In the Zoom age, having a put-together bookcase is more important than ever. Everyone wants that perfect (but not too) backdrop for videoconferencing. So don’t just toss a few paperbacks on the shelves behind your computer and call it good—you only want it to look that carefree. Here’s some advice from Susan Sutter of Susan Sutter Interiors and Kristen Alcorta of Pursuing Vintage, two Arlington-based designers who have styled hundreds of bookshelves over the years.
1. Pay attention to the highs and lows.
It’s important to vary the height of your objects. Pair a taller vase with a piece of contrasting height. Also, tiny or short objects can be hard to see, so displaying something small on top of another object is a great way to be sure it doesn’t get lost. Colorful hardback books to match your decor theme are great ways to bring height into a space.
2. Three is not a crowd.
A trio of objects makes for a stylish grouping. Try for a trio of varying sized vases, or two photo frames placed with a decorative object.
3. Add texture.
Use a variety of textures and finishes in the same or complementary color tones to create a sense of depth. Coral, wood, woven baskets, and vintage items with some patina are great for layering in texture.
4. Bring the outside in.
Add a little green—whether real or faux plants or succulents, a little touch of green throughout will bring your shelves to life. Ferns are especially great for this.
5. Let the eye rest.
Too many objects can look busy and unfocused. Devote some space to placing just one larger object on a shelf, such as a decorative box, bowl, or basket.
Photo by Robert Radifera for Stylish Productions
6. Mix up book placement.
Books instantly add a homey feel to shelf styling. Make the most of them by stacking tomes horizontally and vertically and aligning some stacks to the left, right, or center of a shelf. By mixing up the positioning of books and piles, you’ll keep things interesting and help balance the “weight” of your shelf styling.
7. Add metallic accents.
A few will add a welcome pop of bling and elevate your shelf styling.
8. Consider adding a vase of things.
Another idea to decorate your shelf is to fill a large vase or jar with an item. Tea light candles, toy cars, or anything that showcases your personality is fair game.
9. Bring in artwork.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. Choose pieces that you can easily swap in and out, and change the posters or prints as your mood or seasons change.
10. Stand back and edit.
As most interior stylists and designers will tell you, the most important step is to step back for a final look. Take in your shelf and ask yourself—is it too busy or bland? If you need to inject some color or balance things out, it’s never too late.
This story originally ran in our June issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.