22 Ways to Arrange Your Bookshelves

With these great bookcase ideas—from painted backgrounds to labeled boxes and baskets—give your space a quick and simple upgrade.

Picture frames on shelves
Photo: Sang An

Find inspiration for your shelves and bookcases in these great photos.

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Frame It

Picture frames on shelves
Sang An

Use empty picture frames to create visually striking geometric patterns against a wall.

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Box It

Home office in living room
James Baigrie

A cleverly arranged bookcase can be as pretty as a window view.

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Use Darker Paint

Monica Buck

Borrow a trick from interior designers: Inside a bookcase, use paint that's a couple of shades deeper than the room color.

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Contrast Solid Colors

Bookcase, table, and chair
Monica Buck

For maximum pop, try arranging the shelves with solid-colored items, like white ironwork or a vibrant vase.

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Put Favorites on Display

Living room
Chip Cordelli

Imagine living room shelves as a display space for your favorite books, photographs, and family heirlooms. You can also arrange a few favorite coffee table books horizontally for visual contrast.

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Color-code Towels

Beauty products and towels on shelves
Jonny Valiant

Give bathroom shelves an organized look by grouping together like-colored towels.

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Label Boxes

Colorful shoe boxes for storage on a bookcase
Antonis Achilleos

Use labeled boxes to house odds and ends without a home.

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Organize by Type

Cookbooks on a shelf with pots
Justin Bernhaut

Shelve items by type―pots on one level, books on another―for a systematic look to your kitchen.

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Keep It Classic

Books and vases in a bookcase
Sarah Maingot

A simple arrangement of classics has the order and stateliness of a library.

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Draw the Eye

Monica Buck

Style a bookcase with unexpected items, like an eye-catching antique or a porcelain statue.

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Contain Items in Glass Jars

Shells and rocks stored in labeled jars on shelves
David Prince

Ordinary items collected in glass jars make an arresting still life.

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Incorporate Unusual Finds

Hall makeover
Mark Lund

Organizing a colorful collection of found objects makes an offbeat (and inexpensive) alternative to wall art.

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Add a Few Eye Catchers

Clocks used as bookends
Aya Brackett

Even just a few striking objects can create a visually interesting display.

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Be Similar, Not the Same

Shelves decorated with letters
Lucas Allen

There's no rule saying that everything has to match. Though these letters vary in look, they work together because they are alike in essence.

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Use Bold Paint

Repainted shelves
Mark Lund

Want to make a bold statement? Let paint do the talking for you.

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Open Up

Coffee table and couch
Hallie Burton

Open shelves and steel hardware give a room contemporary flair.

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Cultivate An Airy, Open Vibe

Shells in a vase on a bookshelf
William Meppem

Whitewashed shelves and conch-shell book stoppers feel as restful and airy as the seaside.

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Add a Chalkboard

Media center
David Land

Hang a chalkboard inside sliding doors for extra playtime fun (or to log your children's TV time).

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Strategize With Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animal as a bookend
Kathryn Barnard

Use a furry friend to keep your child's favorite reads in place.

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Add Baskets

Organized shelving
James Baigrie

Use inexpensive baskets to provide catchall space for sundries.

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Use Cubbies

Toys and books stored in cubbies
David Prince

Divvy up cubbies among your kids and allow them to arrange their belongings as they see fit―so long as it's neat!

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Hang Pretty Panels

Decorated bookcase
Hallie Burton

A smart cleaning strategy for drop-in visitors: panels that prettily disguise what's on the shelves.

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