We’ve all seen them: those enviably arranged bookshelves in the background of coworkers’ Zoom calls and celebrities’ Instagram Lives. And as much as we’d love to write off shelving as just storage for our college textbooks and favorite art tomes, it also provides an opportunity to show off some serious style. 

Adding a few sculptural pieces, objets, and even houseplants can set the tone for your space while also introducing visitors to what you’re all about. In that spirit, we’ve rounded up six of our favorite bookcase decor ideas and dissected what makes each one special. From shelves that spotlight a stellar record collection to ones brimming with nature, these are sure to inspire you to put your personality on permanent display. 

Switch Up the Subject Matter

We understand the irony, but bookshelves don’t have to only store reading material. In Mariam Naficy’s Napa Valley, California, home, the Minted founder keeps her vast record collection (and a retro-inspired stand-up record player) on display. Art ledges show off some of her favorite vinyl, giving the eye a place to pause. 

Photography by Thayer Gowdy; Styling by Rosy Fridman

Embrace Plant Parenthood

Photography by Pippa Drummond; Styling by Elaina Sullivan

At Joyce Lee’s Brooklyn home, the Madewell head of design fills any empty spots with leafy greens and spiky succulents. Funky ceramic pots add a bit of fun to plants that trail down the book piles, which are arranged by size and color. 

Showcase Your Art

Photography by Jessica Antola

At designer Starrett Zenko Ringbom’s Upper East Side apartment, her collections of books and artwork both get the museum treatment. Adding framed pieces and mementos, like an African wish basket from her godmother, breaks up the monotony of rows of spines and each one becomes a certified conversation piece. 

Make a Smooth Transition

Photography by Emily Andrews; Styling by Elaina Sullivan

While many of us work from home, our living spaces have to do double duty. At Glossier designer Laura Yeh’s Brooklyn apartment, a bookshelf filled with craft supplies and storage boxes becomes a nifty workstation when a cabinet door folds down. When it’s time to pack up, she tucks away any desk supplies and uses the living room for, well, living.

Remind Yourself of Your Past Jet-Setting Ways

Photography by Jessica Antola

Back when world travel was a thing, bringing back souvenirs was the best way to remind yourself of an epic trip. Putting those objects—from vases to posters—on a shelf means you get to relive those vacation vibes on a constant basis. And smart lightbulbs in brass sconces, like the ones in consultant Gillian Schwartz’s Brooklyn loft, cast a glow on the good times.  

Create a Cool Backdrop 

Photography by Heidi’s Bridge

The secret to making any item on a bookshelf stand out is to line the inside with a bold, high-contrast wallpaper (for commitment-phobes, the peel-and-stick variety). Prop stylist Olga Naiman stuck to the rule of three in her Brooklyn condo: The color blue appears on the sofa, in her art, and on book covers for continuity. 

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