Arranging bookshelves to look like a stylish detail in your home

How to Arrange Bookshelves

by Kathy Wilson

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Arranging bookshelves to look like a stylish detail in your home instead of a stuffy library takes a little insight and practice. But it's a valuable skill for home decorators, as almost all homes have shelving of some kind that can benefit from a few design principles to keep from getting the stiff soldier look. (Or worse, the stuff every loose thing into the messy shelves look!) Here are a few quick guidelines that, with some practice, can transform those cluttered shelves into warm design details!

  • Mix things up. Have some of your books vertical and some in a horizontal stack. This one trick alone can add a professional touch to your display.
  • Leave some room between displays of books or other items. Small amounts of space give the eye room to breathe, and allow the beauty of your books and collectibles to shine. If you have too many books or display objects, rotate them out every season to get a fresh look, or buy another bookcase.
  • Introduce items other than books. Adding candles, collectibles, or even a plant or two adds life to your display, and the contrast in shape and texture adds interest.
  • Allow your display items to form a sort of zigzag down the shelves. In other words, don't allow the items to line up from shelf to shelf. This allows the display items to lead the eye in a pleasing manner and not look stiff.
  • Consider softening your shelves with a few pieces of fabric or lace.
  • Don't be afraid to move things. Remember what I said about practice? The only way to get it is to change things around, try new ideas, and to keep moving things until you find an arrangement you like.

Got shelf? Take 15 minutes right now, bring in a few well loved display items, clear off the shelves and start again with the guidelines I've taught you. Attractive shelf displays bring balance to any room. Give it a try. You could always put back the mess if you don't like it. (But why would you?)

Kathy Wilson is a home and garden writer, author and consultant and is the home decorating expert for Visit her for more home and garden ideas at and

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