and color in the shelves. In the example below, an assortment of plants, an intriguing wood carving and a woven basket weave in both texture and natural elements for a balanced look.

Soften your decor with natural elements such as plants, wood carvings and baskets

Photo Courtesy: Christene Holder

So, remember to decorate your bookshelves with beautiful accent pieces that are meaningful to you and update your shelf arrangements every now and then. Styling shelves with your favorite photos, books and collections are a great way to bring your cherished items to the forefront and perhaps even jumpstart conversations about memorable vacations and your interests. After all, your space should be uniquely designed for you.

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