So we’ve all seen them, the “How to Style a Bookshelf” posts, they’re everywhere! But have you ever noticed what’s most lacking in these bookshelves? Books! Almost ever tutorial, every blog post, every instruction manual I’ve ever read on styling a bookshelf maintains that you need many knickknacks and very few books. Well, for all my fellow bibliophiles, let’s take a minute to acknowledge how little that makes sense. If you’re anything like me, you have tons of books. You may reread them, they may be on your to-read list, they may sit untouched just looking gorgeous on your shelves, but doggone it, there’s tons of them! The joy of having too many books and not enough book storage has haunted me ever since I memorized the words to the Velveteen Rabbit and told everyone who would listen that I knew how to read. It has never been uncommon for me to have stacks of books sitting all over my home. After college, I stacked books 3 and a half feet high in my bedroom on my childhood dresser. Miraculously they withstood the 2014 Napa Earthquake.
Every time I see another “How to Style a Bookshelf” tutorial, I sigh, think, hmmm that’s pretty, and move on, because for me, that’s completely impractical. My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of years of reading material. They’re packed to the brim with thousands of pages of paper, trillions of words, hundreds of stories. And that’s how I like them: full of books. The bibliophile in me wants more and more, collects them even. The romantic in me dreams of home libraries packed to the brim and smelling of paper and ink. The designer in me pauses a minute and thinks, how can I make this collection attractive?
This past weekend I moved around the furniture in my room and this bookshelf got booted out and into the bonus room upstairs. I packed it full of as many books as I could, styled the top, and it’s beginning to set the tone for this whole room.
Without further ado, how to style your bookshelf with actual books! If you follow these guidelines, not only will you have an attractive bookcase filled with books, but you will also be able to store more books than you would normally. Booklovers rejoice! You can use any books for this, hardcover, paperback, falling apart, old, new, used! Is this the only way to style a bookshelf full of books? Definitely not. But this method is fun, fresh, and brimming with books!
First start with an empty bookshelf. The small hole drilled in the back for your childhood stereo is essential. Just kidding! Pretend it’s not there…
Gather a stack of books in the same color family, you want the stack to be about as tall as your shelf when laid horizontally. Place that on one of the shelves.
Gather another stack of similarly colored book spines. Place that next to the horizontally stacked books.
Add more books in this spine color to finish out this half of the shelf. Begin gathering books of other spine colors. At this point you might want to pop in a special books you have. For me, this means a collection of dilapidated books on top of the bookshelf and a three volume series on a shelf below.
Now things began to move quickly. Continue adding stacks of books vertically and horizontally until your shelves begin to fill up. Things will move around a bit as you adjust for different spine colors. Don’t be afraid to mix hard- and soft-cover books together! At this point your goal to to pack the shelves and keep your horizontal stacks misaligned for a more collected look.
As you continue on past the first few shelves, you may vary between one horizontal book stack and two per shelf. This helps keep you eyes moving around the shelves.
As you get further down your varying colored books help give the shelves blocks of color, creating a more appeasing and “styled” look over all.
At this point, your shelves are full, but don’t stop there! Add an arrangement to the top of your bookshelf to tie the entire thing together. I used an old printed wooden box I have which mimics the blocks of colors formed by the books in the shelves below. The plant adds some organic shape and life; it’s long tendril down the side of the shelf visually binds it to the books on shelves below. A candle, a little metal house, a silver stein, and a happy painted armadillo fill in the remainder of the space.
And that, is a bookshelf styled full of books! I love this because not only can I fit way more books on this shelf, but it looks clean, collected and modern rather than cluttered. There are many ways to style shelves, I don’t have anything against most of them. But for me, it’s important that my styled shelves are packed with the books I need them to store, and not just interesting objects!
I made a gif so you can follow along with this step by step as well!
I’ll share the bookshelf I have downstairs later, to show you how I style shelves with fewer books too. And guess what? I need more bookshelves… I’m out of room and there are stacks of books everywhere around my house, eek!
Do you run into the problem of not having enough book storage? Have you styled your shelves full of books in a different way? Let me know your secrets!