DIY: Style Your Bookshelf

written by Melissa Dalton
Photo by Andrew Giammarco

Get orderly

The Dewey Decimal system isn’t mandatory, but you should decide how your collection will be organized on the shelves. Whether that’s lining them up alphabetically by author, grouping them by genre, or color-coding the spines, sort the books into appropriate piles.

Stack both ways

Shelve using horizontal and vertical stacks. Keep in mind that when books are vertical, it looks best if the spines ascend or descend in height. Go pyramidal with horizontal piles, placing the bigger tomes on the bottom and letting the volumes get smaller toward the top.

Don’t cram

The rule in libraries is to only fill three-quarters of the shelf, if possible. This ensures there’s room for more books! Avoid overstuffing, as empty space balances out the visual weight of the books. Try employing the rule of thirds here—fill one-third or two-thirds of the shelf with books, then leave the rest clear, or add in vignettes of favorite accessories.


Choose pieces that are meaningful, and which vary in both shape and size. Items could include assorted framed pictures or artwork, vases, candlesticks, plants, sculpture, even a Magic 8 ball.


When incorporating accessories on the shelves, consider the scale of the objects in relation to the books, as well as the number in the groupings. An odd number of items arranged together typically looks best. Think in terms of layers—place keepsakes on top of stacks, put framed photos at the back, or use heavier items as bookends. Prefer to only have books? Then face out a cover occasionally to create variation.

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