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How to style a bookcase with items you already have

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Whether you identify as a book collectoritem lover or total minimalist, you’ve likely run into the challenge of how to style a bookcase. A random arrangement might be easy, but it doesn’t really cut it from an aesthetic standpoint. The objective is to keep each shelf free of clutter, but full of your favourite reads and objets d’art, but where do you start? 

Round up your books and accessories 

If you were starting a painting, you’d gather up your paints, brushes and canvas. This is the same thing, except your canvas is your bookcase, and your paints and brushes are all the things that will go onto the shelves. 

If you’re not sure how to style a bookcase, you can start by emptying the shelves, so you have a blank slate to work with.  

Then, gather up all of your books in front of the shelf. Bring over any decorative accents, house plants, framed photos, candles and other trinkets you might want to add. If you know what you’re working with and have it within arm’s reach, it will be much easier to play with different arrangements and get inspired. 

Anchor your display with the largest items 

The biggest, heaviest books will make a statement wherever you put them on your bookcase. Placing them near the bottom can help visually and physically stabilise a lighter-weight bookcase. If you have sturdier shelves, try placing them towards the centre to draw the eye into your little library. 

Balance out the large books with your largest decorative accents. For instance, if you’re placing the bigger books on the lower left and upper right corners of your bookcase, the middle shelf could be a great spot for a metal sculpture or woven basket. 

When grouping books, try getting inspired by colour combinations from around your home. 

Group books by colour 

Unless you have a book collection larger than your local library’s and need each volume organised by author or subject matter, arranging your books by colour is a great styling trick. But you don’t have to follow rainbow order. 

Instead, try creating unique combinations of colours that play well together. Try mimicking the mixes of hues you see around the room, from the weave of your cushion covers to the prints and paintings on the wall. 

For instance, you might display all the black-bound books alongside those with cool-coloured spines in shades of blue, green and purple. On another shelf, you could arrange the white and cream volumes with other books featuring pastel-coloured spines. 

Balance geometric and organic shapes 

You don’t have to stand all of your books in a rigid row. Instead, vary up your display by stacking some piles of books vertically and others horizontally. 

Leave some space in between and on top of book stacks for decorative objects. Those that have organic shapes will add visual interest and soften the angular stacks of books. Things like round ceramic adornments, small brass animals, sculptural bookends, house plants, vintage clocks and found objects from nature can all add dimension and personality to your styled shelves. 

Leave a little blank space 

Remember, you don’t have to fill up every centimetre of your bookcase! A bit of open space can make the display less hectic and more approachable, so your eye can comfortably wander across the titles in your personal library. 

If you have a substantial book collection, consider leaving the top shelf open for just a few books and trinkets. This way, the bookcase won’t be visually top-heavy. 

And the added bonus is that you’ll have space to squeeze in a new book here and there!

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