Tips for Styling Open Shelving

This is the room we call the “Red” room.  It’s the first room in our house off the left of the front door.  It’s kind of a multi-purpose room for us.  At one time it held our giant air hockey table, till we finished part of the basement game room…phew.  It has great light in the morning and is a great place to read the Sunday paper.  We have a desk with a family computer and shelving to hold all the nececcities, and for me that means decor.  I thought I’d show you around and then give you my tips for styling open shelving.

For the walls I chose a dark deep red with a flat finish.  We left the ceiling the main house color (KH Desert Sand) and the trim is glossy white.  The black and white print is a lithograph of Paris my hubs ordered from the Louve, it’s huge and I love it.  The white sofa was a hand-me-down and came with a denim slipcover that I took off for a crisp bright feel.  And the leather trunk was a college graduation gift we’ve had for some time.

Red Room Open House

I’m a huge paisley fan, I even considered naming the daughter I never had paisley, oh well.  Any who, when I saw this gold paisley fabric at Home Fabrics (probably $2 Fabrics back then) I was all over it.  It has a great heavy weight that drapes beautifully.  I whipped up four panels, two for each of my front windows.

Red Room Open House

These views are looking toward the entry and at my new entry rug.  When we built the house 7 years ago my husband worked on building columns throughout the main floor for 72 hours straight.  Seriously amazing.  I kept bringing him food and waiting for him to be finished or crash, but he carried on and completed them hours before the painters came.  I wanted to tie the two spaces together so the red kilim rug was a great match.  It is wool, hand made in India and was on clearance at Home Goods for $69!  Serious score.

Red Room Open House

The room is a hodge podge of styles and that’s just the way I like it.  There are vintage industrial treasures like the lunch box (I used as a scripture bag in high school), the antique typewriter from my husbands grandfather, and the paper sorter in/out box from his other grandfather.  I have two glass lamps that showcase different items from time to time, this one has a birds nest my son found on the street out front of our house, if that’s not nature brought indoors, I don’t know what is.  A statue of Buddha sits atop a Corinthian corbel and my favorite crystal gaudy chandelier hangs in the center of the room (read about this chandy HERE)

Red Room Open House

Styling Tips

First clear everything off your existing shelves, even the stuff you LOVE, for a clean slate.  Find a picture of book shelves that are styled in a way you like.  Study the photo and follow the checklist below as you fill your shelves back up.


  • To me, you can never have enough lighting
  • adding lighting to the outside of the room makes the room feel larger
  • these lamps are on a switch for easy on/off
  • a dimmer switch on the chandelier allows you to control the mood of the room

Red Room Open House and Book Case Styling

Almost Symmetry:

  • I like things to be somewhat symmetrical
  • the lamps are the same but have different things inside each one, one a nest, the other wound up twine
  • black and white art in white frames sit on each side of the shelving, one square family photo, the other a rectangle starfish purchased from Ikea
  • white magazine boxes from Ikea sit on the bottom of both sides of the shelves, both on the left of their book case
  • vintage industrial, beach, and books are sprinkled throughout the space

Red Room Open House and Book Case Styling

Bring the eye to the center:

  • I like having a center drama point
  • with two shorter book cases flanking the tall one, your eye is drawn to the middle naturally
  • add large pieces to the top of the center of shelving
  • the top three pieces add texture, brightness, and personalize to the space
  • the chandelier continues the line up to the ceiling

Red Room Open House and Book Case Styling

Mix up the Depth:

  • even if your shelves aren’t very deep, mix up the depth
  • set art work on the shelf and lean them back instead of hanging for a change
  • layer decor with smaller pieces in front or on top of other pieces
  • place a few items on the diagonal for interest

Red Room Open House and Book Case Styling

Lighten Things Up:

  • if your walls and book cases are dark, add light pieces
  • the white couch brightens up the entire room as does the lithograph above
  • I chose to go with light and natural accents so rope, white, burlap, cream, silver, crystal etc.

Red Room Open House and Book Case Styling

Group Similar Items:

  • I have a lot of books, but I don’t like to look at very many of them
  • group similar colors and stack from large to small and top with a color that flows with the rest of the room
  • if the color of the books doesn’t work in your space, turn them around backwards and just show the pages
  • put books in magazine boxes or decorative bags to help keep things simple
  • weight the bottom shelves with heavy or large items like groupings of magazine boxes

Red Room Open House and Book Case Styling

Mix Up Styles and Textures:

  • go shopping in your house for anything that goes with your color scheme
  • it doesn’t matter the style (vintage, industiral, antique, contemporary, world etc.)
  • shiny, glass, paper, rough, linen, burlap, rope, all work together to add depth

Red Room Open House and Book Case Styling

Don’t be afraid to try it yourself!  I love that I had all of the decor on these shelves and just put it together, cost $0.  So go shopping in your house, search through your stuff and see how it looks together, you never know, you might re-design your whole room.

Linked Up: Home Stories A2Z, Blue Cricket Design, Trendy Treehouse, DIY by Design, House of Hepworths, Funky Junk Interiors, Tatertots & Jello, How to Nest for Less









  • Wow, fabulous tips! Pinning this!! Thanks for linking up this week :)

  • I love this post so much, but I really love the actual shelves. I can’t find the ones I want anywhere and these are them, can you share?

    • Kirsty I got these on clearance from a Pottery Barn outlet called Down East Home fifteen years ago. BUT…I saw some great ones at Target the other day. Here is a link:TARGET

  • looking good

  • nice post

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