Beyond books: a bookshelf primer |

Beyond books: a bookshelf primer

Yvonne Jacobs
Design at Altitude

It’s an age-old question — what is the best way to decorate with a bookcase? There are myriad ways to use a bookcase to enhance a room. Arrange books by color (some may scoff, but with a huge number of variously shaded periodicals, the look is amazing), size, subject or style. It really depends if you have books you love to read or are just looking to enhance the look of the room. I have a small bookshelf in my guest room of books I already read — Eckhart Tolle, Anita Shreve, James Patterson and a few New York Times bestsellers. In my living room, I admit, I have books that I might read but that definitely help make the bookshelf organized — a big red-bound world geography book, topped with colorful coffee table books; very few paperbacks and interspersed with fun collectibles I’ve found in my travels.

I am frequently asked the best way to decorate with bookcases. Here are a few quick and easy tips to make the most of your space. Instead of huge bookshelves, use floating shelves. You can cover an entire wall in a long, linear shelf lined with books. Only two shelves placed a little higher in the room allows for many books and lends visual interest to your room.

Don’t rely only on books to fill the shelves. Fill shelves with objects of desire — a collection of glass figurines, sculptures or crystal. Make a collection that is eye-catching and not overwhelming, and best of all, personal. It’s also fun to update it through the seasons. You might have zinnias in cut crystal vases in the summer but come winter, you might want pinecones or glass balls. It’s up to you!

If you have a serious set of shelves (think of the library we all secretly or not-so-secretly covet), try to use an old-fashioned ladder. It provides easy access and adds a special feel to the room. It doesn’t have to be a heavy wooden number, either. You can use polished metal for a loft space or shiny black wood for a more modern room. … You get the idea. It keeps all those hard-to-reach spaces easy to reach and in a sleek, stylish manner. More than a few guests will exclaim how much they love the look.

If you have a huge wall and are not sure what to do with it, add bookshelves. You can purchase an inexpensive set, have a custom set made or reimagine an existing set from elsewhere in the house. Take your time filling it up the shelves and enjoy finding special items. One suggestion as you’re perusing bookstores? Place framed artwork on the shelves at eye level.

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Most importantly, make each bookcase your own. Enjoy filling the shelves. Place some books on their sides. Arrange and rearrange. Personalize it. If your shelves have seen better days, paint the outside a bright white and paint the backs a coat of brightly colored orange or royal blue. It will totally change the feel of your room.

Brighten up, read on and rearrange often!

Yvonne Jacobs has been designing for more than two decades and is president of Slifer Designs. She loves finding art in unexpected places and incorporating it into design.

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