Whether you work from home or in a corporate office, it’s important to have a space that feels like your own. A personal touch can help you feel more relaxed and motivated when working, and adding a bookshelf is a great way to do this.
But not all office bookshelves are created equal. With the right styling tricks, you can make your office bookshelf look professional and pretty at the same time. Here are 20 Office Bookshelf Decor Ideas to get you inspired!
20 Office Bookshelf Decor Ideas
Start with what you use
Boxes and baskets are perfect ways to hide office supplies that you use on a daily basis; but hide those items in a decorative way. You can play around with colors, shapes, and textures to create a complementary aesthetic.
The nice thing about baskets and boxes is that they are so functional. And you can tuck away all the bits and pieces that you use regularly and just aren’t that pretty to look at.
Keep it Organized
Take advantage of hanging file folders and stackable letter trays. You can find some really pretty palettes of folders and desk accessories in many online stores.
Filing your papers and to-do lists will not only keep everything organized but also offer privacy while you have guests and visitors in your office.
Some beautiful folders have a way of adding texture and complimentary color schemes for a really inexpensive price point. And functionally nothing keeps the stacks of papers under control better than beautiful folders.
Go Old School
Binders can look great, too, if they are all the same size, and color and are grouped together with simple elegant labels. Dark print on white is my favorite – classic and simple. And keeps things looking uniform and clean.
We purchase hard square binders and avoid the floppy edges so that they are always forming nice crisp lines that don’t add any business to the shelves.
Add stacked coffee table books
Gather up your favorite books and stack them horizontally on your shelves for a break in the vertical spacing of a shelf full of books. I prefer to organize the stacks by color and size. Grab all the books with similar spine colors and stack them from largest to small on top.
A lovely idea I’ve seen is to color coordinate the book spines or visible covers. Have all whites and creams on one shelf, pinks and reds on another, and so on.
And if the books aren’t cooperating in your color palette, use a colored piece of cardstock to use as a dust jacket – and you have color-coordinated books that are still your favorites and still available to grab whenever you need inspiration.
You could include some of your favorite classic novels, books related to your industry, or even a compilation of works from a favorite artist.
Pay Attention to Color
As mentioned above, do pay attention to the color of the forward-facing parts of books. Whether the spines, dust jackets, or covers, do try to keep a seamless color palette – it makes a huge difference!
If you’re making your shelves an interesting conversational piece keep your favorite book covers pointing outwards and try to evenly distribute pops of color.
Whether using the covers to provide interest, or coordinating the colors to a palette, always create a sense of balance with the colors and weights of the books.
Vary Book and Item Placement
There are so many ways of displaying decorative items and books! Instead of the standard spine-facing-outward, change up placement with a few of these ideas.
- stack books horizontally and vertically
- aligning some stacks to the left, right or center
- mixing up standing and piling books
- layer books of varying heights to create a visual centerpiece
Keep the bookshelves interesting, but also create a story or balance that draws the eye from the center outwards, or from top left to bottom right. Keep the weight of each shelf visually similar.
In other words, don’t have all your thick short fiction titles on the top shelf, and skinny magazines on the middle shelves. Keep it balanced.
Create Balance with a Visual Top
Add a decorative item to your stacks of books. Once you have similar titles or colors or weights in a stack of books, add dimension and interest by adding a visual decorative element. My favorite items and super popular today, are faux plants.
Experiment with greenery, a favorite sentimental framed picture, or a small decorative object. And it makes even more sense if the items you are gathering together are of a similar or complimentary color; or a similar topic/theme.
Stagger the Heights of The Shelf’s Items
A mix of heights on each shelf will create a visual story that moves the eyes from the center outward, or from top left to bottom right. If you do want to keep all heights the same (a series of books for example) arrange that with a non-conforming visual item to break up the shelves.
Generally speaking, a mix of heights that complement each other can be achieved by layering front-facing covers, with small items in the front. Or a mix of heights of books stacked vertically with similarly colored spines.
Mix Decorative & Sentimental Items
I love a good decorative item, but my personal style is to incorporate function and sentimental items when appropriate. I love a cement bird but prefer when I can add a box or basket with it to store unsightly papers.
And in my office, I love to incorporate small things that are meaningful to me. For example, use items purchased from your last family vacation. Or that snapshot of the kids that you absolutely adore – pin that to a cute stand-up frame and change it out whenever you get a new favorite shot.
Our office shelves can be beautiful and also provide good feelings and encouragement to work to accomplish our dreams.
Lean into it
Yes, lean into your personal styles and color palettes. But also – have you tried leaning your art on a shelf instead of hanging it? The trend of giant leaning mirrors works well in large spaces.
But on a small office shelf, leaning a small canvas or wood piece on a shelf that needs a bit of height works well too. Leaning your favorite art pieces adds height to individual displays.
