Turning Bookshelves into the Focal Point of a Room

enigmachck1/FlickrBookcases are not just for books.  In fact, with everything available online or on discs, we are accumulating fewer books. Back in the days of encyclopedias, we could always count on knowing that at least one, maybe even two shelves of our bookcases would be filled with elegant books.  So, what can we do with all of those empty shelves?

Bookcases are one of the largest architectural features in a room.  They usually have strong straight lines that act like a picture frame.  What ever is put inside on the shelves becomes your personalized piece of art.  As a result, I approach accessorizing bookcases just like a blank canvas or empty room.  It is all about composition – a juggling act of colors, sizes, shapes, textures and function.

1. Begin with a clean slate and remove everything from the shelves.

2. Take a look at your shelves. It is not necessary to have ALL of them in the bookcase unless they are stationary. In general, I like to have an odd rather than even number of surfaces to accessorize. Then, adjust them so that they are at different heights.  As you proceed, the exact heights may change.

3. Gather items that you love and would like to display.  It is helpful to make groups according to a theme, similar colors or a favorite collection.  Then make a separate group for your books.

4. Begin by placing the three largest items on the shelves. These will be the foundation and feature the most visual impact for your arrangement.  They could include anything from a sculpture, a piece of framed artwork, a flower arrangement, a basket or a collection of pottery or glassware.  Stand back and take a look. They are your primary focal points.  The idea is to make sure they appear balanced.  That means that the eye will travel easily across the space and rest on these pieces.  You will find that too much symmetry is jarring.  Likewise, everything placed perfectly in the middle of the shelves lacks interest.  You will also be able to identify if placing certain items too high will make it appear top heavy.

5. Fill in with medium sized pieces and groupings of smaller items.  Search for items that will incorporate both color and texture for interest. Don’t leave them “floating” on the shelves.  Instead, try grouping them in ways that will make them purposeful . . . all one texture, all one theme or all similar in color. Use books to raise the height of smaller items.  Keep little trinket items to a minimum or it may appear messy.  For example, place a framed photo from the beach on top of a couple of books that are lying on their side.  Place a treasured seashell in front of the photo and turn the whole group at an angle.

6. Next, arrange your books.  A general guideline is that your bookcase should be 1/3 books, 1/3 decorative items and 1/3 open space.  Place smaller books up high and larger or taller books lower to avoid a top heavy appearance. Keep collections of books together or group them according to color and size.  Now, do something different.  Lay some of them in a stack on their sides.  Prop a couple at an angle.  Push some against the back wall while others are lined up closer to the edge. Vary the angles of the stacks and collections for more depth.  A stack of books can be interesting when arranged in a fan with a lovely accessory on top.  To unify the appearance of your books or for a punch of color, consider making some simple covers out of pretty gift papers that blend with your décor.  If you need more to even out your proportions, additional books are readily available at garage sales and flea markets at reasonable prices.

7. Now when you stand back, it will be easy to see if you have achieved the balance of color, shapes, dimensions and scale. From here the fine tuning is as simple as, "Add more color here, take away something there or turn a particular item at more of an angle." It is always helpful to walk away for a while and return with a fresh eye. Obtaining the perfect arrangement is a process that will always be open to change.

Additional details for your bookcases:

8. Painting the back wall of your bookcase the same color as your walls will make them appear visually lighter and more open. You can even choose to paint that back wall a different color to create more drama.

9. Lighting has a major impact on any design. Consider incorporating a lamp on one of the shelves. "Hockey puck” lights can be set on the shelves as a back light or feature light to your accessories. If you have track lighting, direct a can downward to highlight all of your treasures.

10. Draw attention to the height of your room.  If there is open area above your bookcases, take advantage of this space to present something stunning.

Kass Wilson of Wallstreat Studios is a H ometalk - http://www.hometalk.com - writer.  Read more articles like this one - https://www.networx.com/article/accessorizing-bookshelves - or get help with your home projects on Hometalk.com.

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