How to accessorise a bookshelf

Your bookshelf says a lot about you, and it’s not just the tomes that are housed within it that do the talking.

A bookshelf presents unique styling opportunities not found anywhere else in the home and you only have to look at Instagram, where the hashtag ‘bookshelf’ contains over 1 million posts, to see that people take their bookshelf styling very seriously indeed.

As with all matters of style, what you leave in is as important as what is left out.


Like all free surfaces in the home, bookshelves can serve as a dumping ground for domestic detritus. Before you can even think about styling your bookshelf, you should make a serious effort to tidy up your shelves.

Whether that means donating a pile of old books to charity or culling an excessive collection of trinkets, this is the first step.

Telling tales

A bookshelf provides the perfect space for you to tell people about yourself. Whether it’s a couple of beloved knick-knacks from your travels, a statement bauble or a beautiful bunch of fresh flowers, create a series of vignettes on your shelves for added depth and interest.

Photo frames, flowers or greenery, clocks and other ornamental items such as bowls or plates all pack a strong visual punch. There are plenty of fabulous decorative bookends on the market these days too – a functional option.

Buy a couple of book stands to display your favourite hardbacks – recipe books are always a reliable conversation starter.

Your bookshelf should tell a story about you.

If you don’t have enough accessories don’t rush out and purchase them all at once. They should tell a story about you, your tastes and travels, not what was fashionable on any given day. Accessorising with things you truly love produces a much more authentic result.

Effortless style

Ideally, you want a bookshelf that looks artfully and thoughtfully put together – not styled to within an inch of its life. Arrange your books both vertically and horizontally and place a large coffee table book on its side with a decorative item on top for visual interest.

Use a mix of large and small decorative items with a few key pieces to anchor the look. Too many tiny things can make a bookshelf look cluttered. Woven baskets, while also providing extra storage within your bookshelf, inject texture too.

And lastly, make sure to leave some free space around everything, allowing your books and accessories to breathe.

Too many tiny things can make a bookshelf look cluttered.

Colour coding

One for those of the OCD persuasion; the colour coded bookshelf trend took off a few years ago and shows no sign of abating. Playing into our natural desire for order, there’s nothing quite as serene as a series of books sorted into their various hues. It also adds a splash of colour with minimal effort and no extra cost.

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Article repurposed from How to accessorise a bookshelf by Naomi Findlay. Author at