how to love your bookshelves

i see A LOT of homes.  believe it or not, there is one very common denominator in most homes . .  . messy bookshelves!

in my humble opinion, bookshelves, whether they are stand alone or built in, are supremely neglected.  they seem to have become a catch all not only for books, but for important figurines, papers, photos, magazines and anything else you can throw at it.

bookshelves or shelving of any kinds can become focal points in the space.  grouping 2 or three freestanding bookshelves together can create the illusion of a built-in unit if you don’t have one.  in some cases, having a built-in bookshelf can be overwhelming for the room, depending on the size of course. short bookcases are an option.  these days, there are all sorts of choices for bookshelves, everything from traditional tall units to funky shapes or completely unconventional.  no matter which type you choose, dressing the bookcase remains the same.

reorganizing and dressing people’s bookshelves can be the most time consuming part of my job.  sometimes i have to start from scratch, other times it’s just a clean up job.  here are some tips for making your bookshelves speak for themselves.

the first step is to edit out anything that doesn’t belong in a bookshelf.  i always recommend removing things like binders, spiral bound notebooks and even sometimes photo albums.  photo albums that are in good condition and preferably all with the same spine are acceptable.  binders and spiral bound books belong in an office, not on display.  i believe that all books should be displayed, however, textbooks and books that may have seen better days can make the bookcase appear messy.  try making a book covers specifically for these books, to create consistency.

next, i like to group the books by size.  i don’t necessarily always take the books across the shelf from largest to smallest, but i find this helps the case look neater.  sometimes i stack them too.  the most important thing to remember when dressing your bookcase is balance.  every so often, take a step back and look at your work. try to make sure that where you’ve placed your books doesn’t feel top heavy or lopsided.  alternate the direction the books are travelling in.  this will naturally balance the groupings.  balance is key not only in the placement, but also the colours of the spine.  sometimes it can appear visually heavy if there are too many dark coloured items grouped together.  don’t be afraid to switch up the direction of the books as well.  set some vertically, and some horizontally almost as a book end.  maybe on one shelf all the books are stacked horizontally.  
i like to think of dressing bookshelves as an exercise in layering.  typically i start with the books, grouping them by size and placing them on the shelves.  next, i choose my tchotchkes.
{tchotchke   [chahch-kuh]  –noun Slang .
          an inexpensive souvenir, trinket, or ornament.  a trinket or 
ornament. (From Yiddish.) :  Her whole house isfilled with tchotchkes and old photographs.  Origin: 1965–70, Americanism  < Yiddish tshatshke  < Polish czaczko bibelot, knickknack (now obsolete; compare modern cacko  withsame sense, orig. dial.); of expressive orig.}

this is my broad term for decorative accessories.  be creative with what you choose.  there really are no rules here, anything goes.  just as long as you maintain the balance.  bowls always work well on top of a stack of books.  unlit candles are another useful accessory.  if you have any small pieces of art that would fit between the shelves use them at the back of the shelf to create interest.  this is a good place to spread out some of your family photos and feature them.  baskets are also a useful tool for storage and hiding any items that you may not want on display.  any small item will work to fill in the holes and further layer the bookcase.

the last and very important word of advice that i can offer you is to pull the books forward to meet the edge of the shelf.  too often people feel the need to push the books right to the back, burying them and diminishing them.  pull everything forward and show them off!  plus, then there’s a secret hiding spot behind the books for things you don’t want to be visible.

so there you have it . . . show your books some love and they will repay you for years to come.  ok . . . maybe not.  but they’ll be a lot easier to look at. 🙂

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