Can we talk about how to decorate a bookcase today?

I’m up to my eyeballs in them.

At the farmhouse I had the built-ins in the family room and the two tall bookcases in the living room.

But here?

At the new thistlewood?

It’s like a bookcase family reunion.  There are built-ins in the family room and bookcases in the front room and bookcases in the study and tons of thrift store hutches which are first cousins to the entire bookcase clan.

If you have a bookcase, let’s decorate it together.

Here are four simple steps to the bookcase of your dreams.

Here’s our bookcase starting point.

I have two of these in the front room at thistlewood.

They came from IKEA and were super inexpensive as far as bookcases go.  I bought them in white, but I just saw that they come in the prettiest gray now, too.  Each bookcase is 84 1/4 x 37 3/4 x 14 5/8.  Tall and skinny and narrow.  Perfect for this side of the family room.  It has the prettiest beadboard back and each shelf has decorative molding on the front of it.  Some of the shelves are adjustable and some aren’t.  You can tell which shelves aren’t adjustable because of the tiny piece of molding under the non-adjustable shelf.

And for the price?

These bookcases were perfect.

Now let’s get bookcase decorating.

Step 1

Add books.

I know, right?

Captain obvious.

But you would be surprised how many people forget to add books to their bookcase.

I started with the second shelf and put the books on one side and then staggered them on different sides all the way down, skipping the first and third shelves.

And then?

I went back to the empty spots and stacked a few books to fill up space.

These books are typically larger and harder to place upright in the bookcases.

If you have not-cute books and want to cover them, I have the cutest tutorial using wood grain paper here.

Step 2

Add wood.

There’s something about wood that grounds the bookcase.

It kind of blends in with the general book color, but makes it feel rich and textural.

Here I added a DIY speaker and toolbox that my brother made.

In other bookcases in the house, I’ve used wood slices and wood bowls and wood trays and wood accent pieces.

Step 3

Add metal.

Metal gives the bookcase a little shine.

It shakes it up and gives it dimension.

Here I added a stack of galvanized cash boxes and a vintage milk crate.

In other bookcases, I’ve used metal spheres, metal accent pieces, metal trays and metal boxes.

Step 4

Add greenery

A little greenery in a bookcase gives it personality.

This is faux greenery.

I have real greenery around the house, but for some reason, I forget to water the bookcases.  So faux works better here for me.

I did a little bookcase tweaking after I was done and added the white apple and the tiny bird on the drawer at the top to fill up the space more.

And then I changed out the white box at the top for a little more color and a hint of black.

I also added a few more books to fill out the rest of the space.

You can also think vertically and if you like your bookcases more full, add a tray or platter or picture behind the books to fill up the space even more.

That’s a wrap.

Four steps to a bookcase you’ll love.

I’m celebrating this bookcase and all of its relatives.

I couldn’t have decorated mine without my two helpers.

They make the bookcase look even cuter. 🙂

PS  I just taped the most fun podcast here.  If you need a little laugh today and some RANDOM story sound effects—this is the podcast for you. 🙂

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.


  1. Image for Dianne Dianne

    Your bookcases are gorgeous. My problem is that mine are so full of books, there's no room to decorate them!

  2. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    I love it! My problem is I don't have enough bookcases so the ones I have are full of...wait for it...books! Gasp. I know, right? I love how you added in elements of different kinds. Looks so interesting and inviting. For a bookcase, faux greenery is perfect! Don't want to get your books wet!

  3. Image for Dianne Bell Dianne Bell

    Like your idea of putting a picture or platter on your shelf behind the books. Gotta tell ya, I miss the cute little birdie. Tweet! 🌷🌷🌷

  4. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    I was just looking at mine last night, thinking, "those need some help." THANKS! Maybe your two helpers can come make it more fun.

  5. Image for Linda Linda

    Thanks for all your tips on the bookcase. It looks pretty. Love seeing your family the two legged ones.....such a pretty girl....and four legged Buddy .

  6. Image for Pamela Martin Pamela Martin

    I'm here checking out my own bookcases. I can't believe I instinctively followed ALL your suggestions! Go Us! I also wanted to let you know I am loving the 30 day challenges. So much fun without spending money. Thank you so much. *Smiles*

  7. Image for Audrey Johnson Audrey Johnson

    Very nice. Not sure if you knew you did this on purpose or if it just happened that way but you also managed to pretty evenly distribute your weight on the shelves. At least it looks like it is pretty even. So "woot woot" for you either way. Thank you for sharing your gorgeous bookcase.

  8. Image for PAT PAT

    .Your tips are wonderful and I can see how mine would come together if I didn’t have so many books. I think I need taller bookcases so I can spread thing out a bit. This also might be the right time to let go of some of the books I’ve read and reread, keeping just the special ones. Time to D&D (declutter and decorate). Thanks for the inspiration!😀

  9. Image for Marsha Marsha

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful home with us. I truly enjoy your blog. One question I've wanted to ask since I've seen this before on Fixer Upper. Why would you turn book so the spine does not show? To me it completely negates the reason for having book shelves. Shelves for books...whose spines I can read.

  10. Image for Moriah Moriah

    Love your helpers 😊. Thanks for the tutorial. We’ll be building bookcases soon and after all the work we will put into them, I needed to learn how to make them look their best.

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