Styling a built-in or bookcase can be a tricky and intimidating task. It’s probably one of the most difficult vignettes to organize, but when done well- it makes such an impression! After all, this area should be an interesting reflection of the people inhabiting a home. It’s a place to show off collections and prized pieces gathered throughout the years.
We’re making things a little easier and sharing a few tricks of the trade, plus designer’s essentials for shelf styling if you’re beginning your own collection.
The first thing everyone gravitates towards when shelf styling is the obvious- books. While books make great anchors and fillers, there are so many more fun things to add to a built-in aside from reading material. Find interesting shaped objects and group them together. Think about the entire unit as a whole and then each shelf as a smaller section or grid to make things easier. Keep things organized by using a consistent color palette.
One of my favorite things to collect are vintage objects. The little brass cat and vintage print below were inexpensive thrift store finds. Meaningful or unique items also make great conversation starters and will pique your houseguest’s interest.
A little plant or greenery creates nice texture that shelves often lack. Don’t be afraid to use florals or succulents to add movement and life to your vignette!
Use artwork, marble slabs, trays, or cutting boards to fill negative space and provide a backdrop for smaller items. Remember to keep balance in mind when styling each section of the shelf. Ask yourself if one side feels heavier than another… if your answer is yes, now is the perfect time to add books to your grid for additional weight.
When styling or hunting for items, keep in mind you’ll want to mix a variety of materials: wood, brass, marble, ceramics, whatever you’re drawn to! Different surfaces and shapes will achieve depth for a curated look.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, mix, match and move things around to your heart’s content. It usually takes awhile to play this game of logic and determine the best combination, so don’t get frustrated! The best part? Nothing is permanent (unless you physically mount something), and items can easily be swapped once your tired of the vignette. Each time I overhaul a bookshelf, the entire room changes. Styling makes a world of difference!
Good luck!! Sarah
photography and styling by sarah gibson for coco+kelley