Woodbank Lane: What’s the Best Way to Style (or Restyle) a Bookshelf?

Tuscaloosa native Kathryn Wilkerson is a wife, a mom of three, a teacher, and the author of Woodbank Lane – a blog that offers up a variety of different decorating ideas and projects, recipes, and inspiration for living. Follow Kathryn at woodbanklane.com and on Instagram @woodbanklane.  Tuscaloosa native Kathryn Wilkerson is a wife, a mom of three, a teacher, and the author of Woodbank Lane – a blog that offers up a variety of different decorating ideas and projects, recipes, and inspiration for living. Follow Kathryn at woodbanklane.com and on Instagram @woodbanklane.  Kathryn Wilkerson

Styling bookshelves is a favorite of mine. It’s so easy to let your creative juices flow without worry because there really isn’t a right or wrong way to style them. And, once styled, if you don’t like the look, you can always empty the shelves and arrange them again and again. 

Hello! I’m Kathryn from the blog Woodbank Lane. Want to talk about bookshelves for a minute? Good. Me, too! If you’re bored with your décor or just want to freshen things up a bit, try restyling your bookshelves.  

We have dark built-ins on both sides of our fireplace in our living room. That makes decorating the shelves a challenge; not everything shows up well against the dark finish. 

The wall color in the room is Shaker Beige by Benjamin Moore. It's a light khaki, kind of a creamy tan color, and it’s perfect if you're looking for a good neutral. It's a favorite of mine, and I've suggested it to lots of friends and family. The main accent color in the room is blue, thanks to a sofa we bought without even sitting on it (a story for another post). 

So, it made perfect sense to display some of my collected blue and white chinoiserie, and blue and white plates with the books on the bookshelves. 

Here are 10 tips and ideas that I’ve curated over the years for changing up and decorating my bookshelves.   

1. Books - They are shelves for books, after all. Before starting, take inventory of your books, and decide how much space you want to devote to them. I love shelves full of nothing but books, but I prefer to mix them with other items. If you don’t yet have enough books to fill your shelves, the thrift stores are great places to find colorful, often inexpensive books to get a collected look. Over the years, I've picked up books thrifting for as little as 10 cents. 

2. Add art – Art, framed or unframed, helps give the shelves a layered look. No need to hang it; just lean it on the back of the shelves. I've included four pieces in my arrangements. The old man with children fishing at the sea, framed poppies, an unframed canvas done by a former student, and a red bird I came across years ago. 

3. Use items from a collection - If you've been around my blog (woodbanklane.com) for any amount of time, you know milk glass and blue and white ceramics are two things I like to collect. I mixed in a little of both in different shapes and sizes on my shelves. 

4. Add (faux) flowers - I'm not offended at all by faux flowers and love the look of the white ones I'm using on both sides of the cases. They show up well and add a feminine touch. (Don’t forget to dust them occasionally!)

5. Add interest - For added interest, I leaned an empty picture frame behind the red bird. I also used two small busts and a gray distressed peacock (at least, I think it's a peacock).

Peacock or no?

 

6. Use something green - If your shelves are in a well-lit room, mixing in real plants is a beautiful idea. I don't have that luxury, so I used faux again: a moss ball and boxwood balls in a blue and white bowl (right picture, middle shelf).

7. Display sentimental objects - I'm not currently displaying anything sentimental on my shelves, but I think it's a terrific idea. Display items that have been passed down to you from a mother or grandmother, for example, or souvenirs brought home from a family vacation. 

8. Add something that says something – I am a teacher, and I found my white apple at TJ Maxx. Do you know a teacher without one? 

9. Be symmetrical - Not everyone likes symmetry, but I believe symmetry is your friend. It's appealing to the eye and looks so clean and neat. I tried to arrange the objects about the same on both sides so they would be almost mirror images.  

10. Pick a shape for the shelves - My shelves are decorated in the shape of a diamond, meaning simply that I've used fewer things on the top and bottom shelves and filled more of the middle shelves. A triangular arrangement would be another great shape: less going on up top; more going on around the bottom. 

I hope you found some inspiration for your own shelves. When you take everything down and someone asks what in the world you’re doing, just blame me.

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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