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A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating An Aesthetic Bookshelf in Different Styles


Embrace the bookshelf aesthetic! Discover creative tips for beautifully styled and curated shelves and easily transform your home.

Having a beautifully curated bookshelf or bookcase is one of my favorite ways to showcase personal style and interests while also creating an inviting atmosphere in the home. But I know having an empty bookshelf or bookcase can feel daunting at first.

In today’s homes, bookshelves serve not only as storage solutions for beloved literary treasures but also as focal points for showcasing personal style and creativity. But what exactly is the bookshelf aesthetic?

Styled Bookshelves with a curated and eclectic aesthetic in neutrals, blues, and greens with a green velvet sofa.
A Curated and Eclectic Bookcase Aesthetic

The bookshelf aesthetic encompasses the art of curating and styling bookshelves in a visually pleasing manner that enhances the overall ambiance of a room. It goes beyond mere organization and storage, transforming bookshelves into captivating displays of art and personality.

Whether you’re a minimalist seeking clean lines and simplicity or a maximalist craving bold colors and eclectic arrangements, there’s a bookshelf aesthetic to suit every taste and preference and I’m excited to share with you many beautiful examples with key elements so you can recreate the look.

From arranging books by color to incorporating decorative objects and plants, there are countless ways to create an aesthetic bookshelf that reflects your personality and enhances the overall look of your space.

So let’s explore some creative tips and ideas for designing a stylish and visually appealing bookshelf, tips for rental-friendly built-in shelves, and different examples of curated and eclectic bookcase vignettes for ideas and inspiration.

Here's my foolproof process for decorating a bookcase or bookshelf beautifully every time.  Just follow the rule of thirds, use 1/3 of books, 1/3 of decorating accessories, and 1/3 of pictures, art, or other vertical and flat items you lean or stand.

Rearranging Books by Color

One of the simplest yet most impactful ways to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your bookshelf is by rearranging your books according to their colors. This technique not only adds visual interest but also creates a cohesive and organized look that can instantly enhance the overall appearance of your shelves.

Sorting books for a bookshelf aesthetic.
Sort Books First!

Sort books and arrange

Start by gathering all of your books and sorting them into color groups. You can arrange them by the rainbow spectrum, from reds and oranges to yellows, greens, blues, purples, and neutrals.

Alternatively, you can choose a more subdued palette, such as arranging books in shades of white, cream, gray, and black for a minimalist look. I like to separate hardbound books from paperbacks and remove any dust jackets to expose pretty bindings. 

Arrange books by color first.
Arrange Books by Color

Once you have sorted your books by color, begin arranging them on your shelves in a way that creates a pleasing visual flow. You can opt for a gradient effect, where the colors transition smoothly from one hue to the next, or you can mix and match colors to create contrast and interest.

Evenly Space Books Out Placing some Vertical and Some Horizontal
Evenly Space Books Out Placing some Vertical and Some Horizontal

Don’t worry about organizing your books by genre or author for this arrangement, focus instead on creating a striking visual display. However, if you have a few books that stand out due to their size or design, consider using them as focal points or accents within the color arrangement.

Adding accessories by color family to a color sorted bookshelf.
Add Accessories by Color Family

Rearranging your books by color not only adds aesthetic appeal to your bookshelf but also makes it easier to locate specific titles at a glance. Plus, it’s a fun and creative way to breathe new life into your shelves and infuse your space with personality and style.

Tip:  If you have ugly paperbacks you would like to keep in the collection, hide them in a decorative bin(s) or basket(s) on your bookcase.  
A beautiful bright and white built in decorated with books and accessories sorted by color.
Books and Accessories Styled by Color

Creating a Maximalist Bookshelf Aesthetic

If you thrive on bold colors, eclectic patterns, and an abundance of décor, the maximalist bookcase aesthetic offers a canvas for creativity and self-expression. Here’s how to infuse your bookcase with maximalist style:

Living Room Wide with well decorated fireplace wall bookcase and mantel.
Hang Small Art Pieces on Front of Bookcase with Command Strips

Mix and Match

Embrace the beauty of diversity by mixing and matching different styles, colors, and textures on your bookcase. Don’t be afraid to combine vintage finds with modern pieces, or vibrant hues with seashells.


Create visual interest and depth by layering objects of varying heights and sizes on your bookcase. Stack books horizontally and vertically, intersperse them with decorative objects, and layer artwork against the backdrop or even the front of the bookshelf for a dynamic look.

Statement Pieces

Anchor your maximalist bookcase with statement pieces that reflect your personality and interests. Whether it’s a large-scale sculpture, an eye-catching vase, or a quirky objet d’art, these focal points will add character and charm to your display.

