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Style your shelves! New looks for your bookcase

Elizabeth Mayhew shares simple and easy decorating tricks to make over a bookcase.
/ Source: TODAY

We've all seen perfectly styled shelves in magazines and catalogs, but chances are our bookshelves at home aren't quite as beautiful. But why neglect a big part of your home? TODAY lifestyle expert Elizabeth Mayhew shares step-by-step instructions on how to spiff up your shelves:

Inevitably in every home, bookcases become the dumping ground for papers, photos and books (of course), and rarely is thought given to their appearance. I find this strange because bookshelves are, after all, open — you can see everything on them and unlike their sister, the closet, they can't be covered up. By following a few easy styling tricks, you can turn your bookshelves into artfully arranged tableaux.

EditRemove all items from your bookshelves. Store paperbacks out of sight; they are not attractive enough to take center stage. Remove and discard any ripped dust jackets. Keep only items that are of good quality, line and design. Sort books by size and subject matter (e.g., fiction, cooking, gardening, reference).

Line upLine up books on shelves, stacking them both vertically and horizontally in a rhythmic pattern. This will add visual interest to the shelves and break up the monotony of rows upon rows of books. There isn't an exact ratio, but Mayhew suggests more of the books in vertical stacks with a horizontal stack every so often. It also depends on the size of your books; some books are just too tall to stand vertically.

Agerum bookcase, $79.99 from Box
Maximize unused space with attractive boxes. Boxes allow you to neatly store everything from photos to computer manuals, and their solid blocks of color break up the rows of books. The color of the boxes is a personal preference, but you should choose only one color because you want to unify the bookcase (and you'll already have a lot of colors from the spines of the books).

Havana photo boxes, $30 for medium, $36 for large from

EmbellishAdd ceramics and other objects for visual interest. Make sure they have a shapely silhouette — usually objects like vases and bowls contrast nicely with the linear repetition of the books. Be careful about scale — the objects need to have a presence, but some objects are too big to fit on the shelves, and those that are too small will be lost. Photographs or small works of art leaning against a stack of books personalize a bookshelf and prevent it from looking too staged. But remember to edit carefully. You don't want your shelves to look like a dumping ground for odds and ends.

Porcelain vases, from $20 from or (800) 560-2146; bowls, from $19, woven basket, $48, and pigeon bank, $25 from ; picture frame, $34, and rustic wooden bowl, $39, from

Consider backing bookshelves in colored paper or painting the back of the shelf a contrasting color. This perks up a humdrum bookshelf and helps make the objects on the shelf pop.