How To Style a Pinterest-Worthy Bookshelf

Mar 1


Most homes these days from new to old will have some sort of built-in or stand alone bookcases.  The modern family requires a lot of storage solutions to function and help streamline our busy lives. We love our spaces to be designed to function for how we live, but to pull double-duty and look beautiful as well.  I don’t think that function has to win all the time – we can and should have the best of both worlds with a little effort.

Pinterest is popular for a reason: it provides us inspiration to beautify our homes.  I am dishing my tried and true method for how you can easily style your shelves to be Pinterest-worthy!

styled bookcase


Take stock of everything that you want to display on your shelves.  Once you have all your prized possessions in a group, start creating sub-groups by colour and texture. Meaning, put all white objects together, group all your wicker items, etc.  Usually a mix of materials with a cohesive colour palette (1-3 colours, no more than 5) creates wonderful visual interest and kicks your shelf style into high gear.

Be sure to include those coffee table or regular books that are hiding away.  Take stock of how many shelves you have to style and ensure you have enough pieces.  If you find you’re still needing to acquire a few pieces – don’t worry.  Style your shelves with the following method, which is as foolproof as paint-by-numbers.

Styling a Bookshelf


Start with your bottom shelves and add a few of your larger items. This will help ground the shelves and balance the visual proportions of the whole unit. Baskets usually work great on bottom shelves, because they’re a great solution for easy-to-grab options like blankets or knitting items. Whatever your preference or need is.

Next, add a similar colour on a higher shelf and on the opposite side.  So, if you’ve added baskets to the bottom left part of the unit, put a similar colour object higher on the right side.  Repeat this process with all of your remaining objects.

Styling a bookshelf

Styled Bookcase Baskets


Books are the secret sauce to creating a great display.  Stacked books make great risers for small objects, filling up those high shelves and providing opportunities to group items – again, creating visual interest.  If you’re having trouble unifying the colours of your book covers, create matching book jackets by DIY’ing with the coloured paper of your choice.  Or, flip books on their side with the pages facing out.

Styled Bookcase Items


Styled Bookcase Book Display


Trays are necessary in shelf design.  They’re a catch-all, but they also ground objects when grouping items together.  Objects no longer look like they are “floating” on the shelf.  Plus, they add visual interest because they’re usually a different material than the items grouped on them.

No rules in terms of the trays on the shelf all being of the same material, you can mix it up.  When gathering items on a tray, groups of three usually work best, especially in terms of shelf styling.

Styled Bookcase Candles

Styled Bookcase Plants


Add some of your favourite family pictures or special prints into your shelf design.  These look great on their own (in a frame) on a shelf and are usually larger to help offset the bulkier items on the bottom shelf.  Many people are also incorporating prints on the outside of built-in frames to help break up a grid like pattern for a more eclectic feel.



Shelving units often have an equal number of shelves.  For shelves of four, I like a two, three, two, three mix for each shelf grouping when looking at the whole unit.

Did I lose you? Let me explain: when you look at bookshelf as a whole, the first shelf should have two items; one of these items could be a grouping or a larger item (opposite side of the larger items on bottom shelf).  Second shelf should have 3 items. Third shelf two items – one these objects should be a grouping.  Bottom shelf should have three items and the larger, “heavier” looking items should be on part of the bottom shelf to ground it.

Styled Bookcase Artwork

Styled Bookcase Drawers


  • Gather all items to be displayed on the bookshelf
  • Group by colour and texture
  • Create interest by incorporating different textures
  • Start with a few larger objects on one side of the bottom shelf
  • Continue placing objects proportionately on the shelf according to colour and/or texture
  • Books help create height stacked with smaller objects grouped on top
  • Use trays in various finishes to group small objects
  • Items grouped in 3’s work best (group on trays)
  • Create balance by employing the two, three, two, three mix

Tip: Still need some items?  Take measurements of the height and depth of your shelves and store them in your phone in the notes section, or take photos with measuring tape with your phone.  When you’re out and about and inspiration strikes, you can ensure a perfect fit.

Do you have any other tips or tricks to give your shelves some style?  Comment below with your hacks.  Looking for other common design tips? Check out how to hang your curtains like a boss and how high to hang your art work.





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    • Allie says:

      Hi Sheree, check out Saffron Avenue, they have a number of great templates! And Angela has been super helpful and amazing. Good luck!


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