Our Top Tips on How to Decorate a Bookshelf - Chervin Furniture & Design

Our Top Tips on How to Decorate a Bookshelf

A bookshelf without styling can appear bare, boring, or cluttered. Decorating a bookshelf is best done with simplicity in mind, so as not to overwhelm or overcomplicate it. Bookshelves have a functional purpose to store your books, décor pieces, and cherished momentums. Styling a bookshelf should feel fluid with your style and offer you the freedom to change items throughout the seasons or trends.

If you want to spruce up your shelving and refresh your space, then continue reading!


If your bookshelf is not cleared already, remove all the items to create a blank canvas for you to begin your fresh styling.

  • Collect a few things for your shelf:
    • books (as many or as few as you want)
    • a few framed photographs, artwork, or large decor
    • some mementos, collections, or meaningful objects
    • a plant or natural item

Once you have collected your items, separate them into groups by size: small, medium, and large.

Shelf styling tips

  • Layer Items to create interest
  • Place décor objects on books to ground them
  • Use different levels to create height variation
  • Display personal collections and treasures

#2: start styling

Large-Scale Items

  • Fill your shelf with your larger accessories like lanterns, sculptures, bowls, artwork, candlesticks, and baskets. This will help fix your focal points and height variations for your shelf. Decorative objects that are large can throw off your style arrangement if not mapped out first. Address the tallest and widest items first as anchors to your shelf arrangement. These substantial items are best kept on the lower shelves.


  • The main purpose of the shelf! Start by placing a group of your favourite books on the shelf. Create variation by placing your book groups on the left side, right side, and center. Try your best to vary the weight and thickness of them and keep the most attractive ones at eye level. Use assorted placements – both horizontally and vertically, and place bookends and decorative objects in between!
Common arrangements include:
  • Two or three horizontal books with décor stacked on top.

Bookshelf with horizontal books and decor objects with a Christmas theme

  • Vertical books with bookends or shorter decorative objects beside.

Bookshelf with vertical books and decor objects with a Christmas theme

Greenery, Florals, and Accent Decor

  • These small decorative items can include knick-knacks, trip souvenirs, and unique décor items that are personal to you and will individualize your bookshelf. Layer in small accents on top of horizontal book stacks to ground the objects, or next to larger items to create height variety.
  • Real or artificial Indoor plants and florals, create a sense of calm and add life. Paired with a beautiful pot or vase to match your style. This could be the perfect opportunity to add some texture, varying shapes, and natural flow to your bookshelf arrangement.

Shelf décor Grouping ideas

  • Vertical books + bookend next to low planter or bowl
  • A tall vase and small potted greenery next to a framed print
  • A tall-large item next to horizontally stacked books + small décor on top
  • Vertical books + glass vase as a bookend with a narrow basket or box


  • Once all your desired items are added, take a step back! Take a quick walk around the house to refresh your eyes and come back to your bookcase or shelf unit. When you take a small break to step away from your creation, you can better edit and see if everything looks cohesive.
  • To refine your bookshelf, look and ask yourself – Is it busy? Do I need more colour? Am I satisfied with the balance? Make small changes until you are satisfied and happy. At the end of the day, styling your bookshelf should be about you and your preferences. It is not always a picture-perfect scene from a magazine or online.

Styling a bookshelf is better when done with simplicity! The famous saying “Less is more” applies to styling in most cases.

Make sure not to overcrowd your bookshelf; let your pieces shine instead of getting lost in the mix. It is great to make use of negative space and allow your items to breathe and stand out. Vary your styling techniques and layouts from one shelf to another. All your shelves should not have the same arrangement; it is better to switch them up to provide visual variety. Finally, your bookshelf styling should reflect and embrace your individual personal style –play around with the pieces that you love!

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