Decorating shelves – the best modern ideas for style

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Decorating shelves can be harder than it looks. From how best to organize paperbacks, to adding art and curios to keep the shelf looking always fresh and inviting, there’s a lot of experimentation to get the shelf decor right.

Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking for a quick refresh, our experts have outlined some of the best modern display ideas for bookshelves, whether you want to organize your hardback books by theme, color, odd and even numbers, or mix and match with art, vases and other trinkets.

If you’re busy sprucing up your living room wall decor today, take the time to update your bookshelf as well. With a little care and attention, it can become one of the most alluring parts of your space.

8 ideas for decorating shelves in a modern way

1. Organize Books Meaningfully

A blue-toned bookshelf with paperbacks organized by theme

(Image credit: David A. Photo Credit Land/OTTO)

Unconventional layouts and orientations can give your library an edge. No matter how many books you have on display, the key is to make sure they come together to create an eye-catching thumbnail. Instead of just placing them vertically, next to each other, consider a vertical and horizontal composition for added interest.

To fit well on your living room bookshelves, it’s best to keep large books lying down and smaller, thicker ones standing up. Alternatively, you can even decide this arrangement based on the themes of the books.

“When you choose how to put books together on a shelf, instead of grouping them by color, by theme,” says Rayman Boozer, designer in New York and founder of Apartment48 (opens in a new tab). “Perhaps you will collect books on a similar subject, or that will remind you of a particular moment. The result is a bookcase that tells stories, rather than just looking aesthetically pleasing, and it’s a way more meaningful way to live.

If you refer to your books often, remember to have an organization system that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. In these cases, it would be best to organize your collection alphabetically by author or genre.

2. Mount the art on your shelf

blue living room shelf

(Image credit: Albion Nord)

A decorating trend has recently gained popularity contributing to a stylish living room look – the unconventional idea of ​​hanging artwork on a shelf instead of on the wall. This not only draws attention to the library, but even gives the art an edge.

“I’ve noticed this idea of ​​mounting artwork on the front of shelves in more and more homes recently, and I can see exactly why it works so well,” says Hugh Metcalf, associate editor of Liveetc.

“If you have a large shelf with lots of shelves to style, you can’t play around with the size of your decor in the shelves themselves,” he suggests. “Using a larger piece of art hanging proudly on the shelf means you can introduce a completely different scale, as well as something that breaks up the regular lines of the shelf.”

3. Keep editing and rearranging

A bookcase in beige, with touches of metallic gold in the bedroom

(Image credit: Anson Smart)

Keep the display always attractive and fresh, even if you don’t buy new books every month. You can do this by regularly updating, rearranging, and changing the style of your decor and the organization of your book.

“When it comes to books and objects that don’t look cluttered, it’s a constant process of editing and removing what seems unnecessary in a space,” explains the architect of inside. Tamsin Johnson (opens in a new tab). “I think a big guide for me for displaying pieces, big and small, is when they seem like they’ve always been there. Again, when it “feels good”.

4. Store books in odd numbers

A deep green painted shelf

(Image credit: MaryPatton. Photo credit Molly Culver)

Humans have a predisposition for symmetry, and when they see something asymmetrical, it immediately stands out. This concept works perfectly in a decor when you want to stand out.

“When styling shelves, always arrange things in odd numbers,” says the interior designer Mary Patton (opens in a new tab). “Also, if you’re going for a bold color like green, choose accessories that will also pop with that color.”

Install a shelf in the corner of the living room and fill it with a large vase, a medium vase and a round vase, next to the books. Or get three items of the same color but different textures. Another way is to stagger the objects and group them together, so that they appear to overlap.

Also, place books off center in the shelf. This, too, will spark curiosity and entice guests to take a look at your selection.

5. Create an eclectic display

A deep blue bookshelf displaying books and figurines

(Image credit: Baliwala Edge)

If you have kids at home, or even if you just have a more playful interior style, take inspiration from this design and use a bookshelf to mix colorful toys and action figures with books.

‘The bookcase is finished in Matt Color Pu in two colors by I CA (opens in a new tab)(brand), and is part of the open study/pantry at the center of the home,” says Ali Baldiwala, Founder of Edge of Baldiwala (opens in a new tab). “To keep the library clutter-free, we kept all the design elements in an open style and added eclectic pieces to give it personality.”

This hallway design also uses a contrasting color paint idea to make the shelves pop, adding even more character to the design.

6. Opt for a symmetrical layout in the lockers

A white toned home office with a neat shelf to the side

(Image credit: Mel Bean. Photo credit Laurey Glenn)

The interesting thing to note about shelves is that they don’t have to be full of books! Many of these units also serve as curio shelves which, combined with rich, thick volumes, help create a visually beautiful vignette.

In this space, the accessories of the compartments are neatly arranged, all aligned in the center, giving this home office an elegant look.

“This residence, also known as Hygee Haven, features a light color palette and curved shelving to display decor and books organized with a custom cabinet design,” explains the interior designer. Mel Bean (opens in a new tab).

The color theme, which is muted, is also continued in the bookshelves, where neither books nor trinkets add extra color. The overall look is coordinated and uniform.

7. Give your bookshelf a bookshelf effect with a ladder

A bookcase in black with a large wooden ladder

(Image credit: Urbanology Designs. Photo credit Matti Gresham)

When you think of bookcases, you imagine tall shelves, units stacked to the brim, the smell of old books, and of course ladders.

A floor-to-ceiling wooden shelving unit will not only give you a modern rustic living room vibe, it will also provide additional storage space for items that are usually floating around the house. Paint it an eye-catching color and add a polished wooden ladder that will double as a decorative piece as well as being a functional support for your indoor bookcase.

“In this built-in bookcase, the green-toned black painted in Deep River by Benjamin Moore makes the space moody and wonderful,” says Ginger Curtis, founder of Urbanology designs (opens in a new tab). “The lampshade offers a plaster look after drying and thrills our hearts with design possibilities.”

8. Display books by color in a library

A bookcase with half-open and half-hidden storage

(Image credit: HUX London)

We love the idea of ​​organizing the books by color, or even a rainbow pattern. Peeking through the fluted glass of this concealed bookcase by HUX London, these books create a filtered color effect, adding a pop of hue to the room.

“Finding that ready-made piece of furniture that fits perfectly into your space can be difficult and opting for a bespoke piece of furniture will ensure that it perfectly complements your interior design and makes the best use of the available space,” says Rebecca . Northmore, design manager at HUX London (opens in a new tab). ‘Choosing a combination of open and concealed shelving offers maximum versatility, allowing you to display your most treasured favorite works of art, books and objects, while concealing everyday items you may have close at hand. hand.

“Fluted glass is a great solution for this, as it cleverly conceals objects, but with a less impactful lightness and translucency than a solid door.”

How to organize objects on a shelf?

A library arranged in an arch

(Image credit: Zulufish)

A great way to start decorating your shelf is to choose a nice background. You can use paint or even wallpaper. Add books and smaller items, alternating horizontal and vertical stacks to create an interesting look. When doing so, be aware of over-padding. Too many items kept in one unit will look unsightly and give this living room storage an anxiety-inducing effect.

You can even organize your volumes by color, theme or authors. The latter is particularly useful if you like to come back to your collection or to reference a work. Complete the scheme with antique vases, ceramics, silver pieces and marble objects. Consider adding art in the shelves or even embellishing it on the unit for a truly unique look.

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