Quick Fix: Bookshelf restyle


Sometimes I just can't help myself. Like I've said before, I have to resist coordinating the resident's bedding I hand out at the homeless shelter I work for. Maybe it's OCD. Maybe it's that I simply love a more beautified space. It's probably a bit of both. Either way, taking a few minutes to style a previously unstyled space is extremely satisfying. This was doubly true for this tragically junked-up built-in bookcase.

This mess was found in the game room of an otherwise charming mid-century lakeside house in what us southeast Michiganders lovingly refer to as "Up North. " 2 Sisters, along with our third sister, Ky, our mom Linda and Ali's girls took a ladies' vacay to the shores of Lake Huron for a week. 

Ali and Mom being, well, Ali and Mom. Nice fanny pack, lady.

Ali and Mom being, well, Ali and Mom. Nice fanny pack, lady.

The third (and most awesome) Sister, Ky with Izzie.

The third (and most awesome) Sister, Ky with Izzie.

Sweet-faced Ella, who, after this picture was taken asked to see it, stared at it for about ten seconds, then said, "Yep. I think that's me."

Sweet-faced Ella, who, after this picture was taken asked to see it, stared at it for about ten seconds, then said, "Yep. I think that's me."

So fun was had by all. And because the view from the lakehouse looked like this...

lakehouse view.jpg

I thought the inside view should be at least a little prettier. 

So I started from the top down, emptying the bookcase and sorting the books, magazines and tchotchkes into similar piles.

Normally, when styling a bookcase, I would arrange the books first, then add in the extra tidbits. But in this case, I added back in the extras I liked first, because I discovered that after I sorted everything out, there really weren't that many books to be had. I loved the great vintage Coca-Cola sign and the National Geographic binders, so those got top billing. I used a small handled basket to organize the kids' puzzles. And, after about fifteen minutes, this is what I ended up with.

Total cost? Nothing. 

Mom helped scour the house for a few additional accessories: a cool sailboat, a vintage Ball jar I filled with candles, and a small wire basket used to corral playing cards. I also took the National Geographic back issues out of their binders and grouped them together. They provide the display a nice pop of color.


Here's a few tips to help make your bookcase restyle a bit easier.

  • Start with a blank slate. Group like items together as you pull them down.
  • Dust everything, books included!
  • Build a foundation by either adding books and magazines grouped together, or by adding the most interesting (or biggest) objects you have to the shelves at opposing intervals.
  • Play with the arrangement of books. Stack some horizontally, some vertically. You can try color-blocking, but Ali has recently discovered that this is next to impossible unless you buy all your book specifically for their brightly colored spines.*
  • You don't necessarily need bookends. Bookends are cool, but you can always lean books against each other, or use heavier decorative objects to keep things in line. Stacking books horizontally also make a nice platform for smaller pretties.
  • Shop your house. This is how you keep things free, y'all. If you don't have enough display items, use more books.
  • Don't be scared to run with a theme. A theme will help you figure out what belongs in a display, and what doesn't. The theme here is outdoors-y. Up-North-iness, I guess. It was predestined in this case.
  • Group items in odd-numbered sets (threes, fives or sevens). This is a classic design tip I first saw in an issue of Redbook when I was fifteen. I believe in this design rule with every fiber of my being. It just looks better. Trust me.
  • Blank spaces are okay. Don't worry about one part of or of two shelves looking understyled. This keeps things casual and less fussy. You can add in more over time, no worries.
  • Don't worry so much about the lowest shelves. Concentrate on the ones at eye-level. Maybe just throw all your junk in a pretty basket and stuck it on the bottom shelf. Anything neatly stacked will look better than haphazard piles.

*Coming very soon, Ali will be showing off her bookcase styling skills as she puts the finishing touches on her living room shelving project. Here's a sneak peek:

Can't wait to see the final product. Happy styling!