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How to Stage a Bookshelf


If “A clean home is a happy home,”

...then a staged bookshelf is like Instagram:

A completely false representation that you have it all together.


In all seriousness, it’s important you understand the hidden lies behind a staged bookshelf so you have clear expectations moving forward. I'm not in the business of disappointing people.

Staged bookshelves ARE:

Beautiful displays of your favorite belongings that highlight sentimental mementos and showcase completely random stuff you bought on sale at Home Goods.

Staged bookshelves are NOT:

Functional storage places for your books you organized by topic

in alphabetical order.

I'm glad we cleared that up. No styled bookshelf is completely functional. If you are a function over fashion type of person, some of my recommendations might make you twitch, but maybe you can adapt my thoughts in a way that will still work for you – I wouldn’t know because I’m a natural messy. Maybe just have a functional bookshelf elsewhere in the house that fulfills your type-A OCD personality.

Often, staged bookshelves have only about 50% books (90% of which you don’t read - be honest) and 50% of stuff you have lying around that is small enough to fit on a shelf.

1. Pick a color scheme.

It can be a colorful scheme, but there should be some continuity to it. I would stick to 3 or 4 subtle colors or neutrals with one bold accent. You can also mix in some metallic to give it a little pizazz.

2. Pick your books.

I typically don’t display paperback books. Hardcovers look better on a shelf so I store my paperback books in a box…in the garage.

Don’t judge.

If you’re wondering what to do with all your mis-matched books, I take my dust jackets off the books. (I always end up ripping them anyways.) Removing the dust jacket usually uncovers a neutral tone binding. Any technicolor hardcovers without a removable dust jacket I display with the pages side out (*cue the ridicule*). It's completely unhelpful when I need to find a book – but looks great!

Magazines and old textbooks also make for great display items.

3. Pick your knickknacks.

Find a variety of objects that you can mix with books. Some of these items should be meaningful and personal while others can just look cool for cool's sake. Regardless, they all end up being dust collectors (So. Much. Dust.).

Some ideas include:

  • Framed pictures

  • Small statues

  • Baskets

  • Clocks

  • Bowls

  • Flowers

  • Decanters

  • Magazines

  • Diplomas

  • Certificates

  • Antiques

  • Boxes

  • Vases

  • Sports memorabilia

  • Seasonal decor

4. Arrange each shelf.

Mix and match your items, but try keep it balanced.

(Here's the part of the blog you can scroll over unless you need more specific recommendations)

  • Object groupings always looks better in odd numbers.

  • You want to have a good variety of shapes, heights and sizes grouped together. For example, if you have a tall rectangle item, pair it with a medium round item and a small square item.

  • Stacking books vertically (like normal) with a unique bookend, or stack them horizontally with a small knickknack on top. Try flipping one the opposite direction to add texture.

  • Stack similar magazines together.

  • Scatter picture frames throughout the shelves instead of grouping them all together.

  • Keep larger and taller items in the back of the shelf and keep the smaller items towards the front or stacked on top of something else.

  • Pair antique books (#Goodwill) with a contrasting modern accent (see above photo).

  • Try to scatter the colors and metallic accents throughout the shelf so they aren’t all grouped in one place.

  • Try alternating which side you stack books so you don't have books all on the same side. If you have a cubed bookshelf like my super fancy Ikea bookshelf, try alternating books and knickknack groupings in a checkerboard pattern, alternating books with other display items.

5. Step back and judge your work (not yourself).

Every so often, take a step back and look at each shelf from a distance to see how it looks together.

You might find that you have some holes that need to be filled, so there's no shame in purchasing some new things. Home Goods is a great resource to find a bunch of amazing things you never realized you needed #GoldPineapple.

When in doubt, look at examples online to find some inspiration. And remember not to take it too seriously. I'm a professional and I'm always rearranging things on my bookshelf. Just like me, I think it will always be a work in progress.


If you want a second opinion, send me a pic and I’ll let you know my feedback!

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