Tips for Styling Bookshelves

When Alan and I first purchased our house, I was honestly at a loss for what to do with the built-in bookshelves in the family room. I have some minimalist tendencies, and the thought of having cluttered, open shelving was a little scary to me!

Over the past few months, I’ve tried to arrange our items a few different ways to see what I liked best. When the shelves were mostly bare, they looked too bare. When we used them to store board games and Daphne’s toys, they looked way too cluttered. I began to wonder if there could be a happy medium.

After many instances of trial-and-error (and a much-needed trip to Target), the room finally looks the way I’d like it to. When it comes to bookshelves, I’ve discovered a few tips that I believe helped me achieve a cozy and homey look while still maintaining a sense of order and organization.

Baskets, baskets, baskets. To achieve the look I wanted, I needed some baskets. Mine are from Target and I paid about $16.00 for each. I ended up buying four of them, and I honestly don’t regret spending the money at all. In my opinion, baskets are essential when you have open shelving. They keep smaller items in order and also add some visual interest to a room. I use the baskets to store smaller toys, books, electronics, and many other random things I don’t want displayed.

Add some greenery. If you know me, you’ll know I am a big fan of house plants. Although they take a bit of work to maintain, I believe plants add a calming and positive energy to a home. Plants can also add sentimental value to a space (the large spider plant was gifted to me by a neighbor several years ago, and the smaller one is a baby I grew from another one of my plants). If you’re going to store plants on a shelf, though, be sure they have a deep water tray under them to protect the wood from water warping and staining.

Group like items together. For my shelves, I grouped similar-sized hardcover books together on the top shelf, and put the smaller (mostly soft-cover) books on the bottom shelf. The middle shelf I devoted to frames and photo albums. Grouping items together gives the shelves a sense of order, and also gave me the ability to move shelves up and down according to height (see #4).

Move shelves up and down. I didn’t realize this at first, but shelves don’t need to be equally spaced apart from one another. After I grouped the similar-sized items together, I realized I had way to much room between shelves and it looked awkward. When I adjusted the shelves to actually fit the size of the items they contained, I fell in love with the way it looked.

Only display the best items. When you’re styling open shelving units, display only the best items and put the others in a different room, or a cupboard, or a basket. If it doesn’t quite go with the room or the overall feel you’re trying to achieve, it should probably be stored elsewhere. (Our board games, for example, are now in the hall closet, because they did not look good stored out in the open.)

Well, there you have it! A few tips I learned during this (lengthy) process. I am happy with the way my family room turned out, and now I only have basically every other room to go before the house is the way I’d like it. One day at a time, right?

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