Overflowing Shelves

Embrace the concept of “more is more” by filling your bookcase to the brim with books, collectibles, and curiosities. Let your shelves overflow with abundance, creating a sense of richness that defines the maximalist aesthetic.

Maximalist Aesthetic Bookcase Entertainment Built in
Maximalist Aesthetic Bookcase Entertainment Built-in

Organized Chaos

Embrace the organized chaos of the maximalist style by arranging objects in seemingly random yet purposeful clusters. Group items by color, theme, or texture to create cohesive vignettes that tell a story and invite exploration.

Personal Touches

Infuse your bookcase with personal touches that reflect your interests, hobbies, and travels. Display souvenirs from your adventures, family heirlooms, and cherished mementos alongside your books to create a space that feels uniquely yours.

Play with Scale

Experiment with scale by mixing large and small items on your bookcase. Incorporate oversized artwork, sculptures, and vases alongside smaller trinkets and knick-knacks to create visual contrast and drama.

Transform your bookcase into a captivating and eclectic display that reflects your vibrant personality and unique sense of style!

A Curated Collection of Treasures in Matching Colors on a bookshelf
A Curated Collection of Treasures in Matching Colors

Decorating in Maximalist Style

Learn how to decorate with a maximalist vibe without feeling cluttered. It’s not your grandmother’s floral but has lots of fresh colors, modern surface coverings, layers, and use of traditional design.

Creating a Nature-Inspired Bookshelf

Transform your bookshelf into a serene sanctuary inspired by the beauty of nature. Try including plants, pottery, and a curated selection of natural treasures like seashells and pinecones. Here’s how to curate a bookshelf aesthetic that embraces the natural world:

Bookcase decorated with local natural finds and books.
Local Natural Finds Styled on a Chinese Eterege

Green Oasis

Introduce a variety of greenery into your bookshelf display to breathe life into your space. Choose a mix of indoor plants such as ferns, succulents, and trailing ivy to add texture and vibrancy to your shelves. Nestle them among books and décor items to create a lush oasis that invites relaxation and contemplation.

Earthy Pottery

Incorporate handmade pottery in earthy tones and natural textures to complement the organic feel of your bookshelf. Display ceramic vases, planters, and bowls filled with fresh blooms or dried grasses to add warmth and depth to your display. Mix and match different shapes and sizes for visual interest.

Pottery, Books, Plants, and Beach Finds Live in Harmony on this Eterge

Nature’s Treasures

Embellish your bookshelf with nature’s treasures collected from outdoor adventures. Arrange seashells, driftwood, pinecones, and polished stones alongside books and plants to evoke memories of seaside strolls and forest hikes. These natural elements add a touch of whimsy and nostalgia to your display, infusing it with character and charm.

Neutral Palette

Keep your color palette neutral and earthy to enhance the natural aesthetic of your bookshelf. Opt for shades of beige, taupe, brown, and green to create a soothing and cohesive look that mimics the colors of the natural world.

Incorporate natural materials such as wood, rattan, and jute to further enhance the organic feel of your display.

Texture Variety

Embrace texture variety to add depth and visual interest to your bookshelf. Mix smooth surfaces like books and pottery with rough textures like woven baskets, natural fibers, and textured fabrics.

Incorporate tactile elements such as dried grasses, feathers, and dried flowers to add a touch of whimsy and softness to your display.

Curated Arrangement

Arrange your bookshelf with care, paying attention to balance, symmetry, and proportion. Create visual harmony by clustering items in groups of odd numbers and varying heights. Experiment with different arrangements until you find a layout that feels balanced and cohesive.

Lighting Accents

Illuminate your bookshelf with soft, diffused lighting to highlight its natural beauty. Place LED strip lights or battery-operated candles strategically behind plants and décor items to create a warm and inviting ambiance.

Soft, ambient lighting enhances the tranquil atmosphere of your nature-inspired display, creating a cozy retreat within your home.

With these tips, you can create a nature-inspired bookshelf haven that celebrates the beauty of the natural world while adding warmth and personality to your space.

sara Jessica Parker inspired dining room
A Whimsical Nature-Inspired Bookcase in a Japanese Home

Embracing the Minimalist Bookcase Aesthetic

Do you prefer clean lines, uncluttered spaces, and a sense of tranquility? The minimalist bookcase aesthetic offers a refreshing approach to organizing and styling your shelves. Here’s how to achieve a minimalist look with maximum impact:

seaside inspired bookcase
Minimalist Styling with Great Textures


Start by decluttering your bookcase and removing any items that are not essential or meaningful to you. Keep only the books, décor pieces, and personal items that serve a purpose or bring you joy.

