The Art of Bookcase Arranging

 Posted by on May 29, 2008  Add comments  Tagged with:
May 292008

My husband thinks I’m obsessive.

He simply cannot understand how I can spend an hour arranging one shelf on our living room bookcase…then rearranging it… then stepping back and looking at it for 15 minutes…then moving one item a fraction of an inch…

But seriously, there really is an art to arranging items decoratively on a shelf. Before we took our bookcase down for floor refinishing, I actually took a picture of it. I had finally gotten the arrangement just right, and I wanted to be able to duplicate it:

Over the years, I’ve picked up some tips that have made shelf arranging less frustrating, and more fun:

1) Groups of 3 or 5 items are the most pleasing to the eye. It’s much harder to arrange items in even numbers.

2) Keep tops of bookcases clear. They’re usually the tallest pieces of furniture in the room, so you want to avoid adding extra height, which will make them seem disproportionate, in comparison with the rest of your furniture.

3) Arrange books in all directions – stacked vertically, standing, and even as backdrops for other items.

4) Photographs and other decorative items look great when paired with books. It adds more visual interest if you use picture frames made from different materials – wood, metal, ceramic, glass – rather than matching frames.

5) Standing books look best when arranged by size, from largest to smallest, with spines flush with the edge of the shelf.

On our shelves….

Top shelf, from left to right:
-Ceramic elephant – one of the first decorative items I purchased for my first apartment. (I love elephants!)
-Antique Bible storybooks – a symbol of our Christian faith
-Decorative trinket box – a gift from a former boss and mentor
-Bee’s handprint at age 2 – ceramic, fired by our former pastor’s wife, who is an artist
-Adorable picture of Cakes at 4 months – taken in the pool at Grandpa and Grandma’s house in Florida

Second shelf:
-Antique books with funny titles – purchased as conversation pieces, from a library book sale
-Willow tree mother and daughter – I love the simplicity of Willow Tree
-Grand Canyon coffee table book, and in front, a picture of us on our honeymoon at the Grand Canyon. The little heart shaped rock was painted by my husband when we did rock painting with Bee. It says, “Dad + Mom.”
-A wedding picture of my stepson and his wife

Top shelf, from left to right:
-Photograph of my stepsons and Bee, holding Babycakes at the hospital just after she was born
-A photo of my other stepson and his wife
-A stack of books – the bottom one is about F. Scott Fitzgerald. We visited his home in St. Paul, Minnesota on the first trip we took together. The other books are of interest to us because they’re about train travel, and we were married on a train.
-On top of the books – Willow Tree father and daughter

Second shelf:
-An elaborate chess set – purchased by my husband on a visit to Madrid
-Antique books about subjects I studied and loved in college – literature and history
-Photographs of my girls, and my parents
-A ceramic jar – made by a sweet little boy who I used to babysit, from ages 3-5. He just graduated from college with an art degree (MAN I feel old now).

Top shelf, from left to right:
-Blue ceramic elephant – purchased at Magnolia Gardens Plantation in South Carolina, on the first long vacation I ever took with my now-husband. We almost got married on this vacation, because we were madly in love, and therefore insane.
-A photograph of my Baby Bee, looking serious. This is rare.
-A photograph of my husband and me in the dining car of the train, just after we got married
-A recipe box from a state university Home Economics program in the 1920s. My husband found this in an antique store and bought it for me, because he knew I would love it.
-More antique books about subjects I love – nature, etiquette, literature

Second shelf
-More antique books that I love
-A picture of Cakes at 7 months
-A picture of my in-laws
-Elephant sculpture by Midwestern artist, Isabel Bloom – the first gift from my husband when we were dating. A gift for no special occasion or reason – except love.

Every shelf of this bookcase is a little vignette, full of special memories. My husband and I like to just sit together, looking at these shelves and reminiscing. The items tell the story of our life together.