Looking to decorate your bookcase? Here are five easy steps to follow, and elements to incorporate for your own home’s bookcases.

decorate your bookcase with white ware

I’m writing this post…..

….because sometimes this is a decorating blog.

Sometimes the blog tells stories (those are totally my favorite).

Sometimes the blog makes a recipe (not so much).

And sometimes we decorate.

Today is one of those days.

And we are talking about how to decorate your bookcase.

decorate your bookcase with covered books

Raise your hand if you’ve ever stood in front of an empty bookcase with a perplexed expression on your face, looked to the sky for inspiration and sighed….

…and wished the bookcase would just decorate itself.

I know.

I understand.

I’ve been there.

That’s why I always decorate a bookcase by the numbers.

It’s super simple. I use a formula on how to decorate a bookcase. It’s an expert bookcase decorating strategy that I should totally take on the road and make millions off of QVC. Once I figured it out the step-by-step, bookcase decorating became as easy as tying your shoes.


All I have to do to is follow the list.

  How to Decorate Your Bookcase

1.  Something to read

I know. Hello Captain Obvious.

Bookcases were made for books.

I know that books are overlooked these days in favor of screens and electronics, but when I’m decorating bookcase, I always, always, always start with the books.

Sometimes I cover them.

Sometimes I stack them.

Sometimes they are vintage and old and well-loved.

But the foundation of any bookcase styling begins and ends with the books.

decorate your bookcase with metal tins

2.  Decorate your bookcase with something to take up space

Bookcases have a lot of extra room. If you filled up every single shelf with books it would totally head into Downton Abbey territory (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But just in case the Earl of Grantham isn’t your father you want to fill up the extra space on your bookshelf with something interesting. I use baskets or boxes or metal tins or numbered boxes or wire baskets or large pieces of whiteware.

Then I stack all those books against it and in front of it or beside it so it fits in perfectly.

decorate your bookcase with vintage pieces

3.  Decorate with something that leans

When you are styling a bookcase, sometimes you have all that space in the back that looks empty and forlorn. It’s like your books are too short. That’s when you fill up the space with something that leans. I use wreaths or pictures or signs or mirrors or vintage tins or the back of a chair like this.

Anything and everything that will fill up the vertical space in the bookcase.

decorate your bookshelf with greenery

4.  Decorate your bookcase with something with texture

All that leaning and stacking and filling up space can get kind of flat. You want your bookcase to stand out from the rest.  You want it to be the kind of bookcase where people walk into a house and nod to each other and say “That is SOME bookcase.”


Just add texture.

Texture makes a bookcase sing with personality.

I use antler bowls and textured baskets and patterned wooden balls and metal spheres and vintage urns and reclaimed wood lanterns with a distressed patina.

(total aside:  a decorating post would not be official without using the word….patina).  🙂

5.  Decorate your bookcase with something metallic

You’re almost done.

You’re almost there.

The bookcase has been stacked and filled and now you simply need the finishing touch. Just add a little bit of shine. Metal brings the icing to the cake—the cherry to the sundae—the earrings to the outfit.

For my bookcase earrings, I use metal spheres and metal letters and metal boxes and giant wire accessories.

Decorating a bookcase by the numbers…..

….it’s going to be big…I’m telling you.

If you try this, let me know how it works for you.

Let me know what you think.

Let me know if your bookcase is the talk of the next party.

And be sure and let me know….

….if you have a contact over at QVC. 🙂

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


  1. Image for Jen Jen

    Decorating bookcases has always been paralyzingly to me, but I recently undertook decorating a built-in bookcase in our dining area. I did lots of research online and was really pleased with how it came out. And going through your list, I think I managed to get all five! Thanks for boosting my confidence a bit today and, by the way, all your cases look amazing!

  2. Image for Julia G. Julia G.

    I have 2 big built-in bookcases that are going to get a makeover using this list. And sorry I do not know anyone at QVC :( Have a great day KariAnne!

  3. Image for Lori Lori

    Thanks for all the tips. I just had new bookcases made for each side of my fireplace and I love them, painted your suggested SW Alabaster. They are styled good but not great, will be on the hunt for a few books and recover them.

