5 Tips for Reviving Your Bookcase

By Kim Vargo /

Styling your bookcase can feel a bit intimidating; really, I know. (I’ve been there before, paralyzed with fear, too!) With all the stunning imagery of impeccably styled shelves around the web, you might wonder how fellow home lovers keep things feeling so effortless, right? I truly don’t believe there are steadfast rules when it comes to a beautifully styled bookcase, but if you’re looking at your own overstuffed and chaotic shelves and feeling ready to breathe new life into your display, here are a few easy tips I’ve learned along the way to keep things feeling fun, fresh and most importantly, more like you.

ONE: Pare it down. Keep the worn paperbacks separate and display only the books and magazines that inspire you. If you can’t stand the idea of parting with your beloved reads, stow those less-than-pretty books in baskets, bins or vintage crates. I’ll be the first to admit that Scott and I have a handful of old favorites that we can’t bear to part with (mostly for nostalgic reasons), but in general, we’re the read-and-pass-along kind. To us, after we’ve enjoyed a book once, that book should be passed along and loved by another. Consider donating your one-time only reads, or better yet, tell your friend to enjoy and have her do the same for someone else.

Photo: Better Homes and Garden

TWO: Be mindful of scale and weight. Once you’ve got a good handle on what stays vs. what goes, start adding your bulkiest items to your bookshelf first. We have a healthy record collection that we display on our bookshelf, and we keep these heaviest items down low. To avoid a top-heavy bookcase, larger items (such as baskets, bins or in our case, records) should be displayed on the lowest level. Below, you can see how we did this with our recent bookcase makeover.

THREE: Play with the arrangement. To avoid the overly stuffy library look, think outside the box. Stack your books vertically as well as horizontally, arrange them by type (think: magazines vs. the Harry Potter series), color or genre. Does your bookcase have shelves that can move up and down? If so, move outside of your comfort zone and use this to your advantage! A tall, vertical stack of glossies can be topped with a small bauble with a little shelf maneuvering, and at the same time, don’t be afraid to allow some shelves to breathe with just a single item.

Photo:  Mandi Johnson via A Beautiful Mess

FOUR: Make it personal. Ah, in my opinion, the best part. With your books arranged how you’d like, begin layering in those personal touches – framed family photos, artwork and a collection of meaningful items (what a great way to show off finds from antique fairs, your travels or just something that simply makes you smile!) Have fun with this part. Show off your quirky side and add that touch of whimsy with gilded gold bookends, your prized bowling trophy or your child’s finger paintings. Below, we’ve added an 11×14 Pinhole Press frame, a favorite memory taken in a gelato shop during a quick trip to Paris. We’ve layered small vases holding sweet notes from friends and favorite instant photos.

FIVE: Hey, up there! Don’t forget about the space above your bookcase! Adding a large piece of framed art or even a collection of framed family photographs will add eye-pleasing height to the room. Think of it as cheating the height of your ceilings.

Photo: Ikea

Sometimes a few easy tweaks can really make all the difference. With the impending changing seasons (here in Chicago, spring can’t come fast enough!), a rejuvenated mindset may be all you need to get your home feeling more put together. Go ahead and give these tips a try; you’ve got this. What else have you done in your own home to keep your shelving displays looking their best? What is your most treasured item on display?


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