Styling Beautiful Bookcases

By Oliver Burns

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September 9, 2014|

  • T

  • here is a definite art to styling a bookcase. I like to think of it as a well curated collection of favourite books, art and objects that showcase your personal style and tell a story. The end result should look effortlessly chic, but to get it right can take some work, so here are some top tips to help. When viewed from a front perspective, the key to a sophisticated bookcase that oozes confidence is through the dynamic interplay of scale, proportion and colour. Elements need to be layered gradually, so start with a blank canvas. Think about the background of your bookcase and the materials and colours you want to highlight or work with.
Images sourced via House & Garden (left) and My Home Lookbook (right)

A statement patterned wallpaper or an accent colour applied to the back of a bookcase can create a stunning focal point in a room and a stylish or quirky backdrop to showcase all your favourite things.

If, like me, you have long uninterrupted shelves, divide each shelf into three or four ‘mini’ sections or displays that have visual pauses or space between them. Use these displays to blend books with an unexpected mix of objects and think about the relationship that each section has with its counterparts in terms of scale and symmetry (or asymmetry,) creating a series of ‘moments.’

Start by stacking similar or complementary coloured books both vertically and horizontally for a more dynamic look and limit the rows or stacks to just a few books – no more than ten or so. If you are struggling to colour block with what you have, buy pre-loved books from charity shops or markets. We have an Oxfam bookshop opposite our office and we love to scour their shelves for interesting books, especially when we have a photo shoot.

Image sourced via Oliver Burns

Another great way to create the exact style or colour you want is to buy or cover vintage books. My personal favourites are a grouping that I have that are covered to make up a Hermes Birkin bag when stacked on top of each other. They complement my blue silk wallpaper perfectly and provide a fun but elegant nod to a passion for fashion.

Prop quirky items on different height horizontally stacked books. They anchor the display, give them a sense of balance and juxtapose concepts.

Image sourced via Design Daredevil

Break up sections with interesting objects or groupings such as decorative bowls or beautiful candles. Nothing is off limits; if displayed in the right way, you can include anything from a designer handbag to a teapot.

Every display needs a focal point and sculptures or sculptural elements that have interesting forms can be showcased to great effect on their own or in a group. My favourites are neoclassical or quirky busts, figurines of animals, or decorative collections of pottery. Consider mixing heights in a group, and when grouping similar items, always place the tallest item at the back.

Images sourced via Pinterest (left) and The Fashion Hall (right)

Artwork, mirrors, plates and framed photos are also a wonderful way to personalise your bookcase. They look great on their own or hidden or hung behind other items as a background filler.

Regularly stand back and survey your handy work and then edit and tweak with things until you’re happy and it feels like a reflection of your personal style. What does your bookcase say about you? It should look effortless – like an eclectic mix of objects ‘thrown’ together that somehow create a design whole that is more than the sum of its parts. No one needs to know that it took you five hours to throw it together.



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