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11 Inspirational Living Room Bookshelves Ideas For Spaces Of All Sizes

My relationship with my books is forever. With its dog-eared pages and rust-covered covers, books do well in our tech-saturated world. Every time I look at my little library, I revel in the literary trips I’ve taken. That’s why I love to explore fresh living room bookshelf ideas for inspiration on how to arrange these bound beauties.

Usually, the trick to having a stylish bookshelf is as follows: include a third of books, a third of home decor, and a third of negative space. I learned this rule of thumb from interviewing countless interior designers. Mine? Go scam. Let the shelves breathe or fill them up until they’re full. Of course, you want to avoid the mess, but you can still play by your own rules. Creating on a clean palette is invigorating — and in this case, the bookshelf is your canvas.

For inspiration, I took a look at our Home Tour archives to see how some of the most design-savvy women we know style their bookshelves. Each of these shelf arrangements boasts personality and charm. They are an invitation to mix colors and keepsakes, mix different titles and genres, and find neat flea markets alongside favorite authors.

So take Camille’s advice from her own recent living room bookshelf refresh: Create a great playlist, get creative, and breathe new life into your home. you with these 10 ideas drawn from some of our favorite spaces.

Featured image of Michelle Nash.

Pictures of Nikole Ramsay

#1: Look up

Leave it to Alex McCabe, co-founder of the Kip & Co home decor and textile collection, to boast one of the most beautiful bookshelves ever. Everything about this setup, from the rich black industrial materials to the quirky art, impresses, but what’s particularly notable is the vertical proportions. McCabe utilizes the floor-to-ceiling estate to display her beloved books and memorabilia.

Danielle Sabol’s photo

#2: Go minimal

A few books. Some noir collector’s items. Three minimally framed artworks. This minimalist bookshelf setup is an absolute Ashley Robertson dream. For one, it proves that you don’t need much to create a conversation-worthy bookshelf. It also celebrates the beauty found in allowing negative space to breathe.

Pictures of Molly Culver

#3: Hug upside down

Austin-based interior designer Emily Kunas has a knack for combining colors and natural materials, as evidenced by her cool and cool ’70s apartment. She also adds an unexpected twist to things: Her bookshelf boasts an extra interesting twist with the spines of the books turned inward. This look gives a textured layer of natural color.

Photos of Laura Alexandre

#4: Put books in the back seat

That’s right. It’s a bookshelf – but it’s also a vehicle for displaying anything you want, be it plants, artwork, even negative space. Consider adding just a few books to the shelf to let the replacement pieces shine. Christina Cleveland created this decor in her creative DIY-inspired Austin loft.

Photos of Belathee Photography

#5: Mix and match

There are no rules to be followed on the shelves of Jennifer Vaughn Miller, which is one in a million reasons to love it. This New York-based designer mixes sizes, genres and colors, even stocking a few notebooks in his vertical bookshelf. The result is an equally eclectic and accessible look.

Ashlee Fox’s picture

#6: Keep it neutral

We know that Anissa Zajac, co-founder of House Seven Design + Build, says to always follow a plan when it comes to interior design. For her own little Indiana home, she adheres to the rule of allowing neutrals and textures to reign, which is beautifully represented in her bookshelves. With minimal books and rich textures, this is a study in the beauty of earthy accessories.

Picture of Teal Thomsen

#7: Ladder problems

There’s no denying the comfort inside Ashley Merrill’s home. Everything has its place and purpose, including this portable ladder that stacks the living room shelves. Leaning back against a rail that goes from one end of the shelf to the other, it allows easy access to books and memorabilia displayed at high altitudes. Brilliant and gorgeous.

Michelle Nash’s photo.

#8: Color Coding

Grouping books by cover color is an easy way to add instant dimension to a space. And when you incorporate a color-coded look in a taller bookshelf, it naturally draws the eye upwards, thus making a small living room appear larger.

Image by Michelle Nash

#9: Two-faced

Get noticed and admired: the two-size shelves display varying amounts of books and collectibles, as seen in Camille’s cozy, neutral living room. These shelves vary in size while preserving space and provide ample space to display a mix of books, plants, and other small home accessories — all of which can be altered and updated for a quick (and affordable) room refresh.

Photos of Belathee Photography

#10: Paint shelves

Traditionally, the color of bookshelves is usually neutral wood, black or white. This makes sense, as it is often the books and ceramics on display that attract attention. But that’s not to say the shelf itself can’t attract attention, as Megan O’Neill’s striking sapphire blue bookshelves do here. A brilliant coat of paint enhances its beauty.

#11: Crisp white

With the foregoing about a brightly painted bookshelf, a subtle array of white shelves will always do the trick for streamlining a room. Here, the combination of low frames and snowy whites ensures that color-coded books, magazines, plants and accessories capture every eye.

What’s your favorite way to style your bookshelf? Share which of these ideas would you love to try, statistics!

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