18 Effortless Ways to Style Bookshelf Decor

white built-in bookshelves close-up
Photo: Helen Norman

Bookshelves pull double duty as storage for novels and display space for accessories. Learn how to decorate bookshelves so they are both functional and pleasing to the eye. These bookshelf decor ideas will help you turn an empty set of shelves into a carefully curated arrangement.

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How to Decorate Bookshelves

White shelf with décor next to large framed photo
Seth Smoot

The best bookshelf decor often comes from items you already have. Shop around your house to find artwork, picture frames, vases, and other accessories in a cohesive color scheme or style. Place the largest items on the bookshelf first, staggering objects between shelves. Fill in with the rest of your objects, adding in stacks of books or magazines and potted plants for added color and texture.

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Easy Bookshelf Decor

kohlhepp house living room and kitchen with bookcase
Erin Kunkel

For picture-perfect bookcase decor, resist the urge to pack in a ton of accessories on every shelf. Keep a clean look by choosing a one-color or tone-on-tone scheme for vases and figurines, and make sure to mix up shapes. Every so often, step back to assess the overall balance of your arrangement. Place items off-center, or try larger or smaller ones until you like what you see.

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Decorate Bookshelves with Mementos

gold frame shelving unit with decor and books
Brie Williams

Objects that have special meaning to you or evoke certain memories make great bookshelf decor. Gather souvenirs from travels, flea market artwork, or treasured collectibles to decorate your shelves. For a more dynamic display, arrange stacks of horizontal books to serve as a pedestal for small objects.

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Arranging Accessories on Bookshelves

white built-in bookshelves close-up
Helen Norman

To add interest to your reading materials, alternate stacking books horizontally and vertically. One of the best ideas for decorating bookcases is to use accessories as bookends. Boldly colored accents and picture frames make great bookends and stand out on neutral shelves.

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How to Arrange Books on Shelves

built-in shelving with decor and black fireplace
Helen Norman

Organize books by the color of their spines to create color-blocked bookshelf decor. Vary heights and create interest by stacking books horizontally as well as lining them up vertically. If you have volumes that don't fit with the others, turn their spines to face the wall so only the pages are visible.

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Layered Bookshelf Decor

Living room toward fireplace and shelving
Heather Anne Thomas

Deep bookshelves give you the luxury to play with layers. Lean artwork along the back of the shelves, and anchor them with books or heavier objects. To decorate the bookcase, place a few small pieces of art near the front of the shelves to give them depth. Bulky vases or decorative plates can hide their heft behind small frames without losing their uniqueness.

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Bold Yet Simple Bookshelf Decor

modern black and white living room with shelf wall
Brie Williams

If your book spines lack visual style, paint the surrounding bookshelves a contrasting color to draw focus. In this living space, black built-ins stand out sharply against the mostly white decor on the shelves and elsewhere in the room. Turning books around so the pages face outward instead of the spine can also help bookshelf decor stick to a more cohesive color palette.

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Bookshelf Storage Ideas

Corner dining area with bookshelf and pink and white chairs
Tria Giovan

Boost storage by tucking a bookcase into an unused space. In this banquette area, a blank wall was transformed into handy storage space thanks to a set of built-in shelves. Use books and baskets of frequently used items to decorate lower shelves. Save the upper shelves for decorative objects or other items that you don't frequently need to reach.

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Modern Bookshelf Decor Ideas

pink accent living room
Brian McWeeney

Modern shelves call for a sparse look, so group together a small set of books that are all of a fairly uniform size. Accessorize with streamlined vases and metallic decor, leaving lots of open space on shelves to let the accessories shine through. Give the whole shelving unit a pop with a brightly colored backdrop of wallpaper.

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Symmetrical Bookshelf Decor

eclectic style blue dining room
Tria Giovan

To give office bookshelves an organized feel, gather a wide variety of collectibles. Place your chosen items between books, creating loose symmetry. If you have a picture frame or square shape in one shelf, mirror it with a collectible of a similar shape and size on the opposite side. In a wall of bookshelves such as this, it's important to scatter books here and there to punctuate the look.

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Colorful Bookshelf Ideas

blue backsplash bookcase
David Land

Carry your color scheme onto your bookshelf to give the room a sense of unity. Here, accessories on the shelves match the light blue of a nearby throw pillow. Storage cabinets conceal items like toys and movies that might detract from the display.

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Pretty Bookend Ideas

decorative heavy bookend
Scott Little

Don't forget the power of bookends when decorating bookshelves! Use heavy, sturdy decor or even pieces of architectural salvage as a bookend to keep shelves neat and organized. Bookends especially come in handy for paperbacks and slimmer books, which are less likely to stay upright.

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Living Room Bookshelf Decor Ideas

living room built in shelving
Brie Williams

For a display-worthy decorative bookcase, organize books and decor on staggered shelving. A slanted shelf, like this, is even more interesting with uneven rows and columns. For a living room bookshelf, place the most attention-grabbing titles and artwork at eye level for guests to peruse.

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Functional Bookshelf Storage

functional bookshelf plus ladder
Brian McWeeney

Bookshelves shelves are great tools to keep a living space organized. Slip magazine holders on open shelves to hold loose papers. Storage boxes conceal clutter and can add bold color to the arrangement. Use flea market finds, decorative containers, and potted houseplants to finish off bookshelf decor.

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Clean Bookcase Decor

living room white bookshelf
Brie Williams

Get the most storage and style out of built-in bookcases by filling the shelves with books. Organize shelves by color for a decorative look without the need for extra accessories. Remember that you can hang decor off shelves as well. These mounted art pieces help break up the lines of books.

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Neutral Bookshelf Decor

white bookshelf contrasting decor
Laura Moss

Vintage pieces make great bookshelf decor. Select a couple of select items to showcase. Here, vintage books pair well with an antique suitcase and serve as a pedestal for a wide wooden bowl. Books set with their pages turned out fill out the neutral bookshelf decor.

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Bookshelf Art Ideas

eclectic style bookshelf
Helen Norman

It can be difficult to determine how to decorate bookshelves with an eclectic style. When you have art pieces that span a variety of styles, they can all work together on a bookshelf, as long as colors coordinate. Blue and white live on each shelf of this bookcase, so the bright statue doesn't look out of place near a golden armadillo.

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Bedroom Bookshelf Decor Ideas

bedroom built in shelving
Michael Partenio

Utilize a built-in bookcase as a fashionable and functional headboard. In this bedroom, mounted sconces leave plenty of room for a library of nighttime reading materials and decor. Add more appeal with vases and frames set between shelves full of books.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much do bookshelves cost?

    Custom built-in bookshelves cost an average of $2,900, or $300 to $1,200 per foot, depending on the type of wood and detail involved in designing and installing. Freestanding bookshelves can range from $200 to tens of thousands of dollars.

  • How much does it cost to build bookshelves?

    If you're doing a DIY bookshelf, it can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, depending on the type of material. For example, plywood will be much more affordable than oak. Other factors in the cost will include the type of stain or paint you choose, and the cabinets, hardware, or decorative touches added.

  • How do you make your own bookshelves?

    Building a simple bookshelf is a project that most woodworkers or DIYers can do in a few days for little cost. The basic tools you need include a circular saw, hammer, block plane, tape measure, putty knife, nails, and clamps. Get the wood you want, and you'll be ready to start the project.

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