The Renter’s Guide to Styling a Bookshelf

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bookshelf stylingBehold: the bookshelf! It’s truthfully underrated and should be touted as the renter’s best friend when it comes to decorating and creating small space storage.

Creating an attractive living area without compromising your floor space can be a challenge for any home or apartment dweller… doing this without installing permanent fixtures presents a whole new level of challenge. Enter the bookshelf–a vital piece of furniture that your small space needs. Nothing else will give you the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to storage options, and nothing else can be styled in quite the same way. Using vertical space is key when decorating walls, and when damage-free living requires creative solutions, it can be easy to forget about the obvious ones.

That all said, no shelf will look its best without intentionality when you’re adding your items to it. To ensure your home looks fabulous, don’t forget these shelf styling tips.

Heaviest on bottom shelf

Source: Emily Henderson

Work from the Bottom Up (Heaviest to Lightest)

This rule is not only about stability (an obvious benefit for your head if something falls from the top shelf) but is also an aesthetic requirement. Remember that bulky storage boxes or baskets should rest on the lowest shelves, forming a solid-looking foundation with which to build your decor variety upon.

If you find that you have a lot of baskets or boxes and primarily are using your shelf for storage, opt to keep the eye level shelves free of bulky items. Pair books with photo frames and knick-knacks to round out the space where your eyes will naturally rest. This will prevent your shelf from looking cluttered even with storage items.

alternate book stacks

Vary Book Placement

An avid book-lover can tell you there are a lot of ways to go about styling books on a bookshelf. Get creative and don’t rest your books on each level in the same manner. Laying a few books on their side to form a tower can be a visually appealing way to create space and eye-catching variety on an otherwise boring display.

shelf arrangement with layered objects

Think in Layers

Styling shelving well requires thinking in layers and using depth to your advantage. While every bookcase will vary in size, the principle will ring true. To truly have a display that wows, layer smaller objects in front of one another. This prevents against aesthetic stagnation that does not allow your eyes to travel dynamically around the objects on your shelf.

bookcase with greenery

Add Natural Elements

No properly styled bookshelf is complete without small additions from nature. Carefully placed seashells, greenery in the form of small plants, or even decorative rocks can warm up an otherwise sterile display. Furthermore, these–often small–items are easy to add in front of or on top of other arrangements to create more depth.

displaying art

Add Art & Customize

When attempting to style a room or even a bookshelf, it can be tempting to get caught up in the latest trends and techniques only to realize that you’ve created a generic display worthy of a magazine. While this might seem like a good thing, at first glance, your space should reflect your personality and interests. Don’t forget to add art, photos, and trinkets that you will enjoy looking at daily. After all, you (and those living with you) are the person who will see your decor more than anyone else. Avoid merely decorating for your guests’ approval, but instead, pick what will bring joy to you.

Photo boxes and magazine organizers hide memorabilia

Carve Out a Place for Everything

We all know the old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place” but we often don’t process the first part of the phrase. The words might be cliche, but the message is imperative for creating an organized and well-styled aesthetic.

Create a spot for everything. For your shelving, this can mean using stylish photo boxes, magazine organizers, or wicker baskets to hold miscellaneous papers, pictures, and memorabilia. Finding a place for those items you just can’t part with but don’t use every day is an essential part of keeping your shelves looking nice and clutter-free.

Styling your bookshelf can elevate your whole space, turning it into a refined haven. Instead of a cluttered and lackluster home renters often resign themselves to, make the effort to invest your time and skills into creating a visual focal point that acts as an anchor for your space. Let’s all give the bookshelf its due praise, and benefit from this seemingly simple solution.


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