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My Five Favorite Ways To Style Bookcases

Hello hello long lost lovelies! Does anyone else feel like the kids going back to school is like a second new year? I have a list a mile long of projects to finish and new ones to start. Since our oldest two went off to college last week I’ve deep cleaned both of their rooms, as well as two bathroom closets and the linen closet, under the kitchen sink AND the pantry. (Very therapeutic for this mom!)


I also completely emptied and reorganized our living room bookcases so today’s topic is perfect timing! I’m back with Pam of Simple Details and Jennifer of Dimples & Tangles for our monthly series My Five Favorites – Kris of Driven By Decor is taking this round off but we are so happy to have Bethany from Dwellings By DeVore here to guest host with us!

Bethany shares tons of great DIYs like the bench in her master bedroom makeover – and don’t miss her recent clever and chic Ikea hack for this space, I love it so much!

A master bedroom with black bedroom walls by Dwellings By Devore.

So glad to have you here today Bethany!

Okay let’s talk bookcase styling!

Love it or hate this task? Whether it’s your jam or you can’t think of a worse torture, a few quick tips can help your bookcase to feel pulled together and pleasing to the eye in addition to housing some of your favorite possessions (and for the haters, maybe even allow you to enjoy the process!)

Five ideas to consider when styling your bookcase

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Before you even fill your bookcase, how about painting the back, the complete interior, or inside AND out of your bookcase a captivating color! I used Benjamin Moore Gentleman’s Gray (lightened up just a bit) inside our family room bookcases. It ties into the rest of our house and automatically makes the shelves feel like a focal point.

Cabinet doorsDoor knobs • Adding doors to a bookcase

Grasscloth, a patterned wallpaper or even planking are great for the back of a plain bookcase too. Our living room bookcases are Ikea Billys that I customized with shiplap-style paneling on the backs for subtle texture.

Add shiplap paneling to the back of a bookcase for a subtle detail.

Check out this post about how I built a wall of bookcases with Ikea Billys



Place your most visually heavy objects on the lowest shelves, whether that is at the floor level or above a base cabinet. Large lidded baskets are great if you don’t have any closed shelving to hide the not-so-pretty stuff in and they also anchor your bookcase.

Use large baskets to give weight to a bookcase when styling.

Left and right baskets:  Ikea • Middle basket

I had a lot of black albums and books that I also used on the bottoms shelves; chunky coffee table books are great here too.


In addition to being functional, bookcases can give a room a big dose of character and interest! Make a bold statement with a lot of color, create a calm and serene vibe in your space with a neutral look, or bring in a small pop to your room with the contents of your bookcase.

The wall of bookcases in our living room are intentionally packed with mostly books because I really wanted this tv-less space to have a library feel and subliminally encourage my kids to pick up a book when they’re bored (vs. look at their phones!), but it’s also by design – all the color contrasts the white walls and cream sectional and gives the room a major bang.

Five tips to organize and make a bookcase aesthetically pleasing.

Our family room bookcases are a little more decorative but I kept the books and objects in a color palette of blues, greens and white. PS  Take the covers off your books – often the actual book has a really pretty spine.

Styling fireplace bookcases with a color palette of blues, greens and white with a few natural elements.

Fireplace makeover

Remember that repetition is pleasing to our brains so repeating the same accent color or and balancing shelves are both good guidelines to use.


Framed, matted prints or photos give the eye a place to rest and reflect the light.

Abstract art print by Amira Rahim in bookcases flanking a fireplace.

Abstract print:  Amira Rahim

In addition to being special to you, old photos add a little worn patina that gives a room personality and tells your story, like the black and whites I shared in last month’s Ways to Mix Old and New.

I especially love matted black and whites photos as contrast in a bookcase filled with colorful books!


One last tip – give your shelves a little life with a small plant or flowers from your yard!

Fresh Rose of Sharon flowers cut from the garden to style a bookcase

The Rose of Sharon above has been blooming in our garden for at least a month, and the flowers just keep on coming!

Succulents don’t need a ton of direct light and are good choices for a bookcase. A small terrarium would be great for a bookcase near a window! You can find the tutorial for this easy project here.

How to make a terrarium

I hope you enjoyed these five easy ideas to jumpstart your bookcase styling! Let’s check out what these fabulous friends recommend to make the process as pain free as possible!

Dwellings By DeVore

Simple Details 

Dimples & Tangles 

See all the posts from the My Five Favorites Series here!

Keep your eye out for the half wall before and after in the very near future,


a super exciting DIY that is in the works – I am more fired up about this project than any other, ever!!!!! Can’t wait to tell you all about it – it’s a game changer for this house and it’s under $100!! 🙂

Have a wonderful day and happy bookcase styling!



Five simple tips to take your bookcase from chaotic to cohesive!

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Monica Benavidez

Monday 17th of September 2018

Beautiful! I love your tips- they will make bookcase styling a breeze.


Tuesday 25th of September 2018

Thanks so much Monica! If only the rest of my house was an organized as those bookcases!

Pam @ Simple Details

Wednesday 5th of September 2018

Fun tips, my friend, I especially love your blue and green book collection. You're right succulents would be perfect! Oh my gosh, I'm so excited about your upcoming DIY - would it work for me? :)

Bethany DeVore

Wednesday 5th of September 2018

Great tips! Thanks so much for your kind words and for including me in this!

classic casual home

Wednesday 5th of September 2018

Love this post. Great tip to take the covers off the books. Love the color you painted yours! Mary Ann

Jennifer Griffin

Wednesday 5th of September 2018

Lisa, these are such great tips and you do a wonderful job at explaining your method! I love all of your colorful books!