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6 steps to elevate your bookshelf into a stylish focal piece

Going digital in the world replaced the way we listen to music, run our home, and even the way we read. E-books are increasing in popularity, especially since they prove to be an amazing gadget that helps bring your whole bookshelf with you on the go.

Yet there’s still no way of replacing the physical power of books, especially in your home. Bibliophiles love displaying what they’ve read or what they’re reading next. It serves as an indication of their interests and their personality, and make for a great conversation starter when guests come over. If books are intentions and ideas that have been thoughtfully typed and bound, then bookshelves are a collection of these thoughts that signify the expansive mind of its owner.

Hence, the way you style and organise your bookshelves is so important. Messy shelves indicate a cluttered state of mind, and will be counterintuitive as a book display. If you’ve stacked books on your shelf without giving much thought to how they’re styled, it’s high time to change it up. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to styling bookshelves that will help make your bookshelf a less of a haphazard storage space, and more of a stylish focal point of your home.

Step one: Build your collection

The first step to styling a bookshelf is obviously to gather books. Sparse bookshelves look underutilised and create a sense of emptiness in a home. Before you get started on styling your bookshelf, head to a bookstore near you (we recommend The Moon, BooksActually or Kinnokuniya) or online to grab some new titles.

Step two: Start from the largest to the smallest

Before you begin styling your bookshelf, group your items in terms of size. It is easy to get lost during the process of organising if you begin styling your bookshelf with the smaller items. Instead, fill your shelves with the bigger books and other larger decorative pieces first to lay the groundwork for your other pieces.

Step three: Add some decorative pieces

That being said, your bookshelves should not be reserved solely for books. Decorative items are a really great way to add some creativity to your shelves. It allows for a visually layered look that creates depth in your style, and helps to break up the visual space taken up by your books. These pieces can be anything that expresses your design creativity — from quirky bookends and plants to contemporary artwork and photographs, the possibilities are endless.

Step four: Make your shelves pop

Many ready-made bookcases are boring, featuring a one-colour finish throughout its shelves. To make your bookshelf stand out in the room, consider adding a contrast paint colour on the inner frames, or even some wallpaper for a touch of artistic flair. This helps to bring the focal point of the room to your shelves, and spotlight all the pieces you’ll be putting out on display.

Step five: Take note of your paperbacks

Hardcovers are always a beautiful addition to any shelf or collection, but paperbacks are light, compactable, and a lot more cost-efficient. However, paperbacks require a bit more care compared to hardcovers. Due to its soft spine, paperbacks can easily bend and warp over time if they are not standing upright or are leaning on one side. To prevent this from happening, ensure that your paperbacks are standing straight up (bookends are great for this!) or lay them down horizontally.

Step six: Spacing is important

Lastly, spacing is one of the most important factors to take note of when you style your bookcase. Having a row of books neatly standing can come across as a little too organised and impersonal. Instead, break up the visual space by grouping books and staggering them with decorative pieces and alternating shelves. This allows your eyes to appreciate the overall facade a lot more compared to cramming your items together.

Jocelyn Tan
Jocelyn Tan is a travel and design writer who's probably indulging in serial killer podcasts or reading one too many books on East Asian history. When she actually gets to travel, you can find her attempting to stuff her entire wardrobe into her luggage. Yes, she's a chronic over-packer.