Bookcase vignette

How to Create a Beautiful Bookcase Vignette

Your bookshelves tell your story with a glimpse into your character, personality, travels, passions, interests, and family. There’s an art to creating a perfectly styled bookshelf. We have some tips to help you achieve a beautifully layered yet balanced look. And it’s easier than you think. Our strategy works whether you’ve got a single floating shelf or a whole wall of built-ins.

coastal farmhouse vingette

Tips and Techniques

  • Start with empty shelves.  Remove everything from the shelves and wipe down each shelf making it sparkly clean.
  • When objects are sparse, add an inviting color contrast for extra punch.
  • When shelves run from end-to-end, books alone can make shelves seem heavy and dense and unappealing. Break up books on different shelves, and display each set differently.
  • Shelving units with many cubbies can easily become visually overwhelming. In this instance, you want to keep the color palette simple (limit to two or three colors, majority neutral) and keep it well-edited.
  • Stylist trick: Overlap some objects and place some at a slight angle. The result will be a more natural-feeling, less-fussy look.
  • Change it up often so that it continues to be fresh.  For summer think about adding a sculptural sea fan, driftwood frames that hold favorite summer memories, and smaller ceramics in shades of turquoise and ocean blue.  Our sea glass beads are a perfect accessory.

coastal farmhouse vignette

Books and Books

  • Determine what books you want to use and lay them all out on a table.
  • Decide how you want to organize them – from a readers perspective or a decorative one.
  • Experiment with pyramids of books or layering them from front to back.
  • Covering books with decorative paper or cloth is an idea for creating a monochromatic color scheme.  You can vary the materials to create an effect that is both eye-pleasing and calming.
  • If you have a particularly beautiful book cover – face it out and display it like a piece of art.
  • Layer your books both vertically and horizontally to keep it from appearing heavy and dense.
  • Use a magazine box to keep loose magazines organized and face them in or out depending on your style or inspiration.
bookshelf vingette

Layers, texture, warmth, character-this space has it all!

Objets d’art

  • Choose your favorite objects and treasures and group items that have similar qualities or that look great together.
  • Mix old and new, treasures and thrifty finds.
  • Bring in Nature. Elements of nature give life to your bookshelf story. A plant, flowers, rocks, shells, a piece of wood or even a birds nest – will give it a sense of curiosity and intrigue.
  • Use some organic shapes balanced with other natural shapes – you might want to have some contrast between graphic, linear and organic shapes. For example, a piece of coral or a shell mounted in a shadowbox.
  • Balance a mix of materials such as metal, ceramic, wood.
  • Look at the simplest, humble odd objects as sculpture – a shoe form, a rock, a shell.
  • Layer in some smaller pieces of artwork, or framed photos.

How to Build Your Vignette

  • Start with the heaviest items on the bottom.
  • Layer each shelf’s vignette from back to front.
  • Put what you need within reach.
  • Create a flow and balance of any color accents or use dark brown or black to ground the various objects and give ‘weight’.
  • Create a focal point on each shelf.
  • Harmonize with scale – some larger, some smaller but don’t dwarf the smaller items.
  • Leave ‘negative space’ to let the objects breathe.
  • Group lots of small things or contain them on a tray or in a low box to give them presence and visual weight.
  • Continue to play with the objects so you get a balance and comfortable contrast in their size, shape, texture, and color.
  • Store less attractive but necessary items such as CD’s or videos or odds and ends that need a home in baskets or boxes.
  • Think of the top, bottom, and back of the shelf as a frame around that vignette you’ve created. Let each one tell a story or set a scene.
  • Enjoy each story on each shelf but stand back and see it as a whole too.
  • Remember the principles of repetition, symmetry, balance, and layering. All of these will make your bookcase a work of art, and will beautifully tell a story with subtlety, intrigue, and harmony.
bookcase vingette

{Styling by Wendy Labrum}