  4. Image for Lisa @celebrate CREATIVITY Lisa @celebrate CREATIVITY

    Hi Karianne, your bookcases are beautifully appointed. I have a ton of books and I've added bookcases in almost every room. I'd love to turn my dining room into another library filled with bookcases but I'm sorry to say that idea has been nixed by others several times over-lol. As usual, your styling is gorgeous. Have a nice weekend, Lisa

  5. Image for Regina Regina

    My problem is where to STOP with the first step . . . LOL! And the Metallics? That would be the "jewelry" of the piece - the sparkly earrings, as it were! ;) I love bookcases. You simply can not have too many, in my opinion. Oh, and the word PATINA? Such a good word . . . Sigh . . .

  6. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Oh my goodness! This post is so timely, my husband and I just bought a house on Friday and it has two built in bookcases. Thanks so much for the tips!

  7. Image for Marian@Gathering Branches Marian@Gathering Branches

    This is such a helpful post! My friends are always asking me what I do to make my shelves look good, but I couldn't really explain it because all I do is get a pile of stuff out and mess with it until it looks good. I will be referring people yo your post, girlie. Thanks for making my job easier. And when you're reading this, I'll be fluffing my booth at LUCKETTS baby! I already bought an ironstone lid from MMS. You really gotta do this show sometime. The Other Marian

  8. Image for Kim Kim

    Just want you to know that I'm already following your rules. 1. My bookshelves are totally full of things to read. 2. The books take up space. (Guess I'm doing the Downton Abbey thing.) 3. Since the bookshelves are cheap Walmart bookshelves, the shelves themselves do the leaning. (not so Downton after all). 4. Texture is provided by all the dust accumulating thereon. 5. Do the little shelf pins count as something metallic? Seriously, these are good ideas and someday I may be able to do some of it - after I add on to the house and get rid of some books.

  9. Image for Heather Heather

    My father must be the Earl of Grantham.. because I need more space on my 4 bookcases! Great ideas for those with less though! :) :)

  10. Image for Jenny Blaylock Jenny Blaylock

    I love your bookcase ideas. My problem is that I have so many books (high school librarian). But my bookcases filled with books, plus a few odds and ends looks so messy. I will try your ideas. I just bought a beautiful 4-tall barrister bookcase. It is spectacular. Your bookcases look so pretty.

  11. Image for April April

    I have tons of milk glass for sale in my little shop, and I get asked over and over if it's coming back. I tell them it's a much less expensive alternative to iron stone which is super hot, but can be super pricy too. I also tell them I buy it for myself not because it's "in", but just because I like it. And I also ALWAYS tell them to look up your blog where you have used this classic so beautifully all around your home, and for every season. Now I have another great blog post to send them too. Thanks.

  12. Image for Kim {Pinspired Home} Kim {Pinspired Home}

    These are great tips! Amazingly, after a lot of Pinterest research, I think I got every one of your tips when I decorated our bookshelf. Right now I don't have any bookcases to decorate. Do you have any tips for how to decorate a mantel? Mine is LOOONG (12-foot) and it's driving me crazy! :) Found you at the Party Bunch!

  13. Image for ColleenwithJustPaintIt ColleenwithJustPaintIt

    At the risk of looking like a stalker (I'm really not) I had to tell you how badly I needed this post. Baaaadly. I always thought I could make a bookcase look . . . decent. Until this house, my dream house. My dream house with an OVER abundance of bookcases. Seriously - https://justpaintitblog.com/2013/09/house-update-the-lower-level-2/ (pic is down at the bottom of post) I'm saving this post so I can follow your tips. Oh, I'd do it today, rearrange them, but I want/need to tack some white wallpaper down the backs of the cases to reflect light (only northern exposure windows, ugh). And that is a project that just isn't as much fun as doodling and painting (today's agenda). Which reminds me, I need to go do that. But catching up on my fav blogs is a Saturday morning treat, along with yummy bearclaws.

  14. Image for Tania Tania

    This is such a great post! Bookcases are something I have always struggle with! I shared on my FB page because I think my readers will appreciate it as well! Tania

  15. Image for Diana W. Diana W.

    Sadly, I have no contacts at QVC because there is no doubt that you would make millions and I would get to say "And I got her into there!" ...as I strutted and beamed with pride! You are so talented and so brilliant. I go on vacation in about one hour and after I get some sleep (night shift doncha know) I will be putting the numbers to work for me! Whew! It feels good to be back! I've missed making comments on your stuff!

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