Neutral Palette

Stick to a neutral color palette for your bookcase, opting for shades of white, beige, gray, or black. This creates a sense of calm and cohesion, allowing your books and décor items to stand out without overwhelming the space.

Open Space

Embrace the beauty of open space by leaving plenty of breathing room between items on your bookcase. Avoid overcrowding shelves and instead focus on creating a sense of balance and harmony through thoughtful arrangement.

Minimalist Book Selection

Choose books with simple, understated covers or spines that complement the overall aesthetic of your bookcase. Consider paring down your collection to only the books that you truly love and intend to read or reference regularly.

Statement Pieces

While minimalist design is often associated with simplicity, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate statement pieces into your bookcase. Select a few carefully curated décor items, such as a sculptural vase or a minimalist sculpture, to add visual interest and personality to the space.

Quality Over Quantity

Focus on quality over quantity when selecting décor items for your bookcase. Choose pieces that are well-crafted, timeless, and meaningful to you, rather than filling the space with unnecessary clutter.

Even Spacing with Minimal Decor and Books in White and Natural Colors
Even Spacing with Minimal Decor and Books in White and Natural Colors

By following these tips, you can create a minimalist bookcase aesthetic that is both serene and sophisticated, allowing your books and décor items to shine in a clutter-free environment.

Summer Home Decor Lifestyle Office 3
Minimalist Styling in a Maximalist Office
Minimalist Bookshelf Aesthetic Lets Beautiful Bird Wallpaper Be the Star
Minimalist Bookshelf Aesthetic Lets Beautiful Bird Wallpaper Shine

Bookshelf Styling for Renters

Living in a rented space doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style and personality when it comes to decorating your bookshelves. With a few clever techniques and temporary solutions, you can transform your bookshelf into a chic and personalized focal point. Here’s how:

bookcase styling inspired by Wes Anderson Life Aquatic
Getting Creative with a Fun Color Palette

Temporary Wallpaper or Contact Paper

Cover the back of your bookshelf with removable wallpaper or contact paper to add a pop of color or pattern without damaging the walls. Choose a design that complements your décor and reflects your personal style.

Double-Duty Storage

Look for bookshelves that serve multiple functions, such as those with built-in storage bins or cabinets. This allows you to conceal clutter while showcasing your favorite books and décor items on the open shelves.

Freestanding Bookcases

Invest in freestanding bookcases that can be easily moved from one place to another. Choose modular or stackable designs that can adapt to different spaces and configurations as needed.

Command Hooks and Adhesive Strips

Use removable command hooks and adhesive strips to hang lightweight artwork or décor items on the sides of your bookshelf. This allows you to personalize the space without drilling holes in the walls.

The Art of Leaning Art

Lean large and heavy art pieces on top of bookshelves to avoid any damage to the walls. Add felt pad adhesive stickers to the bottom edge of the frame to protect the furniture.

Flexible Organization

Keep your bookshelf organized and clutter-free by using bins, baskets, and organizers that can be easily rearranged or removed as needed. This allows you to adapt the storage space to accommodate different items and configurations.

Books and accessories sorted by color
Larger and Heavier Art Leans while Small Mirrors are Hung with Command Strips in this Rental

I hope these tips inspire you to create a stylish and functional bookshelf in your rented space without making permanent changes or damaging the walls!

What is the standard bookshelf depth?

Bookshelves typically range in depth between 10”-12” (26-31 cm). Consider this when looking for books, baskets and bins, and decorating accessories.

rental office space small spaces
Rental Home Makeshift Bookshelves and Office Nook

I hope you’re feeling inspired to transform your shelves into a personalized reflection of your style and interests. From rearranging books by color to incorporating plants and natural treasures, we’ve explored techniques to infuse your bookshelf with creativity and personality.

Remember, decorating your bookshelf is more than just organization and storage, it’s about creating a space that brings you joy and inspires conversation. Happy decorating!

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  1. looks awesome, kathy! loved your photo on instagram! what a great home you are making yourselves in japan!

  2. In Viola’s room I used really strong Velcro tape to hang up some black-out shades. They worked great but it did pull a little paint off the wall. You can either sew the velcro to the curtain or just stick it on. I can send you some if they don’t have it there.

    1. I used command velcro strips to hang up curtains but I super glued the two velcro sides together to make it stronger. 🙂 The 100 yen store out here has all sorts of wall hanging things.

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