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How to Win the Battle of the Boring Bookshelves

Boring-Bookshelf-Battle-decorating-tips-bookcase-accessories-decor-styling-The Decor Guru

Me, circa 1995: “Books? Check. Shelves? Check. Done!”

Me, 2015: “Do I want to organize my books by subject? By color? Do I need a lamp? Why do I have so many books? Why do I have so few books? Do I need all my accessories to match? How can I achieve bookshelf perfection?!”

As evidenced by today’s neuroses, I never really learned to properly style a bookshelf. In the past, I only sought function so I thought it was easy. I’d buy those inexpensive, wood laminate, ready-to-assemble bookshelves. You know the kind—really cheap yet totally practical.  Aside from the obvious use, I’d add a few tchotchkes and call it a day.

Total snoozefest.

Today, I’m waging a war against boring bookshelves. After years of having no bookshelves in my living room, I purchased three units from my happy place, IKEA. To arm myself through this battle, I compiled a collection of tips and ideas from other decorators and bloggers.

There’s plenty resources out there that tell you how to style a bookshelf. And many of those are quite lovely—if you don’t have many books. Kelly from View Along the Way has the best tips for styling a bookshelf when you have lots of books but still want to infuse some personality. It’s the best of both worlds.

Did you know there are seven ways you can arrange your books? I didn’t believe it at first, but Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff wasn’t lying! I love how her bookcase has tons of books, yet it’s still aesthetically pleasing.

Maybe you don’t have many books. There’s nothing wrong with that. Bookshelves can still be a wonderful feature in your space because they allow you to showcase your personality with accessories. Check out this fierce bookshelf decorated by Emily Henderson with minimal books but maximum style.

Bookshelf styling Emily Henderson

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could recover your books like Brooke from All Things Thrifty. This look creates a feeling of order and unity to a room, but is far from boring with the variety of pattern.

Recovered books All Things Thrifty

Maybe you’re pretty confident about your bookshelf styling skills, but feel like your shelves are still lacking something. One solution is to change the color, like these peppy yellow bookshelves from Better Home and Gardens.

If bright color isn’t your bag, you can paint the shelves the same color as your walls. This is great if you love the look of built-ins but have freestanding shelves.

Elegant Abode Interior Design faux builtin bookshelves


Finally, you can transform your bookcases by updating the backing. You can change the color with paper, like Cassie from Hi Sugarplum did…

Paper covered backing bookshelves Hi Sugarplum

…you can add a snappy pattern, like Melissa from The Happier Homemaker did with this cut-out design for her bookshelf

…or you can revamp the bookcase by adding mirrors. This look is doubly effective as it also creates the illusion more space and light in the room.

mirrored bookcase Melissa Haynes Design



Armed with these tips, I think we can finally win this war of drab decor! Stay tuned as I’ll share how I finally overcame my boring bookshelf battle.

Are you pretty savvy with bookshelf styling? Or have you also had trouble getting it just right? Do you decorate your bookshelves with strictly books or a mix of books and decor? What are your favorite types of bookshelves?

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Filed under: Decorating Tips, Furniture, Living Room