bookcaseContributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman

If you’re like me, my bookshelves are filled to the point of overflowing. Yes, I am addicted to books! But if you’re like most people, your bookshelf is more of a healthy mix of books, open shelf space and random things that have managed to end up there somehow. It’s not the look you want, but you’re not sure what to do to take it from catch-all to cute.

I spent some time talking with people with normal (not-overstuffed!), attractive bookcases and looked at what worked as ways to accessorize a bookshelf and banish the clutter. Here are ten ideas for turning your bookshelves into beautiful focal points in your home.

10. Framed photos

framed photos on shelf

A grouping of framed photos is a simple way to personalize your bookshelf space. Choose prints in a variety of sizes, and select coordinating (but not matching) picture frames. You can go one step further and choose photos with a theme, such as black and white, old family images or vacation shots, or you can just display what means the most to you. Don’t crowd the shelf… if you can’t see every photo, you probably have too many.

9. Family heirlooms

antique camera on bookshelf

All too often, family heirlooms are relegated to drawers, closets or boxes in the attic. But bookshelves are a wonderful place to display those family treasures. Bring out Aunt Mary’s china dog, Uncle Al’s hand-tied fishing flies or Grandmother’s favorite teapot. If some of the items are especially fragile, consider displaying them in glass cases or under bell jars to keep them safe from curious hands.

If you don’t have family heirlooms, create your own! Buy reproductions of art pieces, collectibles and other items that remind you of your family’s past and display those instead.

8. Statues

Buddha statue

Statues and figurines work very well on bookshelves. You can group them, but in most cases they look best when seen one at a time. If you have more than one statue you want to display, put them on different shelves so each can be seen and admired.

7. Good Looking Toys


Designate a bottom shelf for the kids, and fill it with a collection of classic toys. These can add color and fun to your room, and make it appealing for the entire family. An open shelf is an easy place to start the lesson in “clean up” too – everything has its own place and it’s easily accessible for little ones.

6. Framed art

art on easels on shelf

Most people thing of art as something that belongs on the wall in a room. But smaller pieces do very well on bookshelves, too. Use display easels to hold them in place. Stand larger works of art on the top of the bookcase. Not only is it attractive, it makes changing the artwork you display so simple… no nails to remove or adjust!

5. Vases

vase from Ireland's Showcase

Vases are just one of those things that seem to have been made for bookshelves. Even empty, a decorative vase can add incredible visual interest to a shelf. (Hint: an opaque vase is a great place to hide potpourri — your room will smell wonderful, without a single bowl of twigs and leaves in sight!)

4. Decorative boxes

IRVINS decorative Shaker boxes

Remember all the clutter I mentioned at the start? Some of it needs to go elsewhere, but some really does belong on or near the shelves. Decorative metal, glass or wooden boxes not only add color and design to a shelf, they also work brilliantly to hide remotes, extra keys, medications and reading glasses. Two problems solved with one accessory!

3. Collectibles

snowglobes on shelf

It really doesn’t matter if you collect transferware bowls, cat statues or decorative snowglobes — a bookshelf gives you the chance to put your collection on display. Keep items together for maximum visual impact. And if you have too many items for the shelf space, rotate your display rather than trying to crowd everything in at once. (Or you could always use my method…just buy more bookcases!)

2. Toys

old roller skate on bookshelf

Toys old and new look wonderful among the books on a shelf. That colorful metal dump truck you had as a kid, your mom’s old roller skates or your daughter’s just outgrown well-loved doll can both let your shelf space say something about your family.

1. Varied arrangement of books

books wrapped in paper

The bookcases in your home aren’t part of a public library. So forget all the rules about how books are supposed to be placed on a shelf. If a book has a particularly striking cover, place it with the cover facing into the room. Create stacks of books in various heights, mixed in among standing books. Group books by size or color if that appeals to your eye. (I promise you, no one will check for Dewey Decimal system accuracy on your bookshelves!) Wrap some books in plain or colored paper, then hand-write the titles on the spine.

Bookcases aren’t just for books. Take a look around and see what other people are using to turn ordinary shelves into part of their decor, then try it at home.