Tips and Ideas to Accessorize a Bookshelf
Accessorizing bookshelves may seem intimidating (and hopeless) if you don’t know where to start. However, I’ve found that most of my clients have everything they need to have a nicely accessorized bookshelf. They have the bookshelf, they have the accessories, they have the knick-knacks – they just don’t know what the heck to do with it all!
Now, this isn’t a ‘step-by-step’ system to help you build an accessorize bookshelf from scratch, it’s more about ‘tips and ideas’ to get you on your way!
That’s where I come in. Using some basic guidelines and tips I can show you how easy it can be to accessorize any bookshelf.
But, before we get into that, I want to show you a list of items to use when accessorizing a bookshelf…
Novels and coffee table style books. Both of these look good stacked vertically or horizontally.
Family, friends, hobbies, scenery – whatever you like, but they need to be small-ish (up to 8×10 frame is usually manageable on a bookshelf) but inny-minny’s like 3×5’s can also look fabulous.
Harvest a variety of colours, shapes and sizes from around your home and buried inside that old china cabinet.
Decorative bowls and plates
Dig in your cupboards, dive into your china cabinets and pull out any interesting wooden salad bowls, porcelain bowls, decorative dishes and the like. That piece that has sat in the back of your cupboard for years could be fabulous when on display! (decorative plates can be put on plate stands for display – they are a great backdrop!)
Knick-knacks and paddy-whacks
The options are really endless in this category. It can be something larger that would take up a 1/3 of the shelf or it could be a teensy tiny thimble. Find items with texture, interest, shape, humour or history. You might be surprised at the colour/theme connections that are made when different pieces (like a knick-knack and a vase) are placed together
When you’re accessorizing a bookshelf, it’s best to start out with ‘more than you think you need’ rather than not enough. If you have more than you think you need, then you won’t need to think so hard when it comes time to improvise and be creative.
Bookcase Guideline #1 – The 3/4 Rule
When accessorizing your bookshelf you’ll want to break things into quarters…
Whether you’re into Nora Roberts, 50 Shades, Photography or Scuba Diving. These books should be books that you love, books that you feel best represent you, your downtime, your hobbies and your passions (particularly if it’s 50 Shades…)
1/4 Decor and Miscellaneous
This can include decor pieces that are strictly sentimental or a mix of store-bought and meaningful!
1/4 Framed Pieces or Artwork
Whether it’s a beautiful canvas or framed photos of your kids, this is a great way to add a personal touch to a bookcase.
1/4 Air space
Breathe it in baby! Air space? Yes, air space. Air space is important when arranging accessories so that each piece has room to breathe and the overall display doesn’t look ‘over-stuffed’.
You can mix things up per shelf or keep it simple by having only one type of thing on one shelf. No matter how you decide to do it, each shelf should have 1/3 air space showing, regardless of whether the rest is books, accessories or both!
Bookcase Guideline #2 – The Foundation Pieces
It’s important to have some foundation pieces to help stabilize your bookshelf. If you have too many small items, your bookshelf will look hodge-podge, cluttered and busy. Foundation pieces help to visually ground your unit and simplify things. Most shelving units look good with 1 foundation piece per shelf and make sure to stagger them so that they don’t line up!
Great Foundation Pieces
Baskets – the bigger the better (and matching preferably)
Sets of books or collections (as shown above)
Large vases/decorative pieces
Larger framed pics (like 8×10)
Bookcase Guideline #3 – Stagger, Stack and Layer
Staggering, stacking and layering pieces is what adds flow, depth and interest to your shelving unit.
- Stack 2-3 coffee table style books horizontally and place a decorative item on top. You can also do this with novel-sized books as long as they aren’t like pocketbook size and place a smaller sized item on top
- Place a plate or a clock on a plate stand and place it near the back of the shelf as a backdrop to some of your smaller items (or as a backdrop to your horizontally stacked books from above)
- Place a large vase, accessory or framed picture near the back of the shelf and place another item like a small stack of books with a decorative item slightly in front and off-set from it
Bookcase Guideline #4 – Add Texture and Visual Interest
Whether you’re going for a matchy-matchy look or prefer a more eclectic arrangement, it’s important that there are at least 3 pieces on your bookshelf that add texture and/or visual interest.
Just like with ‘foundation pieces’ you want to make sure to stagger your textured/interesting pieces so that they do not line up with each other vertically from shelf to shelf.
Examples of texture…
- Woven bowls
- Wood pieces with grain (or driftwood)
- Floral (fake or real)
Examples of visual interest…
- Bright or striking colours
- White things (when placed with other non-white items)
- One item on one shelf – if the item and the shelf are the right size for each other so that the piece isn’t way too big or way too small for the space it occupies