Decorating For Bookcases And Shelves

Updated 2/3/23

Bookcase with drawers

When you’re ready to add some sparkle to your room, one of the easiest ways to do it is to thumb through some decorating ideas for bookcases and shelves and set about rearranging! Although Bassett Furniture stylist Heather Moore styles bookcases every day, she is constantly finding new inspiration and bookcase decorating ideas.

To refresh your room, check out some ideas about decorating for bookcases and shelves and start arranging! Our stylist offers some bookcase tips to get started.

To Theme or Not to Theme?

You may have noticed some of Heather’s arrangements in those beautiful photos on the Bassett Furniture website. When Heather styles the photos on the Bassett site, sometimes there is a theme, depending on the accent colors in the room. In a whitewashed coastal room featuring the Bella Library Bookcase, the accents are soft blues. For this type of monochromatic theme, she peppers the color throughout the bookcase in various ways, as well as repeating and reinforcing shapes with vases and boxes.  These monochromatic accents can work well when decorating bookcases and shelves in your home if you want attention somewhere besides the bookcase and don't want to make the shelf too busy.

In a home, Heather advises that you have to decide what function the piece has for you. If the bookcase is a functional piece displaying your collection of books, the monochrome look won't work. In other words, the color scheme is “just going to be a funkier color scheme where it's not all one color.”


Books – And What Else?

On a bookshelf styled with just books, Heather notes that you can increase visual interest by varying how you're stacking books – horizontally and vertically – and using horizontal books as bookends. Apart from books, here are some other bookcase ideas to style an interesting shelf:

• A sculptural element entertains the eye.

• A vase with a nice shape to prop up against books also functions as a bookend.

• Boxes, although they share the same rectangular shape as books, help vary the height. Varying height helps achieve balance.

• Glass vases and glass candle holders add sparkle for a unique and unexpected twist. As Heather says, “sparkle is important – kind of like varying texture.”

Varying the height and shapes of items is another way to make an interesting shelf. Even a nice mix of books, vases, pots, boxes, and plants would fall flat if all the objects were the same height. 

Horizontal books, as shown in the Storeroom Modular Storage Double Library Bookcase, provide a great surface for a bowl or picture frame, and also work well to elevate smaller items.

Open Vs. Closed Shelving


When searching for bookshelf decorating ideas, keep in mind that decorating for open bookcases and shelves has some subtle differences from decorating closed shelving. With open shelves like the Compass Etagere, items are seen from different angles. Choosing sculptural items that are appealing from different angles is one way to take advantage of open shelving.

Also, as Heather says, “books need an anchor.” With open shelves, you may need to stack some books horizontally, or will need good bookends.

Favorite Bookshelf Decorating Advice – That You Won’t See in Stores

Furniture photos capture a moment in time for a bookcase. In your home, Heather notes that styling your bookcase can be an ongoing process – an evolution. You can enjoy the process of finding bookcase makeover ideas and items to achieve a look.

In a home, Heather’s favorite advice for styling a bookcase is “Make it personal. Don't put the spines in! Make it work for you. Incorporate things that are important or resonate with you.” That might include travel items, mementos, and family photos that are a reflection of your personality. “You probably don’t see that in stores.”

Decorating a bookcase can be a fun process, starting with the foundation of a beautiful bookcase. For a selection of bookcases that you can style your way, check out the Bassett Furniture collection online, or stop into a Bassett Furniture store near you.

Compass Etager