I had a unique privilege to watch an expert in action. Am I an expert? No, far from it. When Meredith Publishing came to photograph my home for one of their magazines, I got to observe the stylist whipping my home into shape. Let’s talk about how to style a bookcase.
This is part of my country French series, so we’ll be focusing on country French accessories.
This bookcase is close to the way she had it. Let’s talk about what makes this work. The main thing is that it is monochromatic. Although you do not have to go monochromatic, it is easier to make a statement if you do.
Try taking everything out of your bookcase and just putting back things of like color. You may not need everything you have in the bookcase any way. From a magazine photo perspective, they want less in the bookcases because they photograph better that way. Too much can look confusing. They want each piece to stand out and shine on its own. If you have too much in there, it all begins to look like one big clump. They took a ton of things out of my cabinet.
Here is my before.
What’s different? Well I took the things off of the top. I thought it looked a bit cluttered, and I like the clean look without those items up there. We also took out all of the artwork in the back of the bookcases. It ended up just looking dark, and you couldn’t see them any way. I took out some of the darker items. You couldn’t see them very well either. Then I removed several of the smaller things that were getting lost.
What did I keep? a few new (but old looking) concrete pieces, the lion and the urn. I kept a lot of the old books. Again I went with my monochromatic theme. The books with cream, tan and yellow covers were used here. If they had another color cover, I turned them backwards. It works from a design standpoint, but if you are going to be looking for that book later, this technique won’t work for you. The books I want to find later are turned so that I can easily see where they are.
So I used a mixture of large architectural-looking items (finials and urns) and a few dish items (tureen and teapot) then threw in some old books. That’s about it. What can you use to give your bookcase a country French look? Well old things really give a room a French feel – try old books, old ironstone, architectural fragments, old clocks, old bottles, or even old rusty iron pieces. Remember not to over-stuff them.
I love that armoire! What a beautiful piece. Your styling is so lovely, so interesting to look at. How fun to get tips from the pros in your own home!
I love how they are styled, Anita. When I had my photo shoot I was shocked that they didn’t rearrange my bookcases.
That looks great, but how does one “style” a functional, used all the time builtin bookcases? We have floor to ceiling builtin bookcases in our office that gets used everyday filled with books. I’m not going to get rid of any books and I’m not keen on covering hundreds of books, but I would appreciate some tips on arranging books and other items so it looks natural and nice, not necessarily for a “photo shoot” but to live with everyday.
Good question Kathy. That is a bit trickier. I think I would need to see the bookcase. Do you have room for some painting in the bookcase or other items? I think I would a few things here and there that are scaled properly for the bookcase, and that work in the room. It’s hard to be more specific without seeing the room.
Shirley@Housepitality Designs says
Fabulous styling as always Anita…love the beautiful items in the cabinet and of course that gorgeous cabinet itself!!
Confessions of a Plate Addict says
I love the way you have styled your bookcases, Anita! That wonderful tureen caught my eye immediately! Have a great week!…hugs…Debbie
Stephanie @ Casa Watkins says
I love the styling. There is something about the French inspired farmhouse style that looks so elegant. Thanks for sharing.
Marlene Stephenson says
Thanks for the tips,looks like i have work to do.
It looks good. It gives a slow pace feel to the room where before it felt busy, hurried. Love the changes. thanks for the tips.
I really want to read your blog. I love your style! But for some reason I can only see half of it in the middle of my screen. Is there something special that I need to do? I follow some other blogs and don’t have the problem so I am not sure what the problem is.
Linda, I know my tech guy said some older browsers might have an issue. I am still working to resolve the issue. Thanks for letting me know.
Dore @ BurlapLuxe says
It looks Fabulous Anita,
But anything you add or take away from your cabinet always looks divinely inspiring to your home.
Beautiful week and all it inspires from you.
Lisa Peterson says
I have been looking on all these articles that decorate a bookcase and I am becoming baffled. I thought a bookcase housed books.
I have a 5 shelf 12 ft wide bookcase and it holds books. The first three shelves are cookbooks (alot of them) and then the next shelf houses the decorating books. Finally the bottom shelf houses the craft and how-to books. I have shoved them back in the shelf and I use the front like it is a new shelf. I have various pictures in frames, and cutsies brought back from Mazatlan Mexico. The top has 3 Kachinas and alot of plates that stand against the wall. There is also alot of large bowls that fit in between.
So you can see my bookcase is really used. It takes up one wall in the dining room.
I am an international cook and read my cookbooks like novels. I love them.
I am wondering what you think of something like this. It is really different.
Is this so wrong?
Sounds lovely. You can use a bookcase however you like!
I just finished reading your post about mistakes in decorating! I had to laugh-some replies were funny!
I live in a nice neighborhood with beautiful homes but I have to be honest and say I don’t like the
way 95% of my neighbors decorate! It is a matter of personal choice and I really don’t care what they
do in their own homes. I don’t consider their decor “mistakes” as it works for them! But you have written this post to inspire the readers to look at their homes to see if they agree with your post. We are all different and we will do what we want even if it may be a mistake! I read your posts and enjoy your
Ideas and rooms. Thank you.
I agree completely LolieAnne. The title was meant to capture your interest, but of course everyone needs to do what pleases her.
Arranging shelves is one of my favorite things to do. As you point out, monochromatic is very successful but so is color if the surroundings allow it. Yours are just right for your style.
Ellie LaJuett says
Love the tips on decorating shelves, my question is do you disperse collections of like things on one shelf. I have bookshelves on each side of living room wall, floor to ceiling. They are pine and match the ceiling beams. Its very rustic looking. Ideas please?!
Joanne Boulter says
I really love the book case, and nothing gets lost in it. Beautiful! Jo
yes, it;s so easy to overload a hutch…i do like things on the top of mine…i have to clean mine out every so often to keep it looking spiffy.
I love these book shelves. where are they from??
Lynnd my carpenter made them on site for me.
I really like the way you styled your cabinet. I am trying your pointers on a large bookcase that I have in my living room.
Beautiful! We had built ins open bookshelves, but for the life of me I just do not seen to be able to design our bookshelves that fabulous. Don’t know what I am doing wrong.
Love them! Really want to know what paint your craftsman used on the bookcases?
Katie, I did the paint technique on the cabinets. https://cedarhillfarmhouse.com/2016/10/how-i-ruined-up-my-cabinets.html
I received your French Accent book from Amazon and finished making my gathered bedspread this weekend! Please continue sharing your inspiring decorating ideas!
Ken, send a photo! I can’t wait to see it!!!