Going beyond the basics, Emily Bergsten of Fluff Interior Design makes a case for using bookcases as display space. Take a look at Emily’s Styleboard to find more inspired ideas for bookcase displays.
Style bookcases like a pro
If you’ve ever tried to create a beautifully styled bookcase and your result was randomly placed items on shelves, you know how quickly a bookcase can become a disorganized mess! So how do you get great-looking shelves with that perfect balance of functionality and aesthetic appeal? And make them seem so effortless at the same time?
Your bookcase will communicate what you collect and what you love, not to mention what you read. Bookcases are a window into your passions and pursuits and an opportunity for you to put your most favorite things on display. So, let’s get styling!
You may think the obvious starting point is with your books, but before you begin, consider painting or wallpapering the back of a bookshelf. This is a great designer trick for making your books and accessories pop off the shelves.
Now the books:
Mix up the placement, trying an assortment of vertical and horizontal arrangements. Remember to vary the placement of the books themselves—a group of stacked books on the top shelf, then a grouping of standing books in the middle shelf, and so on. If you have a book with a beautiful cover, prop it up and show it off. Grouping your book collection by color is a fun idea, too. As you place your books, remember to leave some breathing room for layering other objects and for giving the eye a place to rest.
Now the stuff:
This is where some people get tripped up. For success, keep in mind texture, color, and scale as you add in your decorative objects. Start adding larger-scale sculptural pieces such as a beautiful bowl or vase or even a stack of boxes. Prop small pieces of artwork or photographs against the back or in front of a tall stack of books. Make sure the colors of the items you’re adding pop off the back of the bookshelf or off the items they’re placed in front of and remember the basic design principle of grouping items in threes.
Now something natural:
All beautifully styled bookcases incorporate organic elements. A potted plant, a seashell, or a woven basket bring nature inside and play off the hard edges of your book collection.
Now some storage:
Let’s be honest … we all have things we use frequently that aren’t that pretty. Incorporate labeled boxes and magazine files into your bookshelf display to house these odds and ends that don’t have a home.
Now some finishing touches:
This is when you add a final layer of smaller, personal objects to finish off your shelves. Add a small sculptural object or small framed photo to the top of a stack of books. We love the look of small orbs covered in seashells, moss, or wire to play off the lines of the books. You can incorporate sentimental items such as a pair of antique eyeglasses or an old pocket watch into your display, too.
Now back away:
This is when you evaluate your bookcases to ensure you have a variation in height, shape, volume, and texture for plenty of interest. Make sure you haven’t overwhelmed your shelves with too many objects and that you’ve given your eye a couple of places to rest. Deliberate open space is a good thing.
Now you’re done!
Are your shelves visually pleasing to you? Then consider your creation a success. Dozens of different designers could rearrange your shelves in dozens of different ways. There’s no right or wrong, so give yourself some creative freedom and some grace and enjoy your space!
– Emily Bergsten, Interior Designer for Fluff Interior Design