My Formula for Styling Your Bookshelves

I'm what you'd call a chronic bookshelf styler. If that is such a thing ;) I absolutely love displaying my favorite things on my bookshelves and creating a balanced, cohesive look. I think something people might struggle with is how to arrange their treasures on their shelves in an aesthetically pleasing way. Often I'll see objects and books just shoved on a bookshelf, and I want you to know that there is  simple formula to create a well-styled bookshelf in no time at all!


1. Clear off your entire bookshelf. Starting fresh is always the best way to do it.

2. Start by putting the boxes and books back on the shelf first. Turning some books horizontally and stacking some vertically. In the example below, I also placed the boxes on the bottom shelf.

3. Now it's time to fill in with larger decorative objects like candle sticks, globes, art leaning against the back wall, big vases, etc.

4. Finish off with the little decor, like something fresh. Little plants are the perfect finish touches. Adding something green or natural (like sea shells, dried flowers) always bring life to the vignette. This is also the time to add your small accessories like candles, little sculptures, etc.

So the formula is books and baskets, larger objects, decor and art, then little decor and plants.

The goal here is to create balance. Balance is the art of arranging objects so they achieve equal distribution of weight. This can mean darker objects being spread out around the shelves to distribute the heavier visual weight. It can also mean placing larger objects towards the bottom of the shelf (like the large gold vase placed at the bottom of my bookcase below) so it doesn't feel too top heavy.

Other helpful tips:

- Our eyes see things best in 3's or odd numbers! (You can see how I decorated my shelf in 3's)
- Create height by stacking books or even leaving a book out for display if it has a pretty cover! Height can also be created by displaying candle sticks, the globe, varied vase heights, etc.
- Any books that are stacked vertically (generally a stack of 2-4 books is best) requires an object on top of them to ground the look. A candle, picture frame, or plant are great ideas.
- Paint the back of your bookcase a different color or wallpaper it to add interest and texture.
- Arrange your books by color or turn the spines toward the wall so that's a nonissue.
- Sometimes, if you are decorating a lot of shelves, it's nice to give one shelf a breather and only place ONE object on it-- think an oblong bowl full of apples or lemons.

I love how the gold objects are spread out in this to show you balance. They have a great mix of white items with texture here that make a subtle statement, too.

Hopefully these tips are helpful! I always tell my clients you want to fill your shelves, but you don't want to feel overwhelmed when you look at the shelves. If that's the feeling you get, it's time to take something away. Just like Coco Chanel says, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” We can use this same principle and apply it to our homes!

If you're feeling brave, take a picture of your bookshelves and tag me on Instagram so I can see them! If you need help with the styling, I'll try to offer my suggestions on your post :) @michaelanoelledesigns

Happy Tuesday!



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  2. Where did you get the natural wood bookcase from?! I love it!


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