Reader SOS – How to Style Bookshelves + More

We are back with another “DIY Playbook, Save our Space!”. Our plan for #DIYPlaybookSOS is to take a reader’s space and (virtually) offer design tips & tricks on how to improve it.

Here are some old design problems we’ve solved during this series…

DIY Playbook save our space

Today, we’re tackling 2 smaller questions readers sent our way.

Help Style My Bookshelf

I love this shelf, but I’m really struggling with how to arrange it in a way so that it looks awesome. Here are a few pics of my different arrangements. What do you think I can add or take out from the shelf? What color palette would work? 

First of all, LOVE the bookshelf that this reader chose. It’s this one from West Elm and it’s so sleek and gorgeous. I also think the wicker basket is working on the bottom shelf. It provides some nice storage and texture to these sleek shelves.

How to Style Bookshelves

But when it comes to styling, there is definitely some room for improvement. While the reader has chosen some pretty items to display, they’re not grouped together very well. Some items are looking lonely up there, and others are way too small. We have a comprehensive post that outlines the dos and don’ts of decorating shelves and built-ins, so that is a great place to start!

Here are the dos & don’ts that would help for this particular shelfie…

  • Do – Start from scratch & remove everything off the bookshelf
  • Do – Use baskets for secret storage
  • Do – Layer art & frames on a couple shelves in the back (a frame on the 2nd & 4th shelf here would look amazing!)
  • Don’t – Let items look lonely. Instead, group them in 3’s
  • Do – Use books as decor
  • Do – Vary the heights of objects
  • Don’t – Clump too many items together
  • Don’t – Use items of all the same color/texture/tone
  • Do – Pair smaller items with larger ones

Tips and tricks to show how to style bookshelves

The shelfie from this living room makeover we did can serve as inspiration. It features a wide variety of objects, vases, books, and plants and cohesively comes together! It’s also the same color palette as the reader’s bookshelf (the wood & black). Use books when styling bookshelves

There are a few wood pieces on this wood shelf, but they’re always “grounded” with other items like these gorgeous coffee table books. Use a wide variety of items to style bookshelves

Greenery always adds some much-needed colors, and then choose a metal (like the brass above) to add in another element. How to style bookshelves in your home

Styling is one of our favorite parts of decorating, so I hope you now know how to style bookshelves. Honestly, just have fun with it and keep on tweaking until they look exactly the way you like!

Makeover My Pantry

My pantry needs a facelift. My pantry is located at the top of my basement stairs. I’m looking to just update the area cosmetically (i.e. new paint, possibly wallpaper, paint the stairs, and an actual light fixture.)

How fun is this?! Neither of us has a dedicated pantry space and it would be so fun to have the room to tackle a space like this! I already love the white bins that this reader is using to corral all of her items. She is already on the right track!

Let’s start with the bones of this space…

Updating the Basics

painting wood floors white

Photo via Liz Marie Blog

It looks like the floor and stairs are an old painted wood that’s in pretty bad shape. Since they’re already painted, we’d suggest giving them a fresh coat of paint. Blogger Liz Marie painted all of the wood floors in her home white, and it looks incredible. She answers all of the questions about the process in this post. If the reader painted hers, it would instantly make the entire closet space look brighter!Painting the walls a white or gray color

Next, I would do some painting. I think it would be cool to keep that mustard looking area painted (maybe do a hunter green or navy instead), and then do the remainder of the stairwell a gray, white, or beigey color. That way the dark green or navy will really pop (especially against the white bins).Adding wallpaper to the back of a pantry

Photo via Classy Clutter

Wallpaper would be another fun addition and I’d go for it on the back of the pantry shelves. It wouldn’t be too much area to cover, therefore it wouldn’t be too pricey. Bridget shared lots of recommendations for spots to find wallpaper in this post. I think this wallpaper, this one, and this one would all look good with the other elements in this room. Plus, they’re a bit whimsical!Add a semi-flush mount light fixture to the ceiling

With the floors and walls painted, she could add a show-stopping light fixture! You wouldn’t want to do anything too large or have it hang too low, so a flush mount or semi-flush mount is the way to go.

Here are some that I love…

Organizing a Pantry

Organizing a pantry

Photo via The Home Edit

As I mentioned before, I love the white bins she is already using. However, I’d also add some textured wicker baskets in here too. Maybe up top to corral random items or down below to hold larger ones. Organizing a pantry with inspiration from The Home Edit

Photo via The Home Edit

Clear canisters and jars with labels are always a welcome addition to any pantry too! If you need some serious pantry inspiration (or just organization inspo!) be sure to follow The Home Edit on Instagram. It will make your inner clean freak very happy. Plus, this organizing duo is hilarious.

We Want to Hear From You!

We absolutely love tackling your design problems and think these posts can be really helpful for everyone. If you have a question for us and want our design tips, send us an email at [email protected] with the subject line: Reader SOS. Please include as many photos of the space as possible!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.