How to Style Bookshelves


Staring at rows of bookshelves can be daunting which I’m sure is why people are always asking me questions about styling them. Where do you put the books? Where do you put the knickknacks? How much is too much? How little is too little? Do you layer items? Organize by height? By color? A few years ago, I teamed up with Ballard Designs to break it down to 7 golden rules, and that interview still holds true today.


You can head over there for the full story, but if you just want the quick and dirty details, here are the 7 Golden Rules of Bookshelf Styling:

  1. Think about storage: a bookshelf is an awesome place to disguise items that you might need to store. Use cute, function baskets to add texture and function.
  2. Incorporate artwork: layer artwork to add depth and create interest. Small art that you pick-up from markets, travels, and antique stores are perfect.
  3. Stack books: create vignettes by using books with bindings in similar colors and styles. Stack them horizontally for some unexpected height.
  4. Add collections: bookshelves are the perfect place to showcase any collections you might have. Think an arrangement of fun jars or a bowl of seashells.
  5. Use repetition: odd numbers are you friend. Organize like items in a row (3, 5, or 7) to bring a shelf together.
  6. Think creatively: tear off book covers from flea market books and bind them together with twine for texture.
  7. Don’t forget pops of color: throw in a few colorful items that complement the other colors in the room.

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How to Style a Coffee Table like a Pro

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When I enter a home to style it for a photo-shoot, I always bring accessories for a coffee table. I have a big collection of coffee table books in my studio and tons of bits and bobs in my prop stash for this specific purpose. However, you don’t have to be a stylist to achieve a similar look. In fact, your coffee table can look just as amazing as any magazine with the right tools.

To get you thinking in the right direction, here’s a video I did with Ballard Designs that shows you how to style a coffee table. It breaks down different steps, so you can practice and style until you have the perfect set-up.

Here are a few highlights from the video:

  1. Start with what you have. There’s no need to go out and buy a ton of props. Instead, shop your own home or your own prop closet.
  2. Anchor the corners with large objects. Repeat after me: trays are my BFF. Trays are my BFF. A tray will provide a place to corral smaller objects while creating visual interest and helping you organize.
  3. Repeat shapes and colors. If you add pink flowers, add another pop of pink in a book on a different spot. If you incorporate blue, add a ginger jar, too. Repeating colors helps the eye move seamlessly around the table.
  4. Have fun! Don’t be afraid to change-up your coffee table style season to season. If you find a special object while out antiquing, or “treasure hunting” as I like to call it, add it to your coffee table vignette.

If you’d like even more help styling your home for photographs or for fun, come along on my Strictly Styling Workshop this summer in Italy! I’d love to have you.

Do you have any tried and true coffee table tips? Share them in the comments!

xx Annette

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