How to style a bookshelf like a pro

There is nothing better than a great bookshelf or étagère (the French term for a set of hanging or open shelves used to display collections) to add warmth to your room. But bookshelves can also look like a cluttered, frenetic mess if you’re not careful. Have you noticed when reading design magazines or touring parade homes that the most stunning rooms always have well-edited shelves? It’s not by accident! Wondering how to style a bookshelf like a pro?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to achieving that carefully curated look

Overstock,Bookcase |Amazon,Similar Bookcase ($200 less)| Similar White Vases (set of 3)|Similar Pottery Barn Vase|Similar Greenery |Ballard Designs, Layla Chandelier (out of stock) Similar Chandelier


how to style a bookshelf neutral toneshow to style a bookshelf like a pro neutral living room

How to Style a Bookshelf – Step By Step Guide

  • Start with an elegant and graceful shelf, then shop your house for display items

It all starts with the bookcase… If you’re lucky you have built-ins. If not, these stunning bookcases will make your room! You can find my exact shelfhere or thisnearly identical onenow available for $200 less (you lucky ducks). You can also get a matching console orside table to round out the look, so pretty!

The classic lines and neutral coloring will work in any room. Plus, they can really play up a high ceiling. Those wondering how to style a bookshelf like a pro will be pleased at the options you can find online these days. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous pulling the trigger without seeing these in person, but I’ve been nothing but happy. Visitors always compliment them.

(This is off topic, but since I first posted this a lot of people have been asking me about my chandelier. It’s the Layla from Ballard Designs and is by far my favorite thing in my home.)

Next, go through your home looking for objects of interest. You’ll want a variety of shapes, sizes and heights. Make sure you have something sculptural, like a vase or art piece. You can use this as a bookend. Another must have is something natural, greenery or a flower arrangement.

  • Now, it’s time for the books

Beautiful hardcover books, especially old books, look best. I try to find books in similar tones and shades. You’re looking for colors that will complement your room. Here’s a pro secret for everyone unsure how to style a bookshelf. You don’t have to spend a lot to fill it!

Check your local library for “Friends of the Library” book sales. This is a great way to scoop up gorgeous hardcovers for $1 or $2 per title. Another trick I use… If you don’t have enough in the right shades reverse the book and face its end toward the wall. This gives you a cohesive, subtle look.

how to style a bookshelf like a pro

  • Begin arranging your books using a variety of orientations & place large objects

I like to stack some books flat, 3 or 4 high. Others I lean vertically. Beautiful sets I showcase upright in their full glory. Pots, clocks, sculptures or flower arrangements can anchor your books. They will be what really catches the eye.

  • Add art, frames, candles and greenery

Begin to nestle in your remaining objects on top of books or to the side. Strive for a variety of heights and remember the rule of threes (things arranged in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable and effective in arrangements). This will give you a layered look.

Step back often to eye your progress and play around with your display. Do you have items that are similar, for example two metallic things, too close together? Don’t be afraid to edit something out. Simplicity is elegant. I moved these items again and again before I was satisfied (my husband thought I was nuts).

Finally—and this is crucial step for those learning how to style a bookshelf—work in your greenery and natural elements. Greenery adds life to your space, and if you are a fan of a neutral palette like me, it adds a pleasing touch of color.

Similar Bookshelf ($200 less)| Bookshelf | Similar Vases (Set of 3) |Similar Pottery Barn Vases | Similar Greenery | Layla Chandelier

How to Style a Bookshelf – Final Thoughts

Questions? Drop them in the comments below. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with one more “how to style” a bookshelf tip. It’s a process! You won’t be able to get a look you love overnight. Part of the beauty of a well-curated shelf is acquiring pieces that are meaningful to you over time. Don’t rush it!


  1. Victoria Martin | 11th Jan 18

    Love the article!! You should be doing a show or magazine. So impressed!! Has Linda seen this?

    • laveremis | 11th Jan 18

      Wouldn’t that be fun, a girl can dream right? Yes, she has. We’ll be partnering on creating some of these pages.

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