Bookshelves are an essential furniture item in any home whether built-in, freestanding or make-shift, and whether you have the world's biggest collection of books or you're just starting out on your book loving journey. But one thing I know for sure is bookshelves are not boring! They can be high to the ceiling and crammed to high heavens, low to the ground, low-key and low maintenance, stacked, sexy, serious or any number of styles depending on who you are, how you and your family live, and how you like to decorate.
I find them fascinating to suss out when I'm a visitor at someone's home or even office and I truly believe you can learn a lot about a person by their library - or lack thereof! So let's break down 4 ways to work one and how you might style your bookish storage if a certain characteristic fits.
COLOUR CODED CLASSIC
"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."
- Steve Jobs
The colour coded bookshelf is a fun classic look to achieve with the family and can be a pop in an otherwise neutral space, or an added moment in an eclectic interior scheme. It looks fresh and homely with a white bookshelf but could be made more dramatic with a black or dark toned timber base to begin. Start by organising books and decor by hue and decide on top to bottom dark to light or floor to ceiling black to white gradients. Then simply arrange with spines out - part polished and part playful. Lay small stacks and pop a picture frame with art or photographs with similar tones on top, or use frames as colour separators and stoppers. If a few pieces feel oddly out of place, turn it with pages out and position it with similar shades that way.
BOHO & BOUNTIFUL
"One should never be the oldest thing in one's house."
- Patsy Stone
Start with secured shelves on a blank wall, or stack solid freestanding cubes together to create cubby holes in which display your literature and magazine collection with personality.
Collect items from around your home to corral small books, beads and photographs like baskets and timber boxes, and items to act as book ends and decoration such as crystal slabs or salt lamps, jars or vases. Arrange your books first by theme, alphabetically or freestyle and then begin adding larger decor pieces to prop others up.
Small potted succulents, terrarium plants or trailing hanging plants bring the bookshelf to life and add calming greenery and casualness. Same with straw or felt hats sat atop piles or hooked on the end of shelves. Add covered candles, a rug underfoot, art, vintage cameras or other collections and relax as the you allow the look to become well-loved with use.
"We shape our homes and then our homes shape us."
- Winston Churchill
Whether you own very few books or you'd simply rather have only a few favourites on display, the minimal looking library might be best for you. This look works well with a streamlined built-in book shelf, or cut-out shelving in white or grey.
If you're drawn to a minimal styling aesthetic, it's likely you already pre-plan each and every purchase of furniture and homewares and are considered in your approach. If so, choose a few key decorative items such as candle holders, figurines, vases and book ends in one or two tones to place on or beside or in front of the shelf.
For ultimate continuity, wrap book with linen fabrics similar to soft furnishings used in the rest of the room, or simply turn the dust jackets inside out. Fashion, art, architecture and large travel volumes are similarly striking and often minimally designed for a sleek and modern feel.
Keep plant life to a minimum and instead opt for one tailored bunch or a a few soft or graphic stems. The addition of softness to break up the clean and bold lines can also come in the form of wooden elements such as a stool or storage trunk, and natural fibre cushions or rugs nearby. But remember, the key to this style is spaciousness and quiet, so do as Coco would and take one thing away in your final edit.
PRETTY & PRACTICAL
"Design is coming to grips with one's real lifestyle, one's real place in the world. Rooms should not be put together for show but to nourish one's wellbeing."
- Albert Hadley
A joyful look to create with glass, luxe metallics, pastels or jewellery-box glosssy colour, pattern and romance - pretty and practical brings out all the glamour and charm!
Layer first your prettiest of page-turners in stacks that can be topped with coordinated patterned vases and potted plants, ornaments and large scented candles. An open ornate shelving system may not accommodate standing tomes well, but agate bookends either side of a portrait grouping is ladylike and practical.
For an office or home studio, adding a drinks tray with decorative glasses and crystal decanters adds an entertaining feminine and fun vibe. But be sure to hide all the common office accouterments in felt storage boxes or acetate lidded trays on the bottom shelf for easy access and a focus on the more embellished beauty.
Plant life can be abundant and flourishing but stick to lighter leaves if opting for a pastel colour scheme, and deep dark greens or purple foliage if opting for jewel tone colours in the overall look. Finish with framed art positioned on the wall or leaning behind other items, that pulls the colours and patterns together for a completed vignette.