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How To Style Your Bookshelves With Stuff You Already Own

Styling bookshelves is about more than making use of the extra storage space—they double as decor, too.
By Mandy Milks
How To Style Your Bookshelves With Stuff You Already Own Chatelaine editor Maureen Halushak—and her cat, Taffy—in her home office. (Photo: Erik Putz)

To help tackle her new built-ins, Chatelaine’s editor-in-chief, Maureen Halushak, called on designer and stylist Mandy Milks. With a few accessories and some Pinterest inspo, they curated an artful space that showcases Maureen’s favourite books, plants and family photos—and added some much-needed organization to her home office.

How To Style Your Bookshelves With Stuff You Already Own (Photo: Erik Putz)
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By the books

When it comes to styling shelves, a little prep work goes a long way. Before you get started, think about the look you’re going for: Do you lean toward a maximalist aesthetic—like Maureen’s—or a pared-back, minimalist look? Do you prefer pops of colour or gravitate toward neutral tones? This will help you find inspiration and set you up for success. Then, scour your home for items you already own to add a personal touch and keep the project budget-friendly. Your shelves will evolve with you and your space as your collection grows and changes—it’s about the journey, not the destination!

How To Style Your Bookshelves With Stuff You Already Own (Photo: Erik Putz)

1. Think big

The first step in striking the perfect balance is figuring out where the largest items will go. Place visually bulky items on the bottom shelves.

Pro tip: Make the most of the empty floor space below your shelves by using baskets and decorative boxes to corral clutter.

How To Style Your Bookshelves With Stuff You Already Own (Photo: Erik Putz)

2. Make it personal 

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Family heirlooms, souvenirs and vintage pieces add character, texture and interest; plus, they’re a great way to keep special people and places close.

Pro tip: Finish with a touch of greenery—nothing makes a space come to life like plants and floral arrangements.

How To Style Your Bookshelves With Stuff You Already Own (Photo: Erik Putz)

3. Use your books

Whether you organize your books by colour, size or subject, mix things up with vertical groupings and horizontal stacks for a laid-back vibe.

Pro tip: Remove dust jackets from hardcover books to reveal the colourful cloth covers and embossed lettering underneath.

How To Style Your Bookshelves With Stuff You Already Own (Photo: Erik Putz)

4. Edit your work

Stand back and take a photo of your shelves (this will help you see the composition through fresh eyes) and rearrange groupings as needed.

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Pro tip: Not confident in your vignette building? When in doubt, style your accessories in groups of three.

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