As a residential home stager, I am fortunate to enjoy most aspects of my job, but there are some parts I enjoy more than others. Oddly, styling bookshelves tops the list.
If you’re looking for ways to create a curated, magazine look in your home, giving your bookcases or shelving some love can go a long way to accomplish this goal. Here’s my styling process to create an Insta-worthy “shelfie”!
1: Start with a blank canvas. No matter what kind of shelves I’m styling, I always empty them first. It may seem unnecessary to take everything off the shelves, but starting with a clean slate will give you the ability to see the space with fresh eyes.
As you’re clearing everything from the shelves, group objects by item type on the floor or workspace so all your books are together, photos are together, vases are together, etc. This makes it easier once you start styling and it helps you to see the common thread in your pieces and what you may be missing.
2: Determine your look. Next, think about how you want your shelves to look. Sometimes I prefer the bookcases to blend with the rest of the room so that buyers’ eyes go to the beautiful views or custom millwork instead. In this case, I’ll place the books with the spines facing inward (to the back of the shelf) to create a more uniform color palette.
If you’re styling your bookcase to display your favorite books and treasures, then start thinking about what pieces of decor you want to place next to each other. Do you want items grouped by color or item type?
3: Start by adding your largest pieces first. By placing the largest items on the shelves first, you are creating focal points. As you keep adding large items, think about how your eye is drawn from one to the next. Vases, baskets, bowls, or other large decorative items are perfect for adding substance and visual weight to a shelf. I typically stagger these items, so I’m not placing one vase next to another, or stacked on top of each other.
Sometimes your largest visual “piece” is the books themselves, so if you want to start by adding books first, then do so by filling each shelf about half full of books. You can add the decorative items in next.
4: Add the unexpected. As a decorator, one of our tricks is to add perhaps unexpected items, such as artwork and plants, to bookshelves for interest. This can be a great way to display your grandmother’s painting or your father’s vintage camera that you don’t quite know where to place in the rest of your home.
5: Create groupings with your smaller items. The final step is to add the smaller objects, and I like to group small objects together. You can also create groupings by stacking books horizontally and topping with decorative boxes or family photos for a finished look.
Christine Cowles is owner of Styled & Staged Santa Barbara, offering home staging and interior styling services. She is a certified Staging Design Professional™, member of Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and Real Estate Staging Association, and a proud WEV graduate. She can be reached at email@example.com.