1.Layer to create dimension. Prop picture frames off center behind stacks or rows of books and cluster collectibles, such as bud vases, to add visual punch. If you don’t want pictures and artwork to be obscured, place translucent, clear, or colored glass objects in front of them.
2.Pick a color to tie everything together. Here, the bright yellow frame, flowers, and vases complement the chair.
3.Balance the look. Make sure that a cluster of books appears on every shelf. “Line them up at or very near the edge so there is no trail of dust,” says Kari McCabe, an interior designer in New York City.
4.Paint the insides. This adds contrast and sets off the objects within. You can also cut pieces of fabric, wallpaper, or wrapping paper to fit and affix with glue or double-stick tape.
Paint color: All-a-Blaze by Benjamin Moore To buy: $36.50 a gallon, 800-672-4686 for stores.
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If You Have Books and Other Media
1.Hide unsightly stuff. “Contain anything that isn’t display-worthy,” says Vicki Norris, a personal organizer in Sherwood, Oregon. Stash spare USB wires and instruction manuals in colorful labeled boxes.
2.Corral loose snapshots. Buy postcards (vintage or otherwise) when you’re on vacation and slip them inside the front windows of photo boxes so you know which shots are inside.
3.Think ahead. If there are certain books you need to access often, place objects (like a framed picture) behind the stack rather than on top.
4.Categorize your music. Stow CDs in stackable boxes and sort by genre.
5.Mix the old and the new. A mediacentric bookcase doesn’t have to be entirely cutting-edge. A few vintage touches, like the antique film canisters shown, can add character.
Paint color: Pale Cowslip 4 by Valspar To buy: $25 a gallon, 800-445-6937.
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If You Have Lots of Books
1.Mix and match. Arrange most of your books vertically to save space, but incorporate a few horizontal stacks to spark interest.
2.Add decorative items. “I’d never place more than 30 or so books vertically without breaking the line with a pretty object,” says Meryl Starr, a personal organizer in New York City.
3.Don’t overdo it. “Leave at least one quarter of each shelf free to give a sense of airiness,” says Starr.
4.Illuminate your books. A nighttime reader? Attach a battery-operated click light under the top shelf.
5.Treat your books well. Lay large volumes horizontally to protect their covers, says Babette Gehnrich, chief conservator of the American Antiquarian Society, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Vertical, large books need to be supported by books of equal size to prevent warping
Paint color: Endless Summer by Mythic To buy: $48 a gallon, 888-714-9422.