I briefly mentioned this above, but part of mixing height and colors, and elements is layering. Especially layering your front-facing books and magazines. And I especially love layering my favorite books that inspire me. I get to look at their covers (facing outward) and they also add to a lovely layered look in one or two grouped elements.
The key is to scatter your gathered decorative grouping throughout the shelves to create balance. Always create balance in each grouping, and also in the space overall. If the books or items aren’t lending itself to a cohesive look, remove jacket covers to get the hardcover which is usually a solid cover.
Vary shape and size of frames
We all love a memorable photo on our shelves. But the idea with bookshelves is that they convey a story or a cohesive addition to compliment your office decor.
As you select your artwork, decorative elements, and photographs, be sure to be very selective and vary the shapes and sizes of your choices.
This is why greenery works so well – it is generally not a specific shape. Be sure to be picky about the photographs you choose.
And use frames, especially the size of the frames that add to the overall aesthetic. Frames have a tendency to detract from your overall goal, so use the opportunity to add to the aesthetic instead of interrupting it.
Also, use the opportunity to create contrast by mixing and matching your chosen picture frames.
Liven it up
I can’t overemphasize the use of greenery in your decor. Whether faux or real, plants, organic items or flowers bring life and interest to your overall aesthetic.
If you choose to incorporate live plants, be sure not to water them in place to avoid potential water damage to the shelving.
Choose Decorative Elements with Differing Shapes
Among our stacks and layers of books, add some shapely elements. The goal is always to create a cohesive complimentary aesthetic. Most of the time I’m looking for clean and welcoming. Simple but elegant.
A few great choices to soften the square edges of books are bowls, vases, baskets, and candles. Any round item will soften the natural hardness of the shelves’ edges.
Mix up materials
In any room, I include a mix of materials. Wood and organic items offer a softer and touchable element, metals and art add visual interest and fabric adds texture. Start with a cohesive foundation and similar colors, and then add a touch of different metal or fabric to your main grouping.
Then add a touch of a similar metal to two other groupings on the shelves, for a total of 3 items, each a different size from the other. Remove and add items until you get a balanced look.
Tip for using Metals: Tone temperatures
Tones is a great way to decide how to mix your metals. Mixing metals can often seem intimidating. My rule of thumb is to stick to all warm or cold metal choices. For your warm tones, choose gold, brass, or polished nickel. For your cold-toned metals, try silver, nickel and gunmetal choices.
I recommend keeping your metal choices throughout your space. Add some continuity and a seamless visual aesthetic by mimicking the metals in your room in small ways on your bookshelves.
Trade textures and Elements in each Grouping
Textures are such an important element in any design and aesthetic. And your shelves are no exception! If you wish to create depth and warmth, try adding woven boxes, baskets or rattan bowls. Adding woven materials will soften the hard lines from your book groupings.
Odd groupings are best
As always, use the rule of three’s. Bookshelves are no exception to the odd-number decorative rule of thumb. These odd-numbered groupings are usually more visually pleasing than perfect symmetry.
These are bookshelves, but perfect symmetry can be harsh and unwelcoming.
Pay attention to your paint colors
Paint in your office is your background palette – don’t ignore this. If you have neutral-colored walls, you can try dark-colored shelves to make the shelves themselves a centerpiece. If you want the shelves to blend into the background, choose shelves with a similar color to the wall.
Neutral colors on your shelves themselves will allow you a lot of room to play with your groupings and decorate with different colors, textures and items. You will have the most freedom to change your aesthetic with the seasons too.
If you choose a darker shelf, make sure to pick up complimentary textures and fabrics to soften the look. And choose greenery and organic elements that will coordinate with the color palette. Darker shelves mean you need to do less with your items and groupings to create a cohesive and simple aesthetic.
With every Decorating Grouping Sometimes Less is More
Once you have all the elements that you love, with the fabrics, greenery, cardstock dust jackets, and mementos available, grab a storage bin. Because removing the elements is the most important part of decorating.
Start with the foundational elements: the shelves, add the necessary elements: books; And then add your visual interest elements.
Remember to give each grouping breathing space. And step back often to get an overarching view of your work. Step back far enough to literally view the negative space and make sure each element has breathing room; each shelf has breathing room; and the shelves aren’t overpowering your entire room.
Remember your bookshelves are to be an enhancement to your space, most of us have bookshelves for our interests and function. So be sure to use all the ideas above that incorporate function into your shelving spaces.
And then grab your storage bin and remove everything that you can. Removing items is the key to minimalism, remove until you can’t remove anything else.
What you are left with should bring calm to your mind; should create a cohesive, beautiful, slightly warm and welcoming aesthetic to the room.
Embrace your bookshelves for more than the utility that they are. Be inspired by these ideas to create a space that functions well and brings cohesiveness to the walls and spaces in your office.