9 Apartment Decorating Ideas to Spruce Up that Drab Bookcase

Decorated bookshelf

Apartment decorating ideas for that ginormous bookshelf… when you only own three books.

How many times have you attempted to decorate your bookshelf, only to find it looks worse than before? I’ve personally lost count. No matter how hard I’ve tried to do it like the pros, my bookcases still just look like shelves with stuff on them. Sigh.

If you’ve had your Scarlett O’Hara moment and are done with your bookshelves being a total snore, welcome to the club. Let’s have t-shirts made. Here are 9 apartment decorating ideas to get you started:

1. Make it pop

If your bookcase has a back to it, paint it a couple shades deeper than your room color. This will morph your shelves into a bold focal point. Or, if you’re a pattern kind of gal, one of my fave apartment decorating ideas is adding wallpaper instead, such as a bright chevron pattern or zebra print. If your bookshelves don’t have a back to them, don’t fret: You could also paint the top, sides, and bottom of each shelf and turn each shelf into their own canvas.

2. Master the art of book placement

Okay, so you don’t exactly have the mounds of books you used to (thanks a lot, technology!). Start decorating your shelf by creating funky groupings of the books you do have. Sort them by subject, size, even color scheme. Break up the monotony by learning different ways to stack your books.

3. Make sure to leave a few empty spaces

This is one of those apartment decorating ideas you know is important, yet there’s always this nagging desire to stuff a shelf with everything you own: Leaving empty spaces on your bookshelf is key, especially if you’re decorating a smaller room. It will give the shelf a clean, minimal look, and will create the illusion of a roomier space.

4. Add attractive boxes and baskets

We all have odds and ends (random photos, owner’s manuals, takeout menus) that give off a messy vibe no matter where you put them. Find some funky or bold-colored boxes and baskets for your shelf that’ll serve a dual purpose: The blocks of color and pattern will break up the structure of your bookshelf, while serving as a clutter-free place for your homeless knick knacks.

5. Organize like items in clusters

Cluster your collections and themed items together to create the biggest bang. You can also group items based on shape, texture, color and material. Or if you dig minimalism, use an odd number of like items in a row (3, 5 or 7) to tie your shelf together.

6. Layer to create depth

Use interesting artwork as a backdrop for your books and collectibles to create a cozy, three-dimensional effect.

7. Go big or go home

Ditch itty bitty accessories and go for bigger, bolder accessories that will stand out (even from across the room). Shoot for things like tall vases, large sculptures or giant balls of knotted rope. Give smaller items a larger presence by collecting them in a bold container, such as a vintage jar. Not only will this keep your shelf clutter-free, but you won’t have to spend the next decade dusting everything.

Also, don’t forget the top of your bookcase! Give it some love by leaning large pieces of artwork on it, or use the space for otherwise awkward objects that won’t fit anywhere else.

8. Be yourself

Don’t decorate your shelf based on how you “think” it should look – go with your gut instinct, and use apartment decorating ideas like these as a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Display the things you’re passionate about, that make you smile, and that tell others exactly who you are.

9. Take your time

The fact is, your bookshelf will never truly be “done.” It will evolve as you do – but as long as you can look at your shelves and say, “This is me,” then you’ve already won the battle.

What apartment decorating ideas have transformed your bookshelves?

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Image: Urbane Apartments

Krissy Brady

Krissy Brady is a women’s health + lifestyle writer who’s so out of shape, it’s like she has the innards of an 80-year-old. Instead of learning how to crochet, she decided to turn her emotional baggage into a writing career (genius, no?). You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (you know, if you want).