Saturday, August 17, 2019

Styling a Bookcase

I guess you've figured out that one of my favorite things to do is arrange vignettes.  I absolutely love combining vintage and new to create a unique look.   And, if you've been following me, you know that I change things frequently to the annoyance of my family.
My latest change up is an old step back cupboard in my kitchen.  I decided to soften it up by painting the inside the same gray that I used on the outside.  The inside was painted a Ralph Lauren red.  It seems harsh to me now.  Here's my before photo.

 It had already been painted so I didn't have to sand first.  I did prime it.  Since the red was so dark,  I used a shellac-based primer called BIN primer by Zinsser. This primer dries in 45 minutes, but if you don't like to clean brushes with chemicals, I suggest you use a small disposable foam roller brush for the big surfaces and a foam paint brush that you can also toss out when you finish.  It covered the red in one coat.  It took two coats of paint.  This is the same paint color I used to paint my kitchen cabinets.  (More about the kitchen later.)  It's Benjamin Moore Rockport Gray. 
I painted the kitchen two years ago and still like the color.

Here's the after.

Here's a close up of the items on the shelves.

When styling a bookcase, the first thing I obviously do is assemble the items I want to include.  I always select more than I need because not everything will work once you get started.  It's important that the items are similar.  Books always work and are one of the first things I place on the shelves. They can be used as risers and back drops for other items.  An idea to steal is that books don't  have to all be upright.  If you look at the shelves, some are vertical, some on their sides, and those with interesting uneven pages are facing out.
My books are all either old leather books or ones with marbleized covers.   If you're not interested in the hunt, or the expense of vintage books, you can achieve the look a la Restoration Hardware just by covering the books--just like you do with your school books--with paper.

Notice on the second shelf from the bottom they've placed an old dictionary with the pages facing out.  The indentations for the alphabet create an interesting design.

After I place the books, (notice how I interspersed them on the shelves),  I begin placing the larger items.  On the top shelf are two cement garden orbs.  They moved around a bit until they found their place on the top shelf. You need to experiment and move things in different spots,
or if they don't work, take them out of the mix.   
Repetition of like items is another consideration.  Notice that I selected architectural fragments.  They're all different and at the same time blend and serve different purposes.
Some stand alone while others are used as bookends.
Another example of repetition can be seen in the orb shapes.  The garden orbs that I already mentioned, the seed balls, and on the bottom shelf the three French orbs that are made with iron nails and weigh a ton.
 If you look at them  and the rest of the shelves, you'll notice that in addition to similarity of items, you must consider balance and symmetry.
Next I selected interesting items to fill in the other spaces.  Notice though that except for the metal laurel wreath on the bottom shelf, they all have gold tones.  The old clock, the vintage metal mirror, and even the gold boullion fringe draped over the books repeat the gold.  See this repetition of color also in the book spines, the architectural fragment and the crown which is really a Christmas ornament.  In addition to the gold, you can see green, which not only repeats, but adds a pop of color.
I hope you'll give it a try.  It's a bit time consuming, but if you keep in mind Symmetry, Compatibility, Balance, and Repetition, with some juggling, you can do this.
I'd love to see your results.

To see another post with a totally different look about styling a bookcase, go here.


  1. I love this! That is such a great way to set those up and the gray color is beautiful with the colors you put in the bookshelf!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  2. At first, I thought I liked the red in the bookcase and changing it was a mistake....then I scrolled down and saw the end result and realized I was wrong! It looks fantastic, much more refined, and you 'vignette-ed' it beautifully! I L-O-V-E Zinsser primer, but I use the Bullseye 1-2-3. I have never used the B-I-N. What made you choose that over the acrylic based one? Just curious.

  3. Wow...what a difference the paint made...I like it much better than the red.

    The bookcase idea is great too.

    You are so talented.

  4. I had to mark this post because I love that color on your furniture. You did a fabulous job on decorating it too. I think Restoration Hardware should hire you.

  5. Girl, you've got it! I love the whole thing. The styling is point on!

  6. I love the bookcase and your stying is amazing!

  7. Your metamorphosis is absolutely fabulous. I so hope that you enjoy every bit of it.

    Have a very Happy Valentine's Day!

  8. What a wonderful post! That bookcase is gorgeous and your styling of it is absolutely perfect. I sat here studying it forever! :-) I'm a new follower and would love to have you stop by and visit us sometime!

  9. I adore this bookcase-the grey is divine-so much better than the harsh red-I'm your newest follower-stop by for a visit-Claire

  10. I love this bookcase! The color you painted is so pretty and everything on the shelves looks great!

    Have a great day.

  11. Kathy, your bookcase turned out so beautifully! I loved the red but I do like it even more painted the same as the outside. Really shows off the beautiful pieces you placed inside. That takes talent...a real art to finding the right balance...looks great! :)

  12. Gorgeous- love your bookcase! It looks great with the lighter background and love how you have everything arranged on the shelves. It's gorgeous! Thanks so much for coming over and sharing at Feathered Nest Friday! :)

  13. Wow Kathy! You did an amazing job on both the paint upgrade and the fabulous styling!
    I'm incredibly impressed with you ability and eye.
    I had the hardest time styling my bookcase. I finally got it after looking up tips on the internet. It's not easy but you made it look that way!! You are really gifted my friend. Thanks for sharing your talent with us!!!

  14. what a stunner! it went country to chic!

  15. I really like the way this bookcase is styled. So classic, but very interesting and no stuffy. You have a wonderful eye. I would love to have someone like you come over to give a fresh perspective on my stuff.

  16. I so NEED a hutch like that! Gorgeous and love the color change!
    Kate @

  17. very pretty. I love the red, but the white looks nice too.


  18. Oh, this was a great post. I love your beautiful cabinet. I was excited to see the back red and then you said you'd repainted it and now it's even more beautiful. Your arrangements in the cabinet looks just perfect. I'm going to save your snap for future reference for me. I have a big built in in my den and I always feel it's never arranged correctly! :)
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  19. Your bookcase looks beautiful ... fabulous paint color. I love the way you accessorized it ... wonderful tips, too !! *Becca* (new follower)

  20. I wish my bookcases looked like that! YOurs is BEAUTIFUL!!!! I am featuring this post at later today. Grab my "feature" button. Thanks for the great information!

  21. Awesome blog. One of my fave things to do is decorate bookcases. You gave some great tips. I'm happy to be a new follower. Stop by for a visit sometime.

  22. I love the the new paint and I am absolutely in LOVE with how you styled this whole bookcase. Just stunning! I have a strong suspicion your blog is going to grow VERY fast in a short time. You have MAD SKILLS and are a wealth of information! So excited to peek in on you again!

  23. I'm envisioning myself ignoring a verrrry long to-do list tomorrow and playing with my shelves and accessories all day! Thanks so much for this tutorial, I really needed some direction and can't wait to try your ideas. (I think I might need to hit up a Homegoods and/or thrift shop while I'm at it.) I love your cabinet and the way you styled it!
    So glad to meet your blog!

  24. The grey cupboard was amazing! On your second set of shelves I really like how you used things from the garden to decorate in the house. So many people think you can't mix inside and outside items but I love it. My husband found some old gutters at a thrift store the other day. I cleaned them and had him cut them down to a shorter size. They are now used as troughs in the play room. We put a little water in them and the kids can make little plastic and paper sail boats to race up and down the room. I love that I found your blog!

  25. Very pleasing to the eye! I like the symentary and the interesting mix of things. Working on restyling my shelves, so visiting your great posts has been helpful.