Home Decorating Tips: How to Style Bookshelves Like a Pro

If there’s one piece of furniture with endless style potential, it’s bookshelves. These spaces are often used for function only, but you can style bookshelves so they display your personality through meaningful objects and unique knick-knacks in addition to your reading collection.

“[Bookshelves] are the absolute architecture of a space no matter where they are on your wall,” says Ashlina Kaposta, a New York City–based interior designer and popular blogger on The Decorista. Kaposta styles bookshelves on a regular basis for clients and is never at a loss for items to fill them. “You can use anything,” says Ashlina.

Anyone can style bookshelves with Kaposta’s easy home decorating tips. Here’s how.

Begin With Empty Bookshelves
Move everything off your shelves and onto the floor. Group similar objects together to better see what you have: Try organizing books by jacket color (see below), by subject matter or by the years or places they were collected. Also gather unique objects and knick-knacks you want to display. See what fits