ReDesigns by Ava: Shelf Life…..What’s On Your Bookshelf?



“Bookshelves do double duty as storage space for books and display space for accessories. Decorate them to be both fully functional and pleasing to the eye.” ~ Better Homes & Gardens

A few years ago we had a mouse in our pantry. After he was caught (and he died a happy mouse… full of Ghirardelli’s chocolate chips), I did a thorough cleaning of the pantry. Much to my surprise, there were several food items with an expired shelf life. This told me that I needed to be more frugal and check the dates more often as not to waste food. Placing items back on the shelves, I was reminded that décor has a shelf life, too, and needs a thorough cleaning, redecorating or redesign occasionally.

Most people redecorate after seven or eight years and, if not then, definitely at ten years. To keep your décor from looking dated, periodically step back, freshen up and make some changes. There are little things that you can do without totally redecorating. One of those is redesigning your bookshelves.

So how do you decorate those bookshelves? I find decorating bookshelves one of my biggest challenges when doing an Interior Redesign or starting from scratch on a new decorating project.

There is nothing wrong with using rows of books as you would find in a library, but adding a few accessories will add interest. Everything from collectibles, personal treasures, art, framed photos, decorative boxes, pottery and baskets, even books, can be displayed. All of these are a great addition. The challenge is placing the items on the shelves so that the finished look isn’t cluttered and is visually appealing.

Tricks of the trade for accessorizing bookshelves:

  • Take everything off of shelves and clean shelves.
  • Consider lining back of the shelf with fabric, wallpaper, or a contrasting paint color to add depth and interest.
  • Organize books by size, color and texture (such as antique books vs. new books).
  • Remove book jackets to reveal colorful bindings for a neater look. This also makes it easier to read the book’s title.
  • If you are into the more neutral tones, consider turning your books around where the spine is next to the wall, and pages face outward. Or make book covers for your books out of the same paper for a simpler look.
  • Donate or pack away paperback books. They tend to make a bookshelf look cluttered.
  • Shop your home for items that are unique to your family and would also fit on the shelf. Decide which ones to include. Choose carefully. Too many will be distracting.
  • Make a decision before loading the shelves…..do you want an asymmetrical (casual or artsy) or symmetrical (traditional or formal) look? With either choice, balance is the key to a visually pleasing display.
  • Begin on the bottom shelf and work your way to the top, using the visually heavy objects and larger books on lower shelves.
  • Place books both horizontally and vertically. By stacking books horizontally, you can create a bookend for books arranged vertically. A knick-knack or treasured item can be placed atop the horizontally stacked books.
  • Front books as if they were on a library shelf (flush with the front edge). Refrain from placing objects in front of books, as this only tends to add clutter.
  • Use objects of varying heights to add interest.
  • Group collectibles together for more of an impact.
  • Choose 1 or 2 accent colors to carry through the shelves. A common color theme will add continuity to your bookshelves.
  • Adjust or remove shelves to suit your display.
  • Display art or photos on easels, or hang them on the back wall of the bookcase.
  • Work in natural elements like plants, driftwood, shells, pretty rocks, etc. to add texture.
  • Fold quilts and place on lower shelf in a casual room for an added sense of coziness.
  • Add baskets that fit on shelves if extra storage is needed or if a “Pottery Barn” or “urban look” is your style.

Step back and view from a distance occasionally while decorating your shelves. This will help you achieve the balance and the look you want. Have fun!

Thank you for reading my article. Let ReDESIGNS by Ava assist you in freshening up your décor. Call to schedule an appointment.


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