By Lexi Tollefsen

Published on March 2, 2016

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Photography by I SUWANNEE

by Lexi Tollefsen

They get creative with contents.

Bookshelves aren’t just for books. In fact, mixing knick knacks (and even shoes) in with your literary collection gives your space a nice lived-in look. 

Designed by Heather Garrett.

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Photography by ALYSSA ROSENHECK FOR ELLE DECOR

They experiment with layering.

Turn your bookshelves into pieces of art by simply hanging photos on the outside of the structures. The layered look will trick your guests into thinking you hired a decorator. 

Designed by The Chad James Group.

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Photography by INSPIRED BY CHARM

They color-coordinate without overdoing it.

Exercise restraint when color coordinating. Create a balance that’s easy on the eyes by breaking up bold color with neutral accessories.  

Designed by Michael Wurm, Jr.

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Photography by BRYCE COVEY PHOTOGRAPHY

They mix styles.  

Take your shelves to the next level by using motifs from different aesthetics. Accessorize industrial shelves with bohemian baskets. Display modern art books in traditional shelves. Experimenting with style shows confidence and taste. 

Designed by Amber Lewis of Amber Interiors.

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Photography by GLAMOUR PARIS

They don’t neglect the top of the shelf.

Think of the top of the shelf as an opportunity to display objects and accessories of special significance. The eye is naturally drawn to the high point, especially with shorter shelves, so get creative and pull out all the stops. 

Designed by Morgane Sezalory of Sézane.

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Photography by LESLEY UNRUH

They go horizontal.

Stacking books sideways is both visually stunning and practical. Horizontally arranged books draw more attention to accessories and is a great option for open-sided shelving.

Designed by Lauren Muse of Muse Interiors.

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Photography by RYANN FORD

They experiment with the shelving itself.

If you’re building your bookshelves from scratch, don’t be afraid to play with geometry and scale. Nonlinear shelves are a fun way to make a statement.

Designed by Elizabeth Mollen of Stone Textile.

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Photography by I SPY DIY

They aren’t afraid of repetition.

For a playfully curated look, choose visually similar accessories and break them up with pops of color for balance. A noticeable theme will undoubtedly spark conversation among you and your guests. 

Designed by Jenni Radosevich of I Spy DIY.

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Photography by A BEAUTIFUL MESS

They make use of Mother Nature.

Short on books? Try plants instead. Filling your shelves with greenery is a great way to give a dull room lots of character.

Designed by Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess.

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Photography by LAUREN BAMFORD

They consider the context.

Designers stay mindful of how bookshelves and their contents interact with other objects in the room. The color and style of the furniture, the pattern in the rug, the art hanging on the wall — all are important things to account for.

Designed by Miranda Skoczek.

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Photography by MONICA WANG

They understand the power of minimalism.

Bookshelves don’t have to be jam-packed to be chic. When in doubt, keep it simple, centered, and purposeful. Only display what deserves attention, from a dear family photo to a great antique find you’re really proud of.  

Shelfie by Christina Zilber.