I love styling my own bookshelves and, with some actual time on my hands, I’ve come up with 7 bookshelf inspiration ideas.
First of all, a little recap…Mr. F&F and I had an opportunity in Raleigh’s hot real estate market to sell our building. I intended to do retail another five years but a pandemic plus this opportunity made me rethink my life’s direction. That sounds pretty heavy, doesn’t it? I will do retail in Asheville in a multi-vendor space minus the responsibilities of a shop owner. That sounds pretty sweet to me:) So I am free to focus on design clients, blog to my heart’s content and plan other creative pursuits currently in the works…stay tuned. In the meantime, how about 7 bookshelf inspiration ideas?
1/ Corral collections and make them work for you
In my newly revamped home office, I incorporated all my stuff from my store office. I didn’t think this was possible in my “closet-turned-office” which also serves another purpose (more on that later) yet somehow made it work. I own about ten years worth of magazines and want to hang onto them (for now).
Laying the magazines in horizontal piles didn’t seem practical if you actually intend to use them. So I stood them up like books, crunched them together as best I could so they don’t collapse and added in art. Now I am surrounded by things like the John Lennon print my kids gifted me in memory of my high school prom song, “Imagine.” What an interesting choice by my classmates in 1981 and my kids have always found that funny.
More art and memories sprinkled throughout the bookshelves. Because there’s not a ton of room on these shelves, I have to store other work things elsewhere. I am quickly getting used to my new “systems” and cozy office.
2/ I love a tray and they provide wonderful organization as another bookshelf inspiration idea.
Trays are super functional and I use them on coffee tables, bathroom counters and dressers as organized drop zones. For a home office, trays group desk-y bits together for a more cohesive look. There’s something about a tray, holding it all together even on days when you don’t feel all together:)
My labeler, tape dispenser, and stationery box look elevated on this lacquered teal try. Organizing is effective but only if things are accessible so I like everything out in the open. Trays help keep the “out-in-the-open” stuff looking good.
3/ Bookshelves may serve dual purposes in one room.
My little office packs a punch, providing a lot of function, but I have a skeleton in the closet, so to speak…. This former closet is still a closet, namely the linen/extra supplies repository. While the shelves next to my desk hold the magazines and other office essentials, the shelves behind me serve as a reminder that this is functioning household.
Toilet paper shortage, be damned. Need some shampoo? Check. Where’s the hot water bottle? Sometimes rooms need to provide double duty and since I don’t face this direction, it doesn’t interfere with my work groove. And the other shelf behind me does provide more work-related storage.
This dearly needs attention but after putting the rest of the office together (including a masterful art hang by Mr. F&F) I just didn’t have it in me. My fabric samples need organization and thankfully there are several more shelves above this area and the TP storage area. A task for another day….
4/ Let bookshelves conceal an otherwise unattractive feature
Can I vent for a moment about vents? HVAC return vents are the hideous larger ones that suck the air from each room and return it to the main system. They are larger than supply vents, seemingly always where you want to locate a piece of furniture or right in the middle of sight lines. So long as there is some air flow, you can cheat a little and hide it. Do you see it behind the bottom shelf?
…look closely below behind the miniature glass, folding screen. My HVAC guys have never said anything to me, so it’s staying. It’s impossible to conceal it entirely but at least it’s slightly more attractive than the 1970s ugly vent.
5/ Add art and personal items as the ultimate bookshelf inspiration idea.
I add this bookshelf idea with a proviso to not overdo with photos. Bookshelves, etageres, or built-ins should hold books as the foundation for everything else. The extras make it personal and full of personality, but a whole bookshelf devoted to framed photos is overwhelming.
I had to include two photos of this shelf because I love this recent addition of “my family” so much. Cassie Butcher’s souls really resonated with me and we got one for each member of our family. Might have to add another one for our new arrival in the spring (leaning toward “Gigi” and “Pop” but Mr. F&F keeps vacillating).
6/ Color coordination or some thematic approaches work well as bookshelf inspiration
As you can see from my shelves above, I have a thing for teal blue and white with a little orange in the mix now. Teal was the original inspiration for this whole house but I’ve been adding in other colors (taupey beige in the Zen master) and a rainbow of color in this bedroom’s bedding. Teal still holds a special place and check out this glass artist’s beautiful work shown below. Remarkably, he uses the same glass as Pyrex, so it’s very durable as well.
This chrome etagere below did not sell during the final sale days at the store and secretly I was hoping it wouldn’t. So I “borrowed” it for now, propped it in the basement bedroom and added good reading material. Take a book, leave a book, if you like. Remember the shelves in my new office? Well, they were filled with all these colorful and color-coded books seen below.
So, in addition to color, these shelves are filled with only things I
stole found around my house. Reusing what you have is always a good idea – things can be added later but if you have enough stuff (like I obviously did) then enjoy something for free! Changing items in your home is a great process and an opportunity to purge as well.
7/ There are other ways to prop up books, in addition to obvious matched bookends
When I stole the items from around my house, I was definitely short on bookends so it required other ideas. I like the variation of laying some books down anyway and they also naturally serve as bookend substitutes.
Adding in pretty objects also help to hold books up, especially if they are weighty, as seen with the white cornucopia below. It’s a much more interesting mix than always matchy-matchy bookends.
Are you inspired to tackle your own bookshelves now? If not, maybe my little office artwork below might help…you can read it two ways, if cussing is not your style. Sorry to say, I may be guilty now and then:) Get $&it done on your own timeline and hang in there…vaccines are here! And for some more bookshelf inspiration ideas, read here. xo
Great post Carole. Your bookshelves are inspiring – as in the view outside your office window! Now I’m going to look around my house for things to repurpose as bookends.
Ah yes, a little Thomas Sayre for inspiration never hurt. Thanks, friend, and look forward to our chat next week. xo Carole
Leslie Carothers says
I really, really love this post, Carole, becuase it’s so personal. I feel like I know you, just through looking at your bookshelves, which do what I think all good bookshelves should do – hold books and the *things* that help people know who you are.
And congrats on the new baby due in the Spring!
Thank you so much, Leslie, for your kind words and for all you do for designers. This is a special group. Carole
Carla Bast says
I love your ideas, and it inspires me to get my shelves looking better!
Thanks, Carla. Appreciate your reading and always glad to make a Minneapolis connection! Carole
Loving your tips and visual examples! Congrats on the sale of your building!
Thank you, Christie! The building was something I invested a lot of time in – it is bittersweet but I am ready to move on. Carole
Janet Lorusso says
Great tips, Carole! I love the personal nature of bookshelf styling and displaying things that are unique and special to the homeowners. And I’m a teal afficionado as well – love your glass artwork and your sign 🙂
Thanks, Janet. Always glad to meet another “teal” lover:) Carole
Lisa A Peck says
I really enjoyed seeing how you personalized your office space with the shelf styling and accessories that are so fun and tell your story.
Thanks so much – love doing it for clients as well!
Sheri Bruneau says
Really great tips. I love how you have personalized every space that you featured.
‘Get S#$t Done’ is my favourite piece!
Ha Sheri – A Canadian girl like me! Thanks for reading!
Mary Ann Benoit says
Great ideas! Love your tips for other ways to prop up books!
Thanks, Mary Ann – desperate times call for desperate bookends:)