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Do’s and Don’ts To Decorate A Compelling Bookcase

Mmmm, there is just something about a home with humble built-ins or stately antique bookcases.  Actually any bookcase is fine, as long as it is full of a few elements besides books. Bookcase Do's and Don'ts The Do’s and Don’ts of Bookshelves revolve around four simple components:

  1. Organization
  2. Balance
  3. Accessorizing
  4. Personality

#1 ORGANIZATION   Think like a librarian.  This is your library.  Create a system of organization which makes sense for you.   Organize into topics, shapes, alphabetical, any structure you like.

“Sloppy”, is not a system.

Neat placement is a DO!  The key component of organization is an identifiable structure and neat is the visual result. Bookcase organizationThis is step one.  We literally spread it all out on the floor and then create piles according to the desired organizational structure.

#2 BALANCE  Nothing is less interesting to look at than a cluttered or unorganized mess of a bookshelf.  See the first picture for this big DON’T.

Once you’ve determined your structure determine how to place them, yes this is display honey no way around it.  Bookcase BalanceLook at your books, your shelves, and potential accessories.  Do you want to cram it full like a great old library or is the idea of negative (empty) space more pleasing?

Do make a decision and stick with it.  Balance can be achieved in the manner books are stacked: horizontal vs. vertical.  A pleasing mix of linear vs. curvy  or full vs. empty or space promotes a sense of balance.  Colors, shapes can all work for or against you to develop a well balanced bookshelf.  Bookcase balanced with negative spaceMy heart skips a beat over this Ralph Rucci bookcase from a recent Architectural Digest.  The negative space, the large shapes from artwork are both balanced wonderfully with the books.  Do mix it up! 

#3 ACCESSORIZING  While accessories also work in creating balance this is where color and shape really comes into play.  If lots of busy bookbindings are visible, quiet solid shapes and colors with give the bookshelf interest.   Don’t repeat the same elements over and over.

#4 PERSONALITY   Three dozen pictures of oneself or family is vain, not a trait one wants to showcase.  Personality can come from items one likes to collect.  While some items may indeed be meaningless filler, a blue vase for example, needed for the color and shape – one does not want a bookcase plucked from a catalogue.   Hence the need for personality.

These should be books you’ve read or at least revolve around one’s interest.  Don’t go all phony and all commercialAccesories and the bookcasePersonality is reflected in meaningful objects which capture attention and invite a closer look and conversation.  Historical family artifacts are awesome.  Items from nature work well as element of texture.

I’ll explain the elements in the above bookshelf:  Books are ordered by topic and placed according to titles being horizontal or vertical.

  • Orange boxes – the room needed solid bits of orange.
  • The cribbage board on the 1st middle shelf was made by my grandfather and we used to play.
  • The green coral looking item is from our love of the ocean, but we needed a solid color.
  • The white car, well you know we have a thing for cars.
  • Other shelves house Petoskey stones, sculpture and a couple of photographs.

The goal is for guests to walk away knowing a little more about you and your family.

Bookshelves make a home your own.  They are the perfect location to offer a glimpse at your character, the real you.  This is the place guests are drawn to when unattended in your home, make it interesting.  But let’s be honest, there are things we don’t want to display… like if you are a mess.

Einstein QuoteLet’s twist this Einstein quote, if a home with compelling books and bookshelves is a sign of interesting inhabitants, then what is a home without books and bookshelves.  You do the math. 🙂


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One Response to Do’s and Don’ts To Decorate A Compelling Bookcase

  1. I agree with these points for styled book cases. More functioning in house libraries aren’t always going to be this simple. Good tips and points.

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