How to Create Well-Designed Bookshelves

Create Well-Designed Bookshelves We all want our homes to be beautiful, personalized and unique to our lifestyles. Creating displays that are aesthetically pleasing and are also personal, tell a home’s narrative on who lives there.

Bookshelves are perfect for such a purpose, a blank canvas for a vignette on your life. Prudence C. Bailey, principal of Prudence Home +Design, will share with you her top tips for designing magazine-worthy bookshelves.

For those overwhelmed by setting up a bookshelf, where should they start?

Start with what you have. While bare shelves or spaces may feel intimidating, use the opportunity to reacquaint yourself with your beloved treasures: pretty bowls, family heirlooms, ginger jars, décor objects or that souvenir you just had to acquire on your last vacation overseas. If a piece speaks to you, it will have design worth. Objects with a history are the best way to create a unique story and tells your guests who lives there. They are also excellent conversation starters!

Next, take a step back to see if the items you have selected share a theme, whether it is color, texture, or collections. Pieces that share the same patina, silhouette, finish—even an arrangement of books of the same size or color—achieve a cohesive thread. It creates and grounds the overall look.

Don’t forget to think about the actual bookshelves as well, it is your base and backdrop. Creating an overall color scheme achieves a balanced look. A pop of a bright shade can add whimsy and surprise, white backdrops welcome more vivid color play and shelves painted in a darker tone create a more sophisticated look. Once this has been decided you are ready to start placing your items!

Prudence Home Bookshelves

Would you share some advice on how to keep your bookshelf from looking cluttered?

Welcome open, unused space for a simple effect that keeps the focus on the beauty of the showcased items rather than assembling all of your belongings for a manic, cluttered display. For example, even a singular vase can reveal unparalleled beauty when situated on its own.

Remember, you don’t have to put everything out. Some items may not make the final cut but they can always be stowed away and called upon for future presentation. I love shopping my home when I feel like a refresh. What’s old is new again by simply displaying it somewhere else.

Any tricks on getting the photo worthy look, how to make it pleasing on the eye?

Be attentive to height and filling in needed design space with decorative pieces. Keep taller pieces in the back and support them with smaller objects. Geometric proportion prevents the vignette from looking muddled. A grouping of three sizes is always a classic design style: tall, medium and short never lets you down!

Also, vary your schemes with stacked books, upright arrangements secured with bookends, books turned around and accents on top of them. Unify each grouping throughout with a complimentary color, shared detail or size. I love to create a pattern as I style shelves. I usually repeat the display on each alternating shelf to create an S curve.

For example, I’d place a large item on one top shelf, the next shelf underneath it may have a stack of books with a picture frame or object on it beside something bigger on its own next to it…and continue to carry it down on the other shelves.

Other tips on filling in voids?

Finding something beautiful and unexpected will catapult a design from being safe to styled. Consider such decorative pieces like art, metallic orbs, picture frames and vintage or modern Objets d’art to achieve designer finesse. I always believe something from nature is the signature element to a beautifully styled home.

From a floral arrangement, fresh greenery in your favorite vase, succulents and air plants or even a simple boxwood ball. Look to your backyard for branches and beautiful leaves to use as cuttings in your shelves and on your tables—a touch of something real heightens the style!

Any final advice?

Do not be afraid to try something different, it is all about trial and error.

Designing displays is a process, a game of constantly tweaking the vignette by pulling out pieces and adding others until you achieve the desired effect. There is no time limit and you may not have all the right elements, which is another opportunity to add another piece to your design story.