5 Simple Solutions for a Bookshelf that Pops

So glad you tuned in.  This is the kick-off to the "Bookshelf Challenge"  Bookshelves are one of my favorite pieces of furniture and I believe if styled well, can be a game-changer for any room.  

There are a bazillion bookshelves out there waiting to be discovered and styled!  If you're lucky you already have one somewhere in your home.   Not all bookshelves are created equal though. Some are authentic solid wood,  others have a particle board backing, or a laminate type surface.  When I spot a bookshelf in a thrift shop, I always examine the type and quality.  If it's real wood, I have to step back and ask myself, "Do I really need another bookshelf?" or even more realistically, "Do I have room for another bookshelf?"   "No" is always the answer!

Because of my love for bookshelves, their purpose, and capabilities, I am launching a fun bookshelf series.  My goal is to provide you with useful information and ideas to use with your bookshelves, but also to become bookshelf decorating expertsI  In today's post I want to share some basics for amping up your bookshelf appearance.   My hope is that you can put some of my tips and "tricks" to use in your home!       

1.  Keep it symmetrically asymmetrical  

Wow. say that 5 times fast!  Not sure there even exists a concept such as "symmetrically asymmetrical", but I kind of like it.  What I mean is you want to maintain symmetry so things appear even and strategically placed, however, you don't want it to be so perfectly symmetrical either. For example in the shelf below, the top two shelves are very symmetrical (same objects placed in the same way, same distance apart and centered), while the bottom two shelves aren't as symmetrical (different shaped objects, uneven number of objects, varied depth of object placement).  If all four shelves were perfectly symmetrical like the top two, it would look "stock shelf-like"; with items lined up one after another.  The bottom two shelves are not equally symmetrical and have different shaped objects,  yet symmetry is maintained; and this helps the human brain understand what it sees.   So how can this trick help disguise an ugly shelving unit?  When objects are strategically placed and maintain symmetry,  it steers the focus away from an ugly shelf.  The decor becomes the focal point, not the shelf.  

2.  Incorporate color

In the photo below, the shelf is white.  I happen to love a white shelf but if you aren't loving your white or neutral colored bookshelf, add some color with your decor and accessories.  The bookshelf pictured below is in no way "boring" because it's white.  It's actually pretty awesome, because the white provides the backdrop for all the colorful decor!   Your decor doesn't have to compete with your bookshelf. 


3.  Use decor strategically

No matter how ugly you think your bookshelf might be, there are tricks that can be used to "disguise" the ugliness.   These tricks can take the place of larger projects like painting, if a painting project just isn't on your radar.  When we dislike the backdrop of a bookshelf we can easily hide it with objects!  I had a pair of dark wood bookshelves a while back and I did not want to paint them.   My goal was to brighten up the room, and the dark wood wasn't helping!  So I added taller baskets and other items that were light in color, to hide the dark wood behind.  I was able to look beyond the dark wood by "hiding" it with decor.  Another way to use your decor strategically is to place it over, or in front of, any shelf imperfections like dents, scratches and other marks.  This is a great trick when you simply cannot stomach painting your bookshelf.  

4.  Add variety for a big impact

Rather than scatter your favorite things all around your bookshelf, why not display them together? A book shelf is a great place to display items that you love.  Additionally, if you have collections of similar objects, grouping them together on your shelf versus scattering them will make more of a visual impact.  If like items are scattered, a bookcase can become easily cluttered.   In the photo below, a variety of objects are displayed together.  Mixing shapes, sizes, and varying heights is also key when styling your shelf.  When objects of the same height are displayed on a shelf, no single item stands out.  This can make it difficult for the eye/brain to process what it sees.  And remember, the objects your use do not have to be related at all in order to effectively displayed together.  Think outside the box.  What can you display together on your shelves? How can your decor make an impact?    

5.  Avoid overloading & cluttering

Shelves that house books look great filled to the brim with them....the colors, the different heights and widths....a shelf filled with books is like an art form.   If you have a ton of books go nuts and fill that bookshelf right up!  Decor is a little different.  Be careful of adding too many items to a shelf.    If there are too many things on one shelf, the eye/brain cannot figure out what to focus on.  In that scenario, nothing really stands out because all the items are competing against each other!  When decor items stand out and make a statement, this is a good sign that overloading and cluttering has not occurred.  And, one does not have to include a statement piece on each and every layer either.   I try to look at each shelf by splitting in it half, lengthwise.   I do each side of a single shelf, and then stand back to see if it "makes sense" to my eye, and if I like what I see.  

As you can tell, I have a lot to say about bookshelves!  And that is why I am creating a series on the topic.    My purpose for the series is to create a visual learning experience for any decorator, from novice to veteran.   I think in the world of decorating there is always something new to learn; and the learning happens when we see and do.   

Do you have a bookshelf at home?  Is it purely for function (like storage), or is it for decoration? Maybe both?   Look at your bookshelf and take note of what you see. Does your eye like and understand what it sees?  Is there something that can be changed to improve its appearance?  For new ideas, a look at others' bookshelf decorating styles, and a  fun interactive "mini-course" on the topic,  tune in to this series!  It should be a fun time! 

For this series to be as interactive and fun as possible, I am looking for participants!  Please click HERE to leave your contact information!  I will be in touch with you!  Thank you and have a fabulous weekend!