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5 Steps to Styling a Bookshelf

PAGODA RED’s resident design concierge Laurene Sutko is our go-to for styling bookshelves. Designers and architects often pull her in to add finishing touches, bringing the last ten percent of a project to completion. Here, she shares her top 5 tips for bringing soul, meaning and style to a bookshelf.

1. Make it monochromatic.

Laurene recommends choosing a base color and building around it, the way you might coordinate an outfit.

“Monochromatic color is easy on the eyes,” she explains. “It feels sophisticated and elegant. If you look at the recent inauguration fashions, Kamala Harris, Jill Biden and Michelle Obama all wore one single striking color — from their coats to their pants, dresses and gloves.”

For this arrangement, Laurene started with the deep brown color of the shelf and pulled earth tones out of it, adding a woven basket filled with greenery and coordinating the flowers with an art book enveloped in a saffron yellow sleeve.

2. Mix up your books. 

Place a mix of vertical and horizontally stacked books on shelves. You can do this within the same shelf to create a vignette, or across an entire shelf, alternating between all-horizontal and all-vertical shelves to create a rhythm within your space. “It creates varying heights and adds interest,” Laurene explains.

3. Pair objects to create bookends.

Vases, jars and boxes can all serve as bookends while doubling as art on shelves.

“Symmetry is pleasing to the eyes and suggests traditional style,” Laurene says. “For a more modern look, pair two objects of different sizes or stack a couple of books and use them as a riser for an object.”

Look for sculptural shapes — a provincial jug, a lacquer box or an antique ceramic headrest make a statement.

4. Incorporate your own collections.

For a recent project, Laurene mixed her client’s personal collection of white and gray porcelain with books and natural woven baskets to balance the bookshelf.

“Trinkets from travel work great here,” she adds. “Small objects work perfectly atop a stack of books, like a little punctuation mark.”

Any object can also be elevated to art with the right display. We’ve created custom mounts for everything from hats to jewelry to charms and tokens.

5. Break up books with objects.

Designed by Elizabeth Krueger, the entryway of the Lake Forest Show House was inspired. Here she styled a shelf with PAGODA RED’s vintage taxidermy raven on a bamboo base.

“I love the way she coordinated the raven with other black objects,” Laurene explains. “The black and gold of the objects play off the palette of the shelf and books.”

Create dialogues between related objects. Pair leather-bound books with a leathered vessel, or style brass shelves with a bamboo-and-brass box.

If you need assistance, book a free, one-on-one appointment with us. We’re here to help recommend pieces, style your space, and finish projects big & small. We can also create custom mounts and displays — call 888-878-8628 or email [email protected] to learn more.

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