Bookshelves, they’re not just for books anymore. No matter whether built in or brought in, frames, travel mementos, collectibles, antiques and other personal items arranged on bookshelves creates a sense of warmth and personalizes your space beautifully. But how do you keep it from looking like so much clutter?
Start by wiping the slate clean. Empty everything from the shelves so you’re looking at a completely blank canvas. Hey, it’s a great chance to clean and dust, too!
Figure out how much space you need for the practical stuff – don’t put any of it up yet, just estimate the space you need for the necessities. If that means your shelves are crammed end-to-end with books, you can accept that and come up with attractive ways to arrange them (maybe by color), or recycle wrapping paper to make decorative book covers. Or, simply arrange them library style, and leave some space here and there for attractive, decorative elements (do you really need every single one of those books ready to hand on the shelves?)
Now you’re ready to start decorating. Choose your style – do you want shelves that are stuffed full, or do you want to leave blank space for the eyes to rest? That’s a personal choice, both are attractive, but you should choose one or the other.
Start with something you really love that has big visual impact. It can be a gorgeous frame, a unique vase, or a cherished antique. Put that item on a shelf and use it as an anchor for everything else. If the item is too short for the shelf, turn a stack of pretty books on their side to use as a pedestal. Use other, smaller items to accessorize the shelf – small photo frames to flank a vase, bud vases to set off a large photo. Choose things that make the first item really stand out.
Seek balance on your shelves. Arranging a library of books by color is one creative option; the color coding creates a cohesive, eye-pleasing style on book-filled shelves. If you are going to fill a shelf, make sure each shelf is equally full – stuffing one shelf end-to-end and leaving the next only half-filled looks out of balance and is less pleasing to the eye.
Layering is important for an attractive shelf. Think front to back and varying heights. Start in the back and work to the front on each shelf. Use a pretty tray, favorite photo or attractive mirror leaned against the back of the shelf to serve as a backdrop for other items like small books, candles, or decorative figures.
Make sure you’ve included some personal items along the way. Photos, personal mementos, souvenirs, and things of that sort make your shelves more interesting and attractive.
Now that you’ve got the basics filled in, step back and look at your shelves. Really look at them. Is there a blank space? Rearrange things on the shelves or add another item.
If you want blank space, make sure the open spaces are balanced so your eyes flow naturally over the shelves. Add some finishing touches with elements from nature – a simple flower in a vase or seashells in a bowl – and you’re done.
If you want the chock-full look, look for those blank spaces and fill them in with smaller items, repeating the layering process. Then step back and look again. Repeat the process until you have a final, layered look that doesn’t look cluttered to you. Now go in and add some nature and you’re done.
If at any point, your shelves start looking too cluttered, step back and take a look. Try rearranging what’s on the shelves to create more empty space punctuated by larger groupings of objects. Or, try removing some of the smaller items to create a cleaner line.