The style of your apartment, from top to bottom, reflects your personality. It also impacts your own satisfaction with your home. So when you decorate and design, you should leave no stone unturned, not even your bookshelf.

Yes, you can decorate this often overlooked piece of furniture with flair and fashion.

Bookshelves are an easy way to add color and vibrancy to any room. Beyond their primary function, you can use these furnishings to show off favorite pictures and collectibles.

Whichever way you choose to set up what goes on your bookshelf, it needs to assimilate with your apartment’s decor. Strive to do it the right way. Otherwise, it will look cluttered instead of coordinated.

Use these five steps to styling your bookshelf to complement your apartment and enhance the ambiance of any room.

1. Empty the Shelves

Your current design isn’t working, or you probably wouldn’t be here. 

It’s understandable. The bookshelf is one of the most overlooked pieces of furniture in the home. Its typical expectation is that of storage, not style. 

That was the old thought process, though. Those preconceived ideas you have of what a bookshelf should look like?

Toss them out and move on with an open mind.

First, clear off all your shelves. It’s easier to start from square one with an empty palette.

As you remove your items from your bookshelf, categorize them into stacks. Pile your books together in one section. Keep your pictures separate, and place anything else you want to store on the shelves in different areas.

Once the shelves are bare, take a few minutes to clean them. Wipe them down with an all-purpose cleaner and then vacuum up any remaining mess. 

This may be the last time you see all the shelves completely bare for a while, so pull out your bookshelf and clean the floor and wall it was covering. If you’re going to do something — do it right.

2. Check Out Your Books

It's common to want to keep every book that made an impact on you when you read it. But some of them might be ready for retirement if they're too fragile to live on a shelf.

Like in a library, all your books should be in good shape. Ripped dust jackets? You might want to get rid of them entirely and replace them with another copy. Try not to store books that are old and worn (but still valuable!) in easy reach.

Meanwhile, you want to store your books to match your apartment’s style. What is the overall look you’re trying to emulate? Comfortable? Contemporary? Vintage?

Whichever way you want to head, you can use stacking patterns to give your bookshelf flair. Create stacks of books that look similar to each other. Keep these books together as you return them to your shelves.

Rotate how you stack them vertically and horizontally. Mix vertical rows and horizontal stacks on the same shelves in patterns.

3. Return Your Personal Items

Once you've stacked books, you can begin returning your personal items to their new, styled places on your bookshelf.

Think about what you’re putting where. Don’t just return everything where it fits. If the item doesn’t flow with your apartment’s style, it might be better off in another room. If it’s a picture, look for a frame that complements the room’s design better.

Perspective matters, too. Use your books to help prop up things that can’t stand alone. Vary the placement so that there are taller items on each shelf to catch the eye.

Keep the colors of your collections together for cohesion. Use less decor on shelves where the spines don't mimic your apartment's look. Add those items next to the stacks that do match, to draw the eye there more.

4. Bring in the Decor

Now it's time to talk about style. Storage solutions, like bins and baskets, can hold your collections, make order out of your clutter, and add to your theme at the same time.

The trick is to make sure what you use compliments your apartment’s style. The same goes for your knickknacks and other decorative items.

This can be a really enjoyable part. If you don't have enough storage baskets or trinkets to link your bookshelf to your decor — get some!

If your style is rustic, give yourself a bit of free rein (within your budget). Shop for some wooden signs, cowboy boots, or other country-inspired decor. A cactus plant adds the finishing touch and helps improve your apartment’s air quality at the same time!

5. Make it Instagram-Ready

At the end of the day, you are the one you're trying to impress with the finished look. Are you pleased enough with your bookshelf to post it on Instagram?

Step back and check out your “final” outcome. Adjust anywhere you are not happy with the visual. Watch for symmetry and balance. If it’s out of balance to you now, it will irritate you later, too.

Tweak, rotate, adjust, and repeat until you are completely satisfied. Then show off your newly curated shelf on social media, #shelfie!


Being too matchy-matchy with everything in your home is a no-no, but keeping the same style throughout your apartment is a design-do. This spreads to your bookshelf, so it’s time to give your once basic furniture item a renovation.

With these five steps, your traditional book storage and knickknack collector will go from existing to stylish. Meanwhile, you’ll have fun dumping the old-style bookshelf notions and setting your creativity free!


Caitlin Sinclair is the Business Manager at Jefferson Mockingbird. With over five years of property management experience, she begins and ends each day loving what she does. She finds joy in helping current and future residents and makes Jefferson Mockingbird a place everyone loves to call home.