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How to Dress Your Bookshelf

So simple yet so complicated... the bookshelf.

It unintentionally becomes the visual clutter station for most of our homes and no matter how hard we try to snazzy it up, the functional side always outweighs the design side. Well folks, Maple&Moss to the rescue! Here are some quick and easy tips to keep your shelves and mantles looking show-worthy.

1. Decide what the space is for.

When we aren't sure what look we are going for in a particular room it becomes arbitrary, and an arbitrary space is one I guarantee you don't love.

If a bookshelf for example is in an office, then that space can be used functionally as well as stylistically. Maybe instead of cramming books onto the entire shelf, you alternate visual design with functional design on each row to create a balanced look. If you have A LOT of books (which most of us do) there are ways to stack them to save space. You can lay the books horizontally and stack all the way up, leaning a few vertically as pictured below. There is also no rule against stacking books 2 rows deep. As long as you have room on the other side of that same shelf to breath a bit.

Knowing each space you are dealing with is key. For the office, a vintage pair of glasses may sit on a book or magnifying glass would fit the theme. If you are working on a built-in for the living room however, you may stay away from work-like materials and add in family photos or fancier trinkets. The space you are working on should be defined by the items you add onto the shelves.

2. What items can I use besides books?

My personal favorite items are the unexpected ones. A teacup family heirloom is a top favorite, or perhaps old bottles you haven't known where to store. Just place it on a stack of horizontally laid books.

Adding some fresh elements also does a world of difference. I'm not a huge fan of fake greenery but there are some out there now that are decent. (Homegoods is always a will out find my obsession with this heaven-of-a-store later.) Stay away from artificial flower arrangements as those seem to always look, well, artificial. Instead lean toward greenery or succulents with a light colored or simple pot. Its amazing what a little green can do.

As far as family and personal photos, throw them in there. This is your home! Just don't go crazy with the frames and layer them over one another. This tends to create that cluttered, repetitive look we are trying to stay away from. As long as you can have a balanced foundation with your books (always start with the books!) then the fillers are the fun part.

3. My books are ugly.

Yup, most books aren't cute and if they are, they tend to be boring on the inside. A great tick for hiding the harsh colors and worn look of your existing books is to turn them around so only the pages are showing. Practical...not so much, but rotate the books you use most often with those you don't. And unless you are someone who grabs reading materials daily (like a lawyer, or a student or a....I don't honestly know who would because I'm an artist lol) this won't be as inconvenient as you think. It also helps to purchase some vintage books from your local flea market or antique mall and insert a few of those throughout the shelves. Make sure you bundle, I promise a better deal!

Pages facing out for a cleaner look.

4. How do I arrange it all?

Good question! One huge tip in design is to bundle your items in threes. A clock, a frame and a small greenery are perfect examples. Just be sure to vary the heights so there are three separate levels for each item. It's a fool-proof way to be sure and create balance on each shelf.

Say I have a bundle of books on the left side of the top shelf and my three items on the right (greenery, frames, candles etc.), that means the next shelf down I wouldn't want to repeat this alignment. I would either flip the arrangement or put the books towards the middle and add small items on the right or left (negative space is our friend). The third row down would then rotate the first look etc.

Be sure to allow for negative space! This is where a lot of people add too much. Negative (or empty) space can create just as much of a filler as a trinket can.

5. Have fun with it!

When people walk into your home they should feel you! I can give tips for days on how I would personally arrange each item, but the point is that you have created this space for your home. So have fun. Try different ideas, leave it up for a few days for you to walk by, and then change it. That is what design is: creating and recreating a space until it sits right with you. As long as you keep with the foundation of books, then clusters of three items, and balance of negative space on each shelf then it will look amazing. Good luck, you designers you!

Please post photos of your updated shelves on our Facebook and tag us! We would love to share your creativity!


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