Dozens of paperbacks. Jumbled picture frames. Oh, and a slippery stack of random catalogs and mail that keeps sliding to the floor. Bookshelves often end up looking like haphazard catch-alls in your home -- which is a shame, since, if they're done right, they can be breathtaking.
"A carefully curated look will help reinforce the colors, textures, or design of the room," notes Anne Reagan, editor of Porch.com in Seattle. For example, an office space lined with volumes of well-worn books feels cozy and studious, almost like a library. And in a living room, favorite family photos resting next to beautiful art books, plants, or keepsakes can lend a sophisticated, personal touch.
And it doesn't take a ton of work -- just a bit of rearranging and some butcher paper can work wonders on transforming this space. Here's how to tame those tomes for maximum effect.
Make your tomes monochrome
The key to streamlining that jumble of books is to make them more uniform. This can be done by organizing them by color or size. Or, if you prefer to arrange by subject, another popular option is to remove the book jackets then recover them with a single shade of paper; Reagan recommends butcher paper for this task.
Turn books on their sides
There's no rule that books have to be placed on the shelf vertically. Instead, try stacking them horizontally for a different look. "Or turn the page edges so they face out," suggests Reagan. Have some patience and fun with the process -- you may need to rearrange and try out a few different looks in order to find the one you love.
Jazz up the back
When creating your new look, don't forget about the backs of your shelves. These spots are the perfect blank canvas for color, whether it's paint, stencil, or wallpaper. If you're working with a particular color scheme, try to find a complementary design that will work with your books and other objects.
"I love it when people paint the backs of vintage bookshelves or add a lining of beautiful wallpaper -- the textures, colors, and depth lend a whole new dimension with a minimalist touch," says Dana Claudat, a designer based in Los Angeles and founder of The Tao of Dana.
Create negative space
Unless you have a vast amount of books and need every square inch to store them (one word for you: Kindle), try balancing each shelf with positive and negative space.
"Positive space refers to the objects on the shelf, and negative space is the lack of objects," notes Reagan.Giving your objects room to breathe is a great way to ensure each shelf looks incredible; when you look at a professionally styled bookshelf, you'll notice that there is a nice balance between the filled-in areas and the open ones. So try not to go overboard, warns Claudat.
"Technically, anything is OK to place on a bookcase, but beware when using shelves as a way to stick an overwhelming amount of stuff all in one place, all in view. It's a lot to see and can rapidly become overwhelming."
Add interesting objects
A bookshelf filled with just books is fine, but adding a few nonbook items can give the shelves more style and texture.
"An eclectic collection of glassware, silver, or nature-inspired objects look great on a shelf and can sometimes double as bookends, while sculptural objects like souvenirs, candles, or frames can turn your shelf into a pretty display case," explains Reagan.
If you love greenery, try a few plants for color. Look around for beautiful baskets or boxes to store loose items like magazines. Frames can even be hung on the shelf edge, which lends a funky look.
The key to success is to be purposeful in your design and really commit to a style, advises Reagan. If you're going to show off books in a certain way, do it for the entire collection so the effect is dramatic. If you want to include your vintage collection, place objects evenly throughout the display. And don't be afraid to change it up from season to season with the addition of colorful dcor from a recent trip, or use spray paint to quickly do a color change on inexpensive items.
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