Guide To Shelf Decorating: Easy And Chic Ideas

Do you struggle with decorating bookshelves? Or maybe you just moved into a new place and are looking for ideas on how to style your shelves. Either way, we’ve got you covered! In this blog post, I will give tips on how to spruce up your shelf decor in a stylish way. 

For your convenience, there may be affiliate links below. Simply click the links below to see the items and sale prices. At no cost to you, I may make a small commission on your purchase. Thank you so much for supporting MHB. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

how to style bookshelves - tips to great shelf decor

How to Decorate Bookshelves

In our previous home, we customized some IKEA Billy bookcases to create some built-in bookshelves for additional storage in our family room. I’ve always loved the look of built-ins but honestly had no idea the effort it takes to style them and make them look good. As it turns out, you can’t just throw random things on the shelves and make it work. I did figure out a few rules that work like a charm and I have some tips that I think are worth sharing.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind when styling shelves

First, consider the overall aesthetic you are going for in your space. Do you want a minimalist look? Eclectic? Something else entirely? Your shelf decor should reflect this overall aesthetic.

Second, think about how you’d like your bookshelf to function. Before adding bookshelf decorations you have to consider how you’ll use your bookshelf. If you have stacks and stacks of books to house then, perhaps you won’t have much space for decorative items. If your shelves are strictly for decorating purposes then you have more space to play around.

gorgeous bookshelf styling ideas

Third, be intentional when decorating. Loading bookshelves with a bunch of knick-knacks isn’t the way to achieve the stylish look you’re aiming for. Be intentional, find things you genuinely love, and edit. 

Now that you have some general tips in mind, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to style shelves! Start with a blank slate. Remove everything from the shelf and start fresh. This will help you get a better idea of what you have to work with and what you’ll need.

You can follow a few simple rules for adding bookshelf decor without overdoing it. Let’s take a look at some shelf decor ideas.

Rules to Expertly Decorate Bookshelves

tips for creating gorgeous shelf decor

Group Shelf Decor in Odd Numbers

The first go-to rule for creating an expertly decorated bookshelf is to create groupings of odd numbers. Three is my favorite odd-number grouping. Think about stacking books in groups of three or five and adding a plant on top. You can also place a group of upright books on the shelf with a bookend. You can also group other things like vintage pieces, small vases, or other decorative objects.

kid room bookcase decor

Stack Shelf Decorations 

When it comes to bookshelves, less is more. You want your space to look effortless and like you didn’t have to try too hard. A great way to achieve visual interest is by stacking things instead of spreading them out. This works especially well with coffee table books and decorative boxes. You can stack other accessories on top of these items to give more height to your decor. It also provides a more layered look.

dining room shelf decor

Use Bookends 

If your shelving unit is heavy on the actual books, then bookends are a great way to decorate bookshelves and add function at the same time. They help keep your books in place while also adding some style to your shelves. Look for interesting bookends that reflect your personal style. I’ve even seen people use things like sculptures or vases as makeshift bookends.

float book shelf decorations

Add Greenery 

A great way to add some life to your bookshelves is by adding some greenery. This could be in the form of a potted plant or even just some stems in a vase. Plants help purify the air and they also add a pop of color. If you don’t have a green thumb, a realistic-looking faux plant is a great option.

bookcase decor - small decorations

Use Items of Different Scale

One mistake you should different avoid is using a bunch of pieces that are similar in size when decorating a bookshelf. Use some items with some different heights that can balance the smaller items. This will also make your shelves more interesting to look at and add some dimension. You can do this by using taller bookends or by stacking things. An example of this would be using a taller, leaning piece of framed art or a tall accessory alongside a small plant, decorative box, or another smaller decorative object. 

What are some good shelf decor items for bookshelf styling?


I like to find vases at thrift shops and discount decorating stores. You can also find some really nice shaped vases at Target and other home stores.


Framed art on the back of the shelves, picture frames, family photos, or even mirrors are great bookshelf decorations. They are excellent leaning pieces that can give your bookshelf some layers.

Books (of course!) 

What’s a bookshelf without books? Books are an essential shelf decoration. Whether it’s your personal collection or just a few books in a horizontal stack, you have to include books on your shelf display. This is my favorite coffee table book of all time.


As discussed above, I love plants as bookshelf decor. Especially the ones that have some trailing leaves like pothos. If you aren’t a master gardener, no worries, fake plants work well here too.

Decorative Objects

There are so many decorative objects that you can use to accessorize your bookshelf. I love items like strings of glass beads, unusually shaped objects, and glass jars.


You can find decorative boxes at a lot of big-box home stores. I like using them because they are functional as well as pretty. You can store anything from remotes to mementos.


Baskets are another functional decoration that can also help with organization. I use small baskets to store small collections and other random things.


Bowls are one of my favorite shelf decorations. I like to fill them with things like spherical decorative objects, seashells, glass bead strands, and other accessories. You can also use bowls to display fruit or vegetables if you have an open shelving kitchen.

Wrapping Up

These are just a few tips to get you started on styling your bookshelves. Just remember to keep it simple, be intentional, and have fun with it! With a little bit of time and effort, you’ll have shelves that look like they were styled by a professional. 

Do you have any tips for styling shelves? Share them with us in the comments below!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *