Tips on Arranging Your Bookshelves

I love bookcases in almost any space, but sometimes they can end up detracting instead of adding to a room's beauty. One thing to keep in mind when loading up bookshelves is that if the arrangement is not well thought out the bookcase can end up looking cluttered and unbalanced. When my husband built bookcases to flank our fireplace, what he had in mind was to put books on them. I on the other hand, wanted more of a display area for family photos and collectibles. In an effort to make both of us happy, I gave one bookcase a new home library look.


 The first thing I did was to remove the paper jackets on the books to reveal the lovely linen covers with the gilded titles on the spine. I also decided to edit out many of my family pictures and move them to a new place in our home for display. I kept only a few non-book items on the shelves and grouped books together by size.


I also chose to leave a little negative or open space on my shelves, roughly 10% for this look. These gaps are areas in which books are not placed and the back of the shelves can be seen. Leaving gaps creates rest stops for the eye, so looking at the arrangement does not become overwhelming.

And now I feel that the bookcase on the left appears put together and organized which is much more pleasing to the eye. The bookcases in this room not only serve the obvious function of storing books, but are also used to add visual interest and texture.

More tips for successfully arranging bookshelves!

1. Place larger and heavier books on the bottom and smaller books on the top. This is done so that the bookshelf doesn't become too top heavy.

2. Group books together by size, this gives a more uniformed appearance to the arrangement.

3. Place books in either vertical or horizontal position for a professional touch. If using one or two books as a display piece on the shelf, place the book on a slight angle or in a stand. When doing this, choose books with covers that compliment the room's color scheme. You may even want to leave the book jacket on if it attractive and has colors which coordinate with your room.

4. Allow gaps between books for other objects of interest like collectibles or plants, this breaks up the straight line of the books allowing the eye to rest. If you desire the look of a straight line of books, utilize the bottom shelf for this type of display...again keeping the weight on the bottom of the bookcase.

5. Alternate on each shelf where you add in the non-book items. This will help the eye flow from side to side and not lead it in a straight line from the top to the bottom of the bookcase. Also keep in mind the texture and contrast of the items you choose, this will help to add interest and life to your display. 

6. And the last thing to remember is that many built-in and store bought bookcases have adjustable shelves, so you can move or remove them to accommodate larger items. Here's an example...with the bookcase on the right of our fireplace I removed one shelf and added a lamp for illumination and a wall picture for interest.

Another example is my sister's wall unit which also has adjustable pins. Here I moved a shelf down and placed a wall clock in the middle of the unit's display.

This technique can add an element of surprise to a room and make it feel truly unique.


  1. This is a great post with a bunch of good to know information. I hadn't thought of many of the tips that you provided. Thanks:0

  2. Thanks Latoya! My sister is always surprised when I come up with ideas so quickly when accessoring shelves, the tips just make it easy!

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