Here’s a way to make your Bookshelf Beautiful

When I was debating which bookshelves to buy for my living room I did a search for Billy Bookcases and found some very cool examples of ways to make them look more colourful and custom.

 House & Home Magazine

You may or may not know this but what makes a custom bookshelf different from a cheap one is the shelves are thicker.  They are usually two inches instead of one.  Molding was added to the 4 Billy bookcases from IKEA in this image above and the colour certainly customizes it on it’s own.  Now here’s an accent wall I would approve of 🙂

Of course if you paint and style a simple bookcase like the ones I’m showing, you barely notice that they are not custom.

If you paint the back though you have to choose between adding colour with accessories or keeping them more neutral with a painted background.

These are not Billy, but such an unusual bookshelf and colour scheme unusual?  I love it.
I think your book say a lot about who you are?  What’s in yours? You’ll see mine very soon!
If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, contact me for on-line or in-person consultations.

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  1. Maria I love my bookshelves. In my office I have books and family photos. In the living room mostly decorative items and art. Excited to see yours.

    I have a New Giveaway on my site!

    Art by Karena

  2. Love the bookshelves. I have gone crazy with silver leaf and will paint my shelves white with silver background. I didn't want to be too bold and thought it would be the perfect way to use the leaf.
    The first room is my favorite.
    Teresa (Splendid Sass)

  3. Always love a good bookshelf posting since I'm constantly trying to find inspiration on how to design mine. I've just moved into a new home with walls of bookshelves and are a little stumped especially since I'm a kindle user now! I really like the last photo you posted! Can't wait to see what you do with your bookshelves!!

  4. Good tip about the shelves being thicker on more expensive shelving. I've been meaning to hire someone to add crown molding to the top of my cases, I should consider the shelves as well in the update.

  5. Lissa @ After Adornment

    Great Inspiration! My book shelves in my office are a crazy mess and these images get me thinking….especially the 1st image. I love that blue and green combo!

  6. Tanja @ Postmodern Hostess

    A very inspirational post! We have some sad Billy bookcases that have seen a few moves and are screaming for some sprucing up. I think your suggestions are just the thing!


  7. Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions

    Great post for me right now, Maria, as my most recent outing brought me and my current client to the place that is doing her corner bookcase so we could choose the finish. I'm itching for it to be done so I can dress it!

  8. Books, placed horizontally and vertically, a vase here and there, an object here and there, mood lamp, some empty spaces, to give the whole shelf breathing room. May add a mirror as a backing to one or more shelves, still playing with that idea. I have the Crate and Barrel Sloane media center and the two Sloane bookshelves, flanking it. not a big fan of clutter but I do need bookshelves for books so it's been hard to keep things in perspective. Will look forward to seeing yours and also your newly styled bedroom.

  9. Those round storage units are very bad for books. If they spend too long on a not-flat surface, the spines get "cocked" in a permanently warped position and will never sit flat again. It's a stylish way to wreck a book.

    If you like your books, keep them upright on the shelves, not leaning all cattywompus for appearance sake.

  10. I painted the backs of my bookcases pumpkin orange. Because the walls and trim colors are neutral, I think the pop of orange in the backs will bring that color around the my livingroom/diningroom combo really well. Now I just have to cull out my books which is a painful process!

  11. My Billy bookcases have seen a few different states (MN, WA etc.) Right now they are in storage. Now I can't wait to get them out and paint them.

    Once I covered the back of a wall of bookcases with blue maps. It looked really great.

    Can't wait to see yours, Maria. Are you beginning to feel settled?

  12. I've always wanted to paint the back of the bookcase a bright or bold color and never have, I must try it, so striking.

  13. Maria, I come home from vacation and find over 250 emails waiting for me and I go strait to yours because I LOVE your blog! Any guess on the color/manufacturer of the first image with the green walls? I love it and always lean toward "dirty" colors and I have an office that I want to get bold with.

  14. I like the first picture too. The same ideas can be applied to glass door cabinets. Dark cabinets with a light interior help the objects inside stand out – especially if the cabinet isn't lit inside.

  15. Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home

    I like all of these pics! Though I agree with Lazy Gardens about the round bookshelf. I love changing the look of my bookshelves every so often. I need to try painting the backs, but deciding on a color might make me go nuts!:)

  16. Hey Lazy Gardens and Christina,

    I'm fascinated with how passionate people are about books. When I showed the bookcase I decorated with dental textbooks positioned backwards I got a nasty comment suggesting my client was not a book lover which indicated that they had no soul or something. I would have deleted it because it was my clients home but she had already seen it and responded so I left it.

    These were bright red and blue textbooks that got to be used on this particular bookshelf which was designed to be decorative because it was in the kitchen eating area. Way better then being dumped somewhere in my opinion.

    I think books really do have their own personality which is why we have strong opinions about how they are taken care of and placed.

    It's a very cool artsy photo, which is why I posted it, not to be confused with the way it should be done.

    Thanks for your comments!

  17. I love that last pic with the orange rug and that chaise is to die for! I recently painted the back of a built in all white wall size bookshelf of a client with a deep gold and added black knobs and it totally transformed the piece form ordinary to something to notice.

  18. Between you, me and the Fencepost

    I really love that last picture of the round shelves. Could I even call them shelves? I always thought I had no clue how to make my space more beautiful because I had no taste or I simply didn't have the decorating 'knack'. Now that I have become religious reader of your blog I am noticing little ways to make my home a more beautiful. Ideas from you to even make my bookshelves lovely. Shelves are not just for throwing books onto when I'm done reading! Who knew?

  19. To get a quick change in a bookcase, take out all the shelves and use double-stick tape to attach a sheet of paper. Gift wrap, hand-made Japanese papers … whatever you want. Then put the shelves back.

    That storage unit is probably made of "Sono Tubes" (
    the forms used to pour concrete pilings. Cut them to length with a hand saw and paint or paper them of you want. A local needlepoint store uses a wall of them for yarn bins. (Maria would go nuts at the colors)

  20. Lazy Gardens,
    Thanks for those tips – it really adds to this post.

    I love readers like you!!
    I'm guessing that green is something like:
    SW Luau Green, 6712.
    Hope this helps,

  21. I'm loving your blog. I've been a reader for a long time. This would be my first comment though 🙂 I am remodeling and redecorating my home and I too am having trouble with finding just the right artwork with the right colors for my room. You have helped me so much in making color choices that I was so unsure about. Thank You so much!

  22. By the way, if you were close I would hire you in a heart beat. But I am located in North Carolina in a small town with no designers in sight.

  23. Talk about perfect timing! This is just the post I needed! I'm so anxious about my bookshelves and so glad you addressed them here. I'm having bookshelf anxiety attacks. Too many books, not enough shelves, and not certain how to 'style' them.

    When I get caught up…if I get caught up…the bookshelves are going to get some serious attention around here.