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Expert Mama: Paper and Stitch Shares Top Tips for Styling Bookshelves

Photos by Brittni Mehlhoff of Paper and Stitch

Don’t let those empty or unorganized book shelves in your kid’s room intimidate you. There’s an easy way to get those shelves looking their best in just a few minutes. And today I’ll break it all down for you in just a handful of easy steps. You’ve got this mama.

First things first. You have to start with a clean slate. Take all the books off the shelf so the shelves are completely blank. Then separate out the books that you and/or your child read most often along with the books with the coolest covers. Start a new pile for heavy books that most likely can’t be supported by the book shelves and store those in another area, like a floor basket, if possible.

If you have deep shelves that can fit many books at once, your first step may be to add some framed artwork. You can simply rest the framed artwork against the back of the shelf or hang it a few inches above the shelf on the wall to keep the shelves clear for books. It’s a great way to add a little extra height and visual interest before layering in all the books.

If your shelves are a bit more shallow, like mine though, you can skip the artwork and go straight to the books! The first thing I like to do when styling book shelves is add the child’s favorite books to the shelf closest to the ground, so they can more easily reach those on their own. This will also (hopefully) keep them from attempting to climb those lower shelves to get the books they really love. Haha.

Then, start working in any other books that have great covers or fun pops of color. Arrange books in varying heights, with the tallest books in the back and shortest books in the front. This will not only be visually appealing, but also, helpful when you’re searching for a particular book to read.

In addition to layering various books by size, I also think about the overall balance of color being amongst the shelves. For example, we have a lot of books with white covers, so I use those as a base. Then, I sprinkle in the colorful books throughout the three stacked shelves. This helps the eye continually move around and makes the shelves feel considered and well-styled (in a casual, effortless way).

Want something even more colorful? You can always arrange books according to color, for a rainbow effect that kids are sure to love. Just separate books on the floor by color and then pop them back onto your shelves in color order, or however you’d like.

Once the books are taken care of, you can stop there or add just a couple more things. Whenever I can, I squeeze in a handful of toys and/or stuffed animals to kid’s bookshelves for a little something extra. This helps keep things from feeling too stuffy (it is a kid’s room after all) and breaks up all the straight lines.

I love using slightly larger toys with a thin profile, like that cute Moon Picnic face puzzle. Then, I sprinkle in soft toys too, like these lightweight Maileg stuffed animals. Soft toys like these are great because they don’t weigh down the shelf and add a little bit of whimsy. And that’s it! Just like that, your shelves are styled! Pretty easy, right?

P.S. Great book shelves don’t have to be fancy to look good. The ones I have in Hayes’ room may seem unusual, but they’re actually from Ikea and only cost $13 each! They’re the SAMMANHANG wall shelves.

Looking for cool kid’s books with great illustrations to further inspire your book shelf styling? I’ve rounded up more than 60 cool books for kids to help. And every book cover on that list is like a little work of art (perfect for shelf styling).


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