How to Decorate a Bookshelf in 5 Easy Steps

How to Decorate a Bookshelf

Our last house was all of 1100 square feet so we had to find a way to utilize every single square foot as a family of 5. One of the best features we (there’s that word again) added to that house was our built-in bookcases. Adding bookcases to a room can not only make the room feel larger but can also add charm and function…as long as the bookcase is properly decorated.


When we decided to sell our house we realized how over cluttered our bookcase had become so we knew that it had to be simplified. Below are some tips on how to organize and decorate a bookshelf (we will save the how-to of the built in for another post) so that it not only looks great but functions well too.

1. I like to start with a blank canvas. I know this might be a pain, but take everything off the shelves.

  • Give all the shelves a thorough dusting and wipe down any items that you are going to put back on the bookshelf.
  • Decide what you really need and what can be thrown away or donated.

2. Take inventory of what is remaining once everything has been taken off, cleaned and reduced.

  • Group like books together and sort. I like to group by height but you could also group by color, material, etc.
  • Find a small container for any small, loose odds and ends you may have. The container can also function as added decor.

3. Start at the bottom of the bookshelf and work up. The bottom is a great place for bulkier or larger items, the top for smaller items, and a mix of decor and books is great for all the shelving in between.

  • The bottom shelves are great for larger, bulkier items. In fact, the bottom shelves are a wonderful place to keep kid items you may have so they are in easy reach for the kiddos. We used baskets and storage bins to conceal all of the kid’s toys. You could also use the baskets or bins to conceal paperback books, magazines, etc that don’t necessarily look as neat and tidy as hardback books when in visual sight.
  • Try to mix up the shelving so the shelves aren’t just displaying books. Use the shelves to display artwork, family photos, candles, plants, neat pottery, vases, baskets, or really any other smaller decor you desire. When you’re grouping, make sure to use decorations that are about equal in size and visual weight. You can do a combo of books and decor, just books, or just decor. Vary it.
  • Don’t leave the top shelf bare. Consider hanging a small framed picture to fill the back wall, or add a figurine or candle to give some height. You could stack smaller books that are all the same size along the top.

4. Display your books in several different ways. As I said above, I prefer to use hardback books and keep my paperback hidden. I also don’t like to fill an entire shelf with books because I think it looks too cluttered, but you certainly could. With that said, here are some options you could use when displaying:

  • Place your books side-by-side and fill only half the bookshelf. Vary which half and try to group books of similar size or group like stairs stepping down. You could fill the remaining space with one of your decorations, or use a pretty bookend, or just leave it bare. 
  • Make a small stack (or small stacks) of similar sized books. You could put a decoration on top of one of the stacks or leave it bare.
  • Do several small stacks side-by-side.

5. Remember that less is more. You will notice in the picture that we left a lot of bare space. As I mentioned, we were trying to sell the house so we wanted everything to look like there was lots of extra room. Minimizing what is on your shelves helps keep everything looking clean and organized. 

There you go, a clean, organized, well decorated bookshelf adding charm, depth, and function to your room. Hope this helped you decide how to decorate a bookshelf in your home.

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