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Project Design-Easy Steps to Style Your Shelves

Welcome to our latest installment of Project Design.  If you would like to turn your ho-hum bookcases into an eye-catching display you have come to the right place.  Mary Ann (Classic Casual Home), Annie (most lovely things) and I are joined this month by our talented pals Kris of Driven by Decor and Sherry of Design Indulgence.  I guarantee you will not be disappointed with what these talented ladies have in store for you.



Use old and new, stack some on their sides, some standing with bookends or use some as risers for smaller items



Add Family Photos, heirlooms etc.



Every shelf here has something old or something that looks old.  On the first shelf old books are mixed with brass spheres from Home Goods, and a piece of agate from Home Goods. The second shelf has a new brass sculptural sphere from Home Goods and a faux vintage flask from Refinery in Paso Robles.  Third shelf old wood meat tenderizers, mixed with faux gold coral and design books.


In this particular bookcase, I have used coral, agate, and rope for my natural elements.  You could use plants or flowers (I would kill them. ) Natural items tone down the new factor of store-bought items


I don’t always follow this rule.  The main thing is to achieve balance. Here I stacked a group of the homeowner’s books, added a Home Goods vase, and an oyster shell ball to the mix.


Here I added something natural and textural (coral), a vintage basket for texture, and an old shoe form (vintage and textural)


Due to the dark blue/gray/black of the cupboards, I chose neutral and brass accessories to contrast the dark color of the cupboards. If your shelves were light you should add darker objects to add depth.


Beau kept photobombing while I was trying to take the pictures.  He always breaks the rules.

These bookcases are in my son and daughter in law’s home.  They bought a beautiful old home that is being renovated.  This is the library.  They are massive so it was hard to get pictures of the entire unit.  Here is the main unit. We decided to add these “faux vintage” window casings to the center unit to break up the monotony of too much stuff.  An antique wooden plane resides on the shelf below.

This unit is separated by a door to the entryway and this unit is on the other side of the door.

The cabinet pulls are not permanent.  The pulls from Pottery Barn are back ordered.  The rest of the room is not finished.  Fortunately, you can’t see that part!

Stop by and see what our other talented pals came up with.  I know I am prepared to be humbled!







Reader Interactions


  1. Lisa says

    Cindy these shelves look amazing. I love the color to begin with, but the way you filled them feels so cohesive and not too busy! I have some shelves in my house that are just for display, and then others that are stuffed full of books. A lot of my books are hand-me-downs from my parents-in-law and mom and love incorporating those into my shelves. Also I’ve picked up some pretty hardcover books at thrift stores through the years….I always keep an eye out for the classics that I enjoyed like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, etc. Thank you for sharing all these great tips on composition and styling!!

    • Cindy Hattersley says

      Your classics are my favs too Lisa! Thanks for the kind words. Those shelves were fun to do!

  2. Kris {Driven by Decor} says

    I was smitten at first sight – the color of your shelving is GORGEOUS and you have the best vintage finds that are all styled so perfectly. One question though… where’s the squirrel?! 🙂 Thanks so much for having me sweet friend – you’re so talented and I’m honored to have been asked!

    • Cindy Hattersley says

      The squirrel would have been a perfect addition! Thank you so much for playing along. Your shelves were amazing and you are such a great ambassador. Your blog is so well done. Everything you do you do with such style and ease (at least it looks like it!!).

  3. sherry hart says

    Cindy….Cindy….Cindy….first of all dog love! Second…..I love the color of those bookshelves and the wood tones with it. Perfect combination of books….objects….and whimsey! Loved being a part of this series so a huge thanks for adding me:)

    • Cindy Hattersley says

      Thank you so much pal! I hope you didn’t notice the tacky hardware! We are very happy with the color. My son’s house is so much fun because it is a blank canvas. They lived in a mini house and now a huge one!

  4. Ana maria says

    The tips are very good! The result on the shelves look great! I just seem to not be able to do as well. I try to follow the steps but there is a point where it just doesn’t work anymore. My pieces are never even similar in shape or height as the ones shown in examples… maybe I need to buy new ones! @after60looks – Instagram

    • Cindy Hattersley says

      Ana Maria you can do it! Maybe you are trying too hard. I wish I lived near you I would come help! I think it was Annie who said pile everything up on a table and begin with a blank canvas. Sometimes that is easier than trying to reinvent the wheel. I have to remind myself of that sometimes as well.

      • Ana maria says

        Thank you so much! I’ll try the blank canvas suggestion! Your blog is very inspiring and, as I’m a new follower, I’m loving to go through the old posts… Thanks again!

  5. Karen B. says

    I love their bookcase styling. This is always such a fun series. Our new home doesn’t have any bookcases, but I can always pick up ideas for other areas of the house. Styling is such an art and it’s fun to get ideas.

    • Cindy Hattersley says

      Karen I know you don’t need any help but it is sure kind of you to say so! Have a great weekend!!

  6. Mary Ann Pickett says

    Such a beautiful job, Cindy!! LOVE it. It’s great how you mention using lighter objects against a darker background. And those are meat tenderizers? I was wondering what they were. The mix of old and new is breathtaking. And the antique window frame is amazing in that spot. They must be THRILLED! Your photography skills are great! Of course, Beau improves any photo 🙂

  7. annie diamond says

    I love everything from the color of the shelves to Beau hanging out in front of them while you work. The color, the texture, the shapes and sizes of everything work together in the most masterful way. I love your collection of wooden meat tenderizers, the warm woods of pieces and the texture from things like the coral and rope items. Making notes and pinning away!

  8. home before dark says

    I was an English major. My husband was an English major before law school.His grandmother was a poet. We love books. I’m so old that my favorite way of styling bookcases is to segregate not by color (that move makes me break out in hives) but by subject. Garden books, cook books, art and design books, travel books. My favorite old person tip: bring the books right up to the edge. It makes the books more accessible and reduces dust showing on the shelves. I am always drawn to rooms that are really libraries than bookcases styled with style. Yup. I’m that old!

      • Cindy Hattersley says

        Hi Barbara
        They are young so they do not have many books. I am going to do a follow up post soon on how to work with more books. So many have mentioned that!


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