Rooms Done Right: Bookshelves

Most homes have some sort of built-in bookshelf, but this is a real decorating challenge for most homeowners. Arranging bookshelves is one of my favorite things to do. It is like a puzzle – you just have to figure out what goes where to achieve balance and make sure the individual pieces are in the proper place. In today’s blog post, we will share two sets of bookshelves that were done right!

Homeowner #1

Our first homeowner’s family room has an entire wall of bookshelves – two sets each flanking the fireplace. These shelves are entirely white, so we chose to paint the backs of the shelves 2 shades darker than the existing wall color. This is a great way to add interest and dimension to bookshelves.  It is also relatively easy and a inexpensive fix. You get lots of bang for your buck with this change!Robin Cole Louisville KY Interior Designer and Decorator Robin's Nest Interiors Louisville KY Home Decor Accessories

Add Some Books!

On the day I came over to arrange the bookshelves, the homeowner shelves were empty and her Dining Room table was one big pile of possibilities. First, I looked for “filler” items – these are items that will fill the space, but recede to the background so that other accessories are highlighted. Books are a great filler item, and if I have said it once, I have said it a million times…every bookshelf needs books!

My favorites are old books with the spine practically falling off or decorative books with the spines covered. Really, any hardback books will do. Another great filler item is family photos. I am for displaying your family photos, but in the proper way – interesting frames that coordinate with each other and photos grouped together (not spread randomly throughout the house). Because there were so many shelves to fill, we were able to use both. I also like to vary the height of the shelves – this adds more interest and is sometimes necessary depending on the items you are displaying.


I love incorporating artwork into bookshelves, and fortunately, the homeowner had several small scale pieces that we were able to use. We also added decorative boxes and colorful plates. Every bookshelf also needs some greenery, but it needs to be used sparingly. No Ivy! I like to use boxwoods or succulents. The homeowner loves birds (we get along famously!) so we incorporated some of her birdcages. Please remember – having your shelves decorated properly in important in the overall design of a room.  You will be looking at these shelves on a daily basis so you should fill them with things that are meaningful to you.

Robin Cole Louisville Interior Designer and Decorator Robin's Nest Interiors home decor accessories

Flemish Artwork

For her mantel, she had this wonderful Flemish artwork reframed, and we flanked it with these two interesting candleholders. For the hearth – her father’s dulcimer and a vase with branches for balance. The best thing about this design is that with the exception of some candles and decorative balls, all of the items we incorporated  she already had.Robin Cole Louisville Interior Designer and Decorator Robin's Nest Interiors home decor accessories

Homeowner #2

Our second homeowner had already added some nice architectural detail to the shelves themselves – I especially like the molding that was added to the face/edge of the shelves…such a great touch! This homeowner is truly a collector so I was able to incorporate two of her collections into the bookshelves. Bookshelves are a great way to showcase collections as a group.

Majolica Plate Collection

This homeowner loves her several sets of her majolica plates – the set with the rabbit motif complements the artwork above the mantel and a colorful floral set. To highlight one of her favorite and most valuable majolica oyster plates placed it on a shelf by itself.


Collection of Vintage Lade Busts

The homeowner’s set of vintage lady busts is a wonderful collection to work with.  She had the pieces scattered throughout her home, but you can only truly appreciate the intricate details by viewing them as a whole. They fit nicely on the top shelves under the arch. Of course, we gave the Jackie O bust a place of honor.  We “filled” in the space with old books, family photos, and greenery.

Robin Cole Louisville Interior Designer and Decorator Robin's Nest Interiors home decor accessories

Bookshelves…we all have them…make sure they are Done Right!

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