I don't believe that there are rules for styling shelves. It's such a unique and personal way of showing off your collection, that preaching my rules feels just plain wrong. I will, however, share my number one tip!
One of the best ways to dress up, or rather, dress down your books is to remove their dust jackets. The floppy papers wrapped around the covers have lots of color/style variety, so removing them can strip the book down to its simplest form. The book's actual spine is traditionally one color, with an understated typeface. It's so much more of a classic style that keeps your bookcase looking more intentional, and I actually find it easier to locate my favorite reads.
Everyone loves an animated gif, so I put one together to show off how much of a difference removing the dust jacket makes. (If you're reading this in an RSS reader, click through to the original post to see the animation.)
If you're less of a gif animation person and more of a spot-the-different person, well, here you go:
Did you see the Audubon book without its jacket?? So. Pretty.
Once I stripped the books of their jackets, I collected things that I love from around my home and moved them around on the shelves until it felt right.
That timelapse (if you're in an RSS reader, you may have missed it and you should click here to see it) was my whole entire process. You can see I changed my mind several times, and kept tweaking over and over. My approach is more organic and less crafted than profesh designers might do.
As I made changes, I kept an eye on color, texture, height, and objects - aiming to vary them throughout the bookcase. It isn't perfect, and I'm still continuing to tweak things.
If you want to get serious about styling your shelves, you could keep everything to a uniform color palette, turn less-pretty spines to the back, or use more sculptural items to match a theme. However, I like books for being books. I'm generally not a fan of the shelves that organize the spines by color.
I also like to style my home with things that I find to be unique or heirloom-y. I'll supplement with knick knacks from Home Goods, but what I love about this shelf most is the vintage camera, the handmade pottery, the books we like to read, the record from a recent concert, the old-school Trivial Pursuit game, and the artwork that I'm drawn to.
But really, you do you. Go for the monochromatic scheme, the packed-to-the-gills library, the minimal look, or the filled-with-tchotchkes collection. I encourage you to make it feel like a representation of you and your home!
Looking to add more to your shelves? Below are a few of the items on our bookshelf. But we'd like to add more, what are your book recommendations??
Oh, and that very first photo was taken by my friend Dani for an exciting project coming up. (!!!)