Bookshelves. They are so beautiful when done right, but can be so disastrous when left to their own devices. Any one else share this sentiment? I went through a phase a few years ago where I wanted to completely get rid of all of the clutter in my house. The only problem with this plan was that it left the shelves in my home bare. I’ve now come to grips with the fact that little things are nice every once in a while, but they need to be placed in pretty vignettes. Here are my top 10 tips to styling bookshelves, along with a peek of the shelves the Good Man built us in the hearth nook of our dining room.

PRETTY + PRACTICAL. You want your bookshelves to be practical, after all that is why you have them in the first place! But you also want them to be pretty. I can’t tell you how much more time I spend in this room doing nothing but staring at the art of my styled bookshelves. Cookbooks and whiskey decanters in my kitchen make sense, but they are also styled in such a way that they are pretty. I removed all the dust jackets from my cookbooks and flanked them with bookends from my childhood that I painted an ombre silver and gold.  I bought decanters to hold the whiskey to add another pretty element while leaving the liquor in reach of my husband when he wants a glass.


MIX SENTIMENTAL WITH YOUR CURRENT FAVORITE TRENDS. On the shelves in my home you’ll find old artifacts from family members, such as my grandmother’s WWII ration card or a photo of my great-grandfather’s furniture store, alongside things from The Emporium that I just had to have at home. Mixing the old with the new gives it some nostalgia while also keeping it current.

ADD TEXTURE. It’s way to easy to set out books, picture frames, and funky pieces from your travel that are all harsh and shiny. Don’t forget to add some softer elements like plants or a runner to mix it up. We’ve got a great variety at The Emporium! 

IT’S ALL ABOUT SCALE. Too often I see people placing teeny tiny items next to giants. It’s important to think about the size of your favorite things as you are placing them. Mixing different heights and weights of items on your shelves is an effective way to create interest. So the next time you’re on vacation and picking up souvenirs think about what size items would work into what you already have!

OLD + NEW.  Shelves full of all new things fail to share a story. Likewise, shelves with just old items are stuck in the past. I love that my shelves are a reflection of me and my family over time. There’s a photo of myself with my grandparents when I was a toddler. The historical pieces I mentioned above from my grandparents. We have watercolor paintings by my husband’s grandma. All alongside the things we love now: a few silly books from when I was teaching 4th grade, animal figurines from my shop that I just had to have, and artifacts from recent travels.

BOOKS WORK! You don’t always have to stack the books on your shelves next to each other. They work great lying down as risers for other things. They also add color to the shelves in fun ways. I saved a lot of the theology books from my time in seminary and they’ve really done their job creating interest while blending into the background to let my fun objects shine.

THINK ABOUT COLOR. My house has a very consistent color scheme (future blog post to come). All of the walls in my house are blue or blue-greys. Throughout the entire home I accent it with yellow and mixed metals. The other accent colors may change from room to room, but the yellow and blue are always there. So it made sense to continue that same story on the shelves. Yellow pillar candles sit atop silver candleholders. Gold and silver photo frames are mixed in with black ones. Photos from my wedding pull in other colors (mango and cranberry) that are found throughout the books on the shelves. Be intentional with color and it will make the space cohesive.

MIX IT UP. ECCLECTIC ITEMS CREATE INTEREST. Silly glasses with a nose are nestled next to my engagement photos. Drawings from an artist we picked up when we lived in Italy are found by a Nick Lucey photo of part of The Emporium’s property with the Rock in the background. A giant squirrel sits close to a nesting doll I bought the Good Man when I was studying abroad in Lithuania and traveled to Russia in college. Keep a wide variety of items on your shelves and it won’t be flat or boring!

DON’T BE AFRAID TO PLAY. Ultimately get in there and start moving things around! I knew the Good Man would play commentator the entire time I worked on the shelves (he’s got a great eye and I’m more trial and error), so I picked a weekend that he was gone traveling with friends. I pulled everything down and made a colossal mess in the room for two days. In the end, it turned out great and the wrong turns were worth it!

THERE ARE NO RULES. Rules in styling bookshelves are meant to be broken. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So if it brings goosebumps to your arms to look at your shelves, you’ve done a great job. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration if you get bored. Jump on over to The Emporium’s page to see great ideas for you while also seeing what things you can find to add to your shelves – old or new!