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Making Space: How To Decorate Your Bookshelves

Use books and accessories to create storage that’s both functional and decorative...

By Meredith Orren
Posted April 12, 2012

BookcaseBeware to the person who takes the simple, unassuming bookshelf for granted. The bookshelf is a deceptively significant piece of furniture, as it does double duty as storage for books and as display space for decorative accessories. Here’s a quick primer on how to arrange shelves so they are both fully functional and great looking:

1) Empty your bookshelf and line the back with a wallpaper or paint in a contrasting color. This will add the illusion of depth and help make objects on the shelf pop.

2) As you stack books, place some vertically and others horizontally. Substitute bold-color picture frames, or pieces of pottery as bookends.

3) Fill unused spaces and break up rows of books with decorative or woven storage boxes to organize non-book items such as papers, manuals, toys, and any other small object that tends to clutter.

4) Add ceramics and other meaningful, pleasing-to-the-eye objects. Depending on the size of the item, it can be placed on the shelf itself or directly atop a short stack of books. Place family photos or small works of art against the books to add some personality. Keep things varied, and maintain a sense a balance, by mixing up shapes.

A few tips to keep in mind:

• As you organize, be sure to occasionally step back to gain some perspective; it’s not always possible to see how things actually look on the shelf when you’re standing up close to it.

• Resist the urge to pack accessories onto every inch of the shelf. Keep the look clean by choosing a single color or tone-on-tone scheme for all your non-book objects.

• Very modern-looking shelves call for an extra spare look, so be sure to leave lots of open space. Group together a small number of similarly sized books and then accessorize with streamlined vases and frames.


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