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UPKC 5 Tips For Styling A Bookcase

I had a space in my living room that needed something.  In my mind I was thinking a bookcase would be the perfect something to add to make the space feel more homey and less “bare over there”.   I have spent the last 7 months searching for said bookcase. I’ve consistently perused all my favorite haunts hoping to find the one. I also looked on-line a little bit, but I really felt like this was an item I need to see in person.  Recently, on a trip to Tuesday Morning with my daughter, we came across THE bookcase.

I knew this sucker existed our paths just had yet to cross, until now.   The size was perfect; black metal with stained wood trays that sat on each shelf, which made it easily adjustable. I was over the moon and my daughter made fun of my excitement in a big way with some eyerolls and head shakes.  I immediately grabbed my tape measure and set out to make sure I could fit my perfect find in my minivan.

Bookcases can intimidate folks, more precisely, the act of decorating bookshelves.  I hear clients frequently say that they have no idea what to put on their beautiful built-ins.  The process of finding and decorating my new bookcase and listening to clients tell me about their struggles made me feel a blog topic coming on.


1.Choose A Color Palette

The first thing you should do when decorating a bookcase is choose a color palette.  What colors are surrounding the area your shelf is in?  I have a lot of cream, tan, navy, green, and red in my living room so I chose items that would accentuate what I already have going on.  Red is a big color for my shelf in that the other colors are fairly neutral.  I used the red sparingly, almost creating a triangle with my eyes.  My advice would be not to put all of the same colored items on the same shelf unless they are all part of a collection.


2.Gather Items For Display

Next, gather all of the pieces you want to display.  Choose the things you love the most and work around those.  From there you can step back and decide if your shelves are too cluttered.  Edit the shelving display accordingly.  If it looks better with less, then you should go with that.  That way more attention will be placed on the things you really love. Here’s a short list of items you may want to consider: framed photos, artwork, signs, bowls, pottery, vases, plants, flowers, books, sculptures, figurines, a tray, box, or dish, baskets, plates, bookends.


3.Use The Rule Of 3’s

Working with odd numbers is more pleasing to the eye. Also vary the heights and sizes of those three items is a great way to add interest.  A cluster of items can be counted as 1 in a grouping of three.  For example, if you have a short stack of books, but would like to add height, you may want to place a candle stick on top of the books.


4.Use The Rule Of Thirds

To keep the clutter down (and believe me, I can over-pack a bookshelf in no time) I try to break each shelf into thirds visually.  From that position I try to leave one of those three spots on each shelf less populated.  You still have to think about balance and overall composition, but this has been a very helpful tip that I’ve followed for years.


5.Take A Photo

Another great trick I’ve used is to step back and take a picture of your shelf or entire case, restyle, and keep doing so until you’ve chosen the perfect setup.

Really there are no hard rules for decorating a bookcase, just a few tips to help the process go smoother.   The key is to have fun and not stress about each placement.  This is a display for the things you hold most dear to your heart, items that represent who you are.  You should love it when you’re done, and if you’re not, the cool thing is, it can always be rearranged. And, if you’re over it and just can’t get it quite how you want it, you can always give me a shout.

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“I can’t say enough great things about Chad and his crew. They were punctual throughout the entire project and very attentive to detail. This is the first time I’ve hired a painter and they far exceeded my expectations.”

K McKinney
K McKinney

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K McKinney
June 2, 2020

I am out of town and needed some painting done on my mom's house to get it ready to sell. Chad and his team came in and did a great job of repairing minor wall dents and nail heads coming through and painting the walls and trim boards. They came back and did some touch up work in a timely manner. Very professional services.