How to Style a Bookcase

Our new bookcase arrived a few weeks ago, and it’s made such a difference in our family room. We have this little alcove that would be perfect for a bar, but a bar would cost a small fortune. This piece felt like a much better option for us. It’s the perfect fit, and added warmth and visual interest to the room. So I got to work on my bookshelf styling, and want to share tips for how to style a bookcase. Whether you have a lot of books or a collection of decor pieces, creating a well-styled bookcase is easier than you might think. Here are some great tips to guide you through the entire process.


How to Style A Bookcase: Easy Tips for Bookshelf Styling


I can’t tell you how many times friends have asked for help with bookshelf or bookcase styling. But really, it’s a thing people ask for help with. I want to share some great tips to make the process easy and even fun. It’s a good idea to buy decorative pieces you love when you find them. I happen to have a lot of accessories since I’ve acquired them over the years, and my husband will randomly buy interesting objects. I didn’t know we had a brass horse, but it looks great in our bookcase, doesn’t it? Here are some helpful tips styling a bookshelf that you can do in a few easy steps. 

Styling a bookcase with doors involves blending function with aesthetics, making sure that the visible and concealed spaces look appealing. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to style a bookcase with doors. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Stick to these easy steps and adjust as needed. The goal is to create a display that you love and that enhances your space.



Gather your Decor Pieces

The first thing you’ll want to do is gather your decor pieces. I like to use a mix of decorative items, like coffee table books, decorative boxes, decorative bowls, large vases, picture frames, and a mix of vintage finds. I’ll link the items I used that are still available along with some similar objects below. A limited color palette will tie the different elements together and make the bookcase look more intentional. I love my neutrals with a touch of blue, and other than the new picture frames, used decorative objects that I already owned. When your color scheme is neutral with a touch of color, everything just works together. It makes mixing objects a lot easier. 

Showcase interesting objects that reflect your personality and interests. These could be art pieces, unique collectibles, or anything that adds character to your bookcase. Highlighting these items makes the bookcase more personal.


Kathy Kuo


I love this pine bookcase because it's new, but looks old world, and adds so much warmth to our family room. You could use this in a living room or even dining room – it's a beautiful and versatile piece.
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The Best Interior Design Coffee Table Books

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How to Style a Bookcase


Start With a Plan

Start with empty shelves, and envision how you want your bookcase to look. Consider the purpose of the bookcase: Is it primarily for books, or will it also showcase decor items? This is mainly for decor for us, and I mixed in picture frames to showcase family photos, too. The bottom drawers are great for board games and toys. 

Thinking about the entire process can help you create a cohesive and visually appealing bookcase. From selecting items to arranging them, each step contributes to the final look. When styling, step back and look at the entire bookcase to ensure a cohesive look. Check that the items are balanced and that there’s a good mix of books and decor pieces throughout. Adjust as needed to create a harmonious and visually pleasing display. 


Start with Books

You can start with larger vases and objects, but I like to start with my coffee table books. Start with a stack of books, and then stagger those stacks throughout the shelves. I happen to have a lot of books in my home, so I was able to fill the bookcase without buying anything new. Positioning these items first helps anchor the space and creates a foundation to build upon. Books are the heart of a bookcase, but you don’t have to display books traditionally. Stack books horizontally and vertically to create platforms for smaller items or to fill empty shelves. Use larger books as bases and smaller books on top to add variety. I placed one of the larger groupings on the bottom shelves to avoid things looking too heavy in the middle. 


Use Larger Items as Anchors

Next, you’ll start placing the largest items on the shelves. I added a mix of decor pieces throughout the entire bookcase. Ginger jars and books are some of my favorite styling objects. Place them at different heights – this is a great way to add visual interest. Larger items are great because they take up space and fill your empty shelves, and add depth and dimension.  You can achieve this by mixing up the sizes of your decor pieces, using items like decorative boxes or vintage finds.

How to Style a Bookcase


Add in Picture Frames and Smaller Items

Using items of different sizes adds variety and prevents the bookcase from looking flat. Combine large vases with smaller figurines, or place a large bowl next to a stack of books. This contrast in size helps create a more interesting display. Disperse these throughout the entire bookcase creative small vignettes. Choosing frame in different textures adds some more interest to your shelves. I love mixing different styles of frames, and long as the colors work together. This is where those neutrals come in. 

Decorative boxes and bowls are both functional and stylish. They can be used to store smaller items out of sight while adding to the overall aesthetic. I hide tiny lego pieces and little things I don’t want our toddler to pick up inside these vessels. Mix them in with your decor pieces to keep the look clean and organized.

Once everything is placed on the shelves, step back and look at your work. Make sure there’s varying height, and that similar types of objects are dispersed throughout the shelf and not too close together. I ended up switching a blue and white vase to separate the blues and whites, and it made such a difference. You’ll just want to play with it a little bit, and should know when it feels right. 

Cailini Coastal

Woven Rattan Frame

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Cailini Coastal

Bone Frame

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The frames were gifted from Cailini Coastal. 

How to Style a Bookcase

Decorative bowls can add variety and interest to your bookcase. They can be used to store small items or simply as decorative pieces. Choose bowls that complement your color palette and overall style.

Displaying books in various ways can add visual interest and prevent monotony. Use a mix of horizontal stacks and vertical rows to create a dynamic display.

How to Style a Bookcase

Adding vintage finds can give your bookcase character and depth. Look for unique items that tell a story and add a touch of history to your display. These pieces can be great conversation starters and can add a lot of charm. I bought this vase in Charleston, and love that we have this little memento from one of our first trips together. 

While decorative pieces add personality, too many can overwhelm the space. Use them sparingly to avoid clutter. Select pieces that you love and that complement the overall style of your bookcase.

How to Style a Bookcase 

Creating visual interest is essential in bookcase styling. This can be achieved by mixing textures, colors, and materials. For example, pair a sleek glass vase with a rough wooden sculpture, or mix metallic elements with soft fabrics. This contrast keeps the eye engaged.

Don’t be afraid to change things up occasionally. Rotating and refreshing the items on your bookcase can keep the look fresh and interesting. This is especially helpful if you acquire new items or if the seasons change and you want to reflect that in your decor.


Closed Areas of a Bookcase

The closed sections of your bookcase are perfect for storing items that you don’t want on display. For us, these are the drawers at the bottom of the bookcase. Use these spaces for items like board games, office supplies, electronics, or other personal belongings. Decorative boxes and baskets are great for organizing these hidden areas, keeping them tidy and easily accessible.

Styling a bookcase with doors requires a balance between functionality and aesthetics. By following these steps, you can create a beautifully organized and visually appealing bookcase that brings life and interest into your home. Remember to use a consistent color palette, incorporate personal items, and balance decorative pieces with books to achieve depth and interest. I hope you enjoyed my tips for how to style a bookcase. Share your bookcase with me on Instagram

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