I have a confession: I have no books on my bookshelf. Not unless you count the blank decorative books on the bottom shelf. It’s not that I have anything against books (I love books!), but I bought this étagère* bookshelf for the sole purpose of displaying things that have absolutely no utilitarian purpose other than making me happy.
I didn’t buy a bookshelf first, though. I bought a typewriter. Or rather, I fell inexplicably in love with a typewriter I found from a vintage decor shop in Pennsylvania called Life’s Patina (it’s run out of a big barn in my hometown and has enough distressed furniture to drown you in shabby-chic joy).
Now that I was the proud owner of a thirty pound typewriter, I had to find a bookshelf to could accommodate both the depth and weight of it. Most of the budget-friendly assemble-yourself étagères have a depth of 12″ or 13″ and a very small shelf weight capacity. Since my typewriter was 14.5″ deep and thirty glorious pounds, it took a minute to find the appropriate piece.
I ended up going with the Sara Étagère Bookcase ($449.99) from Wayfair. The 16″ depth was definitely deep enough, however, I did take a bit of a gamble with the weight as the shelves hadn’t been weight-tested. It’s been a month a half now and I’m happy to say that the bookshelf is still standing strong.
The rest of the display pieces were mostly things I already owned and had displayed at my old apartment, but honestly, the thought of putting together this bookshelf in a cohesive manner made me want to set the whole thing on fire. Thankfully, I didn’t. So, here are a few tips I learned on how to arrange the perfect bookshelf display without giving yourself an anxiety attack.
- Choose a color palette and stick with it. Too many colors can feel disjointed. I used a primarily neutral palette with white, black, brown, gold and pops of green for color.
- Layer different textures of the same color to give variety while still maintaining balance. The white bouquet compliments the vase behind it due to the contrasting textures.
- Play with different heights. I bought the gold pineapple for an old bar cart while the Nantucket Hurricane and Jo Malone candle were gifts on two separate occasions. They end up coordinating together due to the varying heights.
- Symmetry and negative space draws the eye to specific areas. Each shelf is loosely grouped into sections of three, which makes the overall feel a little less chaotic. Depending on the style of your bookshelf, don’t be afraid to play with different groupings on each shelf and seeing what works best for you.
- Plants. Just plants. There is something about a pop of (faux) living green that feels entirely necessary on bookshelves. I found the display too stark without the succulents and the pop of green from the bouquet. I did end up buying the faux-succulents from Amazon as they weren’t in my existing arsenal: Winlyn Set of 3 Potted Artificial Plants ($24.99). There are about 15,876 faux greenery options to choose from on Amazon, so let your fake green thumb go wild.
- Choose pieces that mean something to you! While many of the items are purely decorative, I framed a few of my favorite passages from books as gentle reminders on living. My mom found the long panoramic photo on the bottom shelf while she was cleaning out the attic of her house in PA. It’s a black and white photo of all the employees at The Paoli Car Shop dated April 4, 1945 (I fully geeked out when she found this). And, of course, the wooden map of Pennsylvania because I’ll always be a PA girl at heart.
Hopefully this inspires you to create your own decorative bookshelf with pieces that you may already have. I had no idea how many miscellaneous knick knacks I had accumulated over the years from gifts and my random buying habits. It was nice to find a home for all of my misfit toys. Happy decorating and thanks for so much for stopping by!
*étagère is the French word for open-shelving. I know, everything sounds better in French.
“History is not was, it is.” – William Faulkner