10 Tips for Stylish Bookcases


Just about everyone has a need for a bookcase for storing reading material and other personal objects.  Bookcases come in all shapes and sizes, from built-ins to free standing, but there’s no need for them to be boring or basic.  Here are ten simple ideas for adding a dose of style to your own bookcases at home. 

Paint the Back.   The easiest way to make your bookcases stand out is to paint the backs with a bold color.  Not only does it make your accessories pop, it’s a great way to add an accent color to your home office or library. 


painted backs of bookcases bhg


PaperBack.  Wallpaper isn’t just for walls, it can easily be adhered to the back of your bookshelves too.  Peeking out from behind your accessories, wallpaper is sure to add a fun, whimsical, or sophisticated pattern to your space. 


wallpapered bookcase bhg


Trim It Out.  Wallpaper always looks fabulous at the back of a bookcase, but who says you need to stop there?  Adding a layer or two of decorative ribbon along the shelves is one more way to add interest to your storage solution. 


ribbon lined shelves bookcase bhg


Group a Collection.   Decorative accessories look fantastic when grouped in multiples like these globes, and bookcases make it easy to bring your collections out on display. 


globe collection bhg


Pretty up the Panels.   Many bookcases have doors for closed storage below and they are one more opportunity to play with decorative pattern.  Consider wallpaper, a stencil, or a free hand painted design to bring a whimsical or personal touch to your bookcases. 


decorative panels bookcase bhg



Organize with Baskets.   The uniform use of baskets provides a much needed storage solution and also brings order and texture to your open shelving.  


baskets on expedit bhg


Contain Yourself.  Keep smaller supplies at your fingertips with the use of pretty containers on display on your bookshelf. They are particularly useful in a craft room or a kid space where small toys or art supplies need corralled.


containers in cubbies on bookshelf bhg


Skirt the Issue.  Bookshelves offer one extra place to store important things but what if those things aren’t necessarily pretty? No worries!  String a lovely piece of fabric across the shelves you wish to hide and voila! Instant stylish solution to hide the less than attractive items. 


skirted bookcase bhg


Symmetrical Stacks. There’s a beauty and rhythm to books stacked in symmetry. When in doubt on how to arrange yours, take a lesson from this display and the purposeful placement of books in stacks in most every cubby. 


symmetrical stacks of books bhg


That’s Personal.   Bookcases aren’t just for reading material, they’re the perfect place to display your special mementos from your life and your travels.  Adding meaningful decorative objects instantly personalizes a bookshelf beyond stacks of books.      


personalized bookcase paris bhg



Next time you pass by that free standing or built in bookshelf, look again – it may be that perfect place for you to add a bit more style to your home! 

Have you thought of other creative ways to decorate your own bookshelves? 




24 Responses to “ 10 Tips for Stylish Bookcases ”

  1. I so love your many creative and doable ideas! You are such an inspiration and I use many of your ideas as I decorate and redecorate my home. Thanks and keep it coming!

  2. Kate – you always hit it out of the park. You have amazing style. Looking at all these pictures really makes me want to repaint our black Ikea expedit shelving. Of course it might just be more time efficient to just go and buy a white set – but I’m always looking for a challenge!

  3. Kate, I love these examples and they certainly have me looking at some of my shelves. I am eye balling the office shelves and thinking deep red background. Last year I added fans folded from wedding wrapping paper to the back of my hutch. It is beautiful cherry and I do not want to paint it but it was so
    Dark. The fans added a new texture and some much needed white plus a contemporary oriental touch. Cost was a roll of wrapping paper. Add it to your list of interesting ways to back a shelf. Here is the link… http://www.ashbeedesign.com/2011/02/fan-flair-diy-project.html

  4. Home Goods is my vacation. You show me things from around the world and do my shopping, My home has more sparkle and interest in every room not forgetting the usefulness of all the new kitchen stuff.
    Like the bookcase suggestions, but I beat you to it a few months ago Everyone suggested that my pecan wood paneling in the family room is old fashion and I should remove it, instead I collected every book in the house and put up three shelves on one whole wall. I now have books and can showcase some of the special pieces I got at HG.. Alternating the things according to my overnight guests interests is lots of fun; especially since their bed is right under the display. The little spot light has a two fold purpose, to highlite the books and treasures, and then as a reading light.
    I also like to hangout there when no one else is around.LOL Just bought a BIG silver shell so building on that is my next project. While i am still thinking about it, my little Maltese Lexi decided it is a good place to sit up and have her photo taken. which she loves to do. Thanks again for doing my world traveling for me, at 85 I “don’t get around much anymore”.

  5. This is great. Lots of good ideas. I hope you’ll do one on kitchen island vignettes. That is always a challenge and I’d love to see some of your ideas for arranging a few decorative/useful items without too much clutter.

  6. Oh my, sooooo many awesome ideas and so few bookshelves to apply them to!

  7. Kate as always you always find the perfect inspiration. Thanks for sharing. I recently added wallpaper to the back of my entertainment center and I love the look now. The dark cherry wood was just too dark for me and I didn’t want to paint it. I couldn’t see what was in there unless I turned on the lights inside the entertainment center. This piece also has glass doors on it, so the lighter wrapping paper really helped lighten things up and showcase what is behind the glass doors. Here is my link: http://www.thedecorscene.blogspot.com/2012/03/styling-entertainment-center-shelves.html

    I would also love to see vignettes for a large kitchen island. I never know what to do with mine.

  8. Oooh. I hadn’t thought about using ribbon. I’m going to have to try that on my Ikea bookcase. Thanks for the great suggestions all in one place.

  9. I would really like to know the manufacturer and model # on these bookcases, and where they are available!

    Any info on that?

    Especially looking at the large white ones with square cubbies, the tall white one with vertical cubbies, and the natural finish one with cubbies on top and drawers at the bottom.

    Many thanks!

  10. I want to paint an ugly espresso colored
    book case in my living room.
    How would yellow look in a soft
    color not anything in bright yellow..
    more like the color of a

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