How to Creatively Style Large Bookshelves

Sharing some of my favorite tips and ideas for styling your bookshelves

stack books by color

Our home is gradually becoming ours.

You know what I mean, right? When you move into a home, it's just a house...until you start making changes and infusing it with your family's personality.

I'm not one to let the paint dry on my brush! Since moving into our home 9 months ago, we've made several changes...

Like painting over the beige with a shade of gray that suits our taste and helps our neutral decor to really pop. 

Like giving the boring laundry room a budget makeover that was big on looks but easy on the wallet.

Like painting a cabinet in the kitchen so it would recede and not overpower the room.

And maybe one of the most dramatic makeovers to date...painting the faux wood paneling and bookcases in our main living room!

Today I want to share some tips for how to style a bookcase.

This 16-foot wall full of bookcases spans one entire wall in our living room. It's a big space to fill, and while I love all the storage, it's all too easy for it to look cluttered.

Quick rehash...this is what the bookcase looked like before we painted it. 

bookshelves before paint

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5 Tips to Creatively Style Your Bookcases

I found a way to style my bookcases that is colorful, cohesive, and attractive, and I'm going to break down these tips for you below.

wall of bookshelves

If you treat your bookcases as an extension of your room, rather than simply catch-alls, they can be stylish and attractive and enhance the decor in your room!

1. Sort and separate

The very first step is to take everything off your bookcases, give them a good dusting. You really want to start with a fresh, clean slate!

Now it's time to really look at and analyze what you have and sort it into piles of books and accessories that you want to use. You'll probably want to eliminate some items completely.

Doing this is very revealing! For instance, I found that we didn't have as many books as I originally thought. Nowhere near enough to fill the 5 bookcases lining the wall!

I had to get creative in how I displayed my books, so they'd have a bigger impact on the large shelves.

I really love the look of placing books backwards on the shelf so the spines are inside and they all look the same, but it's not really practical. So I chose to do this on just one shelf that's right in the middle, using mostly paperbacks that I'm not planning to read anytime soon.


I decided to organize the rest of our books by color (rather than by genre as I've done in the past). Separating and displaying most of our books into stacks by color gave the small number of books we have greater impact, adding large punches of color to the white shelves.

stack books by color

This trick elevates books to decor status!

2. Problem Solve

Every bookcase is going to have an issue that needs to be overcome.

Figure out what your issue is and brainstorm ways to problem solve (great little exercise for the 'ole brain!).

books and decorative items

The issue with our bookcases was that top shelf. Each one is only 8" high, too short for most books. I didn't want to place several small decorative items up there that would just get lost.

Using pictures all the way across the 5 bookshelves is a great way to fill the tight space and show off my 3 kiddos! It also adds cohesion to the overall look. Which leads us to the next tip.

3. Symmetry

Arranging items in a somewhat symmetrical way is very pleasing to the eye and definitely adds to the cohesiveness of the bookshelves.

I achieved symmetry by using 2 like objects on opposite ends of the shelves

  • baskets
  • gold corbels as bookends
  • plants
  • stacks of books
  • a trio of white ironstone pitchers in the center

use symmetry to get a clean look

You can see that I also styled the top of the cabinets to work with the items on the shelves. I style small vignettes that are each centered with the shelf above them. I used leaning stacks of books on either side, and a larger decorative element in the space in the middle.

Everything works together.

4. Don't overcrowd

As tempting as it is to pack bookshelves from one side to the other, it's easier on the eye to allow some space around the books and decor so that your eye can roam around.

don't overcrowd bookshelves

5. Add greenery

Whether faux or real, greenery looks natural on a bookshelf. It softens all the hard edges and adds texture and freshness to your shelves!

add greenery to bookcase

style bookcase

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how to style bookcase  |  diy beautify
What's your biggest challenge when it comes to your own bookshelves?

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This blog's content is for entertainment purposes only and is not professional advice. By reading this blog and attempting to recreate any content shared on it, you assume all responsibility for any injuries or damages incurred. Read my full disclaimer here.


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  1. I have the same span, only no closed area below. The room is all wood as is the book case. Would love to paint, but afraid white would make it stand out like a sore thumb. And the collection of memorabilia would stagger you. My husband is the collector. Loved your ideas and suggestions. What do you think of painting our bookcase?

    1. Thanks Liz. As far as your home goes, it really depends on what you're trying to achieve. White will definitely lighten and brighten the overall room. If you're afraid of it being too white, you could paint the backs of the bookcases a darker color...or even use wrapping paper for less commitment!

  2. Lots of great tips here Cindy. I also love the look of flipped books that don't show the spine.

    1. Thanks Mary, glad you found them useful! I love that look too, of the flipped books, it's just not practical!


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