Styling Bookcases For a Much Used Family Room: Mixing Pretty and Necessity

I posted a photo last week on Instagram and my Facebook page that stirred some questions – I was lounging in front of the fire with a glass of wine and the Pioneer Woman on tv…the tv that is mounted between two bookcases.

These bookcases always stir up some questions – about cable boxes, about cords, about styling. I wrote a post a couple years back on all of that – but when my old blog site was hacked, it disappeared. 🙁

So I thought I’d take some current pics and start it all over again! Because I love you. Truly, I do.

tips for styling bookcases

styling bookcases

This wall is one of my favorites. The only thing I reeeeeally wanted in my grown-up house one day was a fireplace. I grew up with one, and my dad would light one pretty much every night from October through March. I loved just sitting in front of that thing…I could stare at it for hours.

But when I got my grown-up house, it did not have one. I had to settle for a plug-in. Oh well, can’t have it all, right?! 😉 Still feels cozy to me. I painted it white, bought some Billy bookcases from IKEA, the hubs bulked them up with molding, and I painted the backs of them Sheffield Grey by Olympic. Mounted the tv above the fireplace, and we were in business.

Time for the fun part!

tips on styling bookcases

Now, this is THE room in our house. We hang out in here, we watch movies, we play, we read, we jump on the couches and eat picnic dinners on the floor. So I had to incorporate some function in these shelves – they can’t just be pretty.

We “hid” the cable box and DVD player in here by cutting a hole in the back of the bookshelf for the cords.

hiding DVD player in bookcases

See the DVD player down at the bottom?

And the cable box in the photo below?

hiding the cable box in bookcase

We HAD to have a place for them in our family room, and this solution worked great. Now, for the cords…

Look at the top of our lovely skinny 1960s baseboard in this pic:

hiding cords from cable box

We used some stuff called plastic raceway my husband knew about – it hides all the cords, and then we just plug everything into an outlet behind our fireplace. Major win!

Back to the accessorizing…

You’ll see we use baskets and boxes for stuff like DVDs, legos, magazines – all that stuff that is crucial to our family fun in here…

hiding DVD player in bookcases

And that tray on top of the DVD player is where we stick the remotes!

styling bookcase tips

Then, once I had that stuff worked in, I styled ’em up!

I’m no expert on the subject of styling bookcases, by any means, but here’s what I do.

1. Vary the heights. You don’t want a bunch of small, short objects all lined up on a shelf. Or maybe you do – to each his own, right? But again, this is just what visually appeals to me. I like some variation.

tips for styling bookcases

Which brings me to my next tip:

2. Stack those books for height. It not only adds some interest, it accomplishes the task of giving accessories some much needed height. Like that little white plate you see there – placing it on a couple small books not only raises it, but shows it off so much more, against that dark book cover.

And the clock (that has needed new batteries for about 2 years now, by the way…) – if it weren’t on a few books, it would be the same height as the other objects on the shelf. Sticking it on those books interrupts that line…and I think makes it stand out more, too.

3. Photos! I can never get enough photos. Most of mine are black and white – it keeps some continuity and when there’s so much going on with books and everything else, the lack of color in a photo is sometimes very much needed. I do have one favorite photo in color though – but I’m ok with that;)

tips on styling bookcases

tips for styling bookcases

No, it’s not the whole blue/black vs white/gold dress thing again – your eyes are NOT playing tricks on you. I opened my front door to take a couple pics RIGHT before my battery died, so the natural light changed the whole vibe of the photos. I have zero clue why I didn’t do that in the beginning – natural light shots ALWAYS look better. Blogger fail. And yes, I could have waited for the battery to charge and taken similar shots later on, but I don’t have patience for things like that. You know this about me by now, right?

4. Vary your books. I have books on the left side, on the right side, stacked in the middle – just makes it fun.

5. Pick up chotchkies now and then. It can be expensive to fill up bookcases. When you’re out, pick up a knick knack – if you spend $5 here, a couple bucks there, before you know it, you’ll get that bookcase filled and you won’t drop a ton of money all at once. That green glass vase was on clearance for I think $2, those old books on top of the cable box were a yard sale find for next to nothing. And those white boxes we have holding photos at the bottom are those $2 white boxes from Michaels, with just a strip of Washi tape around the top!

styling bookcases

6. Jazz up the back of your bookcase and accessorize with contrasting items. I chose a dark blue paint for the backs of my bookcases, and so lighter objects really stand out. Mercury glass, white pitchers, light wood frames – they really pop. You could also use wallpaper to make the backs of your bookcase interesting, and if you choose a light color, you might want to choose brighter or darker accessories. Contrast, in my opinion, is never a bad thing;)

I hope you find something useful in my little list of tips. Bookcases are a great way to cozy up a space, add some personality, charm, and add function all at the same time. It’s no wonder these are one of my favorite projects of all time!

styling bookcases

tips for styling bookcases

Happy styling!



  1. I love it! I have a few new bookcases and just have not taken the time to style them – You’ve inspired me! Or maybe you can just come down to warm/sunny Florida and style them for me :-)!

  2. Can you tell me a little more about your fireplace? Like you I always wanted one, but alas our house doesn’t have one either! Thanks!

    • I got it at Lowe’s, I believe – it just plugs into the wall. You can turn it on just for looks, or if you want heat, it’s like a little space heater inside it that gives off heat. I always just flip it on with the switch for the looks of a fire! 🙂

  3. Heather says:

    Love it! You’ve done a beautiful job. Is your family big readers? My problem is that I have 4 huge and 3 small bookshelves absolutely packed with books… and no room for styling. Maybe I need to add on a library!

  4. Nancy Fronckoski Furman says:

    Hi. I’ve been following your posts for awhile now and I’m not sure how I got connected to you. You have a beautiful home and great ideals. Today while looking at your bookshelves I realized we are related. I saw Paul in a photo. His grandmother ,Ruth and my grandmother were sisters.

  5. Very beautiful! Thanks for sharing. We just moved into a house with built in bookcases on either side of the fireplace and you’ve helped me a ton!

  6. Could you provide the link to the post that example a bow your added the molding to the bookcases? I just bought some hilly bookcases myself and I’m looking for some ideas 🙂

  7. I love your fireplace and bookcases, this is just what I was looking for. My space won’t accommodate built-ins, although I love them. I was worried that space between the fireplace and book cases just wouldn’t look right, but yours looks great, thank-you!

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