How to style an Insta-worthy bookshelf

The dos and don'ts for getting the balance right (and creating the perfect #shelfie)
Simon Whitbread

More than simply a place to store your books, a beautifully styled bookshelf is a reflection of your own personal style.

With the two-fold win of getting things organised and beautifully on display, a little time and planning spent arranging beloved books, objects of art and collectibles can be very satisfying. But with so many items to put on display, how do you strike a balance between clutter and careful editing? 

What’s the key to avoiding overcrowding?

“Grouping is the best way to keep lots of individual things from looking like clutter,” says interior designer Cris Bucknall from Mannigan Edwards. “Stack several large books horizontally and keep smaller paper books in a group. If you have lots of décor items you would like to add, don’t stick them on every shelf in a line – pick one area and group 3-5 together.”

How to style an Insta-worthy bookshelf | Home Beautiful Magazine Australia
(Credit: Marcel Aucar)

“A few objects in a beautiful group with some space around them allows your eye to appreciate them more than zillions of things on a shelf where the mind just sees clutter.”

Cris Bucknall

If colour coding is your thing, consider the realities of your life before you commit to such an enormous project. This is quite time consuming and will require an enormous amount of patience to get it right. Kids coming and going with books on a daily basis might upset your careful arrangement in no time. Also, with colour dictating how your books are organised, all other systems will have to go by the wayside, such as arranging books by genre, subject, size or by author.

What are the ‘must haves’ in a bookshelf display?

“Make it personal,” says Cris, “A couple of picture frames or sentimental pieces will keep it real and not like a school library.”

Include something old in your display to ensure its authenticity. “Everything brand new looks boring and fake. Include some of your dog eared books and even old picture books from your childhood. Dust off those old photo albums and give people the opportunity to pull them out and have a laugh!”

“A brightly coloured object or colourful book can be the much needed life your room needs. It becomes a focal point and it’s not a big commitment, like a red sofa”

Cris Bucknall, Interior designer

“When editing your display, less is more,” says Cris. “If you have more “things” than you have room, consider switching them out each season. We are not talking minimalism here, just restraint.”

“Think about the shelves as being on scales – you need to balance each side as well as top and bottom”

Cris Bucknall
How to style an Insta-worthy bookshelf | Home Beautiful Magazine Australi
(Credit: Melissa Heath)

Combine style with function

“Start with the must haves and begin laying them into the shelves a bit at a time, then stand back and “feel” what more is needed,” says Cris. If you have a stack of horizontal books on the right, do another one on the left, one shelf up. Centre a group of objects in the middle on one shelf, add an object on right and left on other shelves. Keep stepping back until you are happy and what’s left goes in a cupboard or to the op shop!


For more styling inspiration click here.

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