Bookshelf Styling Tips

Oddly enough, I’d have to say styling our downstairs built ins was one of the toughest design challenges I’ve taken on, and I’m still not sure if I love them (plus I’d like to get some good photos of them, so I’ll share the final result on here eventually, but not quite yet. Apologies again to my wonderful roommate for all of the random weeknights I spent moving things around only to give up halfway through!). I found it difficult to make everything look interesting and put together without looking too cluttered or too sterile, and I relied on Pinterest/Google images/articles a lot. So, while the final product may not be the most original-looking, it at least matches the style that my roommate and I had in mind (stacked books, not too color-coded). What would a girl do without Emily Henderson’s advice?!

However, I have some built in shelves that are a much more manageable size upstairs in my room, and those, which are pictured in this post, have been a lot easier to decorate and kind of have the same look that I was going for downstairs–pretty books, interesting accessories, not too crowded.


While I’m barely a pro at bookshelf styling, I’ve picked up some techniques along the way that I thought I’d share here:

1) Flea markets/thrift stores/yard sales are your friend when it comes to finding unique accessories. The chinoiserie cake stand, silver dish, woven basket tray, mini foo dog, and even the Hermes boxes were all items I purchased secondhand (even though I totally wish I had a stash of Hermes scarves somewhere in my closet). The boxes are stylish and added a fun pop of color, the woven basket was like $2 but reminds me of something you’d find in a funky/boho store for much more, and I was ecstatic to come across the gold foo dog for 99 cents (if only its pair hadn’t been missing!). Take your time finding accessories that match your style rather than splurging on something more mainstream that may not even match your true style. In addition to these thrift finds, I added in a favorite Laduree box that I brought back from Paris, a fun basket purse, and my college yearbook (it’s stacked in one of the big piles!).

2) That said, if you do find yourself wanting to place a big accessories order and getting everything over with, I recommend checking out H&M home! When it came to our downstairs shelves, I didn’t want to wait forever since they’re something people see frequently when they come over and really are the focal point of our living room. H&M home has amazing, stylish, CHEAP home accessories that look great on bookshelves. For example, how great is this little gold pot? I also love this small vase. I placed a big order from there last week and the items arrived super quickly and go well with our existing decor.


3) Focus on one shelf at a time. This was more key when it came to our huge downstairs shelves because each is relatively large. Rather than trying to get everything done at once, I focused on a section at a time. Put all of your accessories in a pile and think about which ones work in which spot. Laying everything out in front of you will make it easy to see what you already own and what’s missing. Emily Henderson’s technique of putting books and larger items on a shelf first and then going back and adding decorative objects is a great idea, since these things are truly meant to serve as accents rather than major focal points.

4) If all else fails, call your mom! Seriously, though…my mom stopped by to drop off our tree, (which I’d been storing at home!), and I roped her in to doing an hour or so of shelf decorating…haha. I’d also recommend taking a picture of a shelf as well as the entire space and coming back to look at it later, because even within the span of a few hours you may think of a totally different idea or realize that the basket on the left side of the room could totally work on a right side shelf. The decorating process should be fun, and if it isn’t, take a break (I definitely gave up plenty of times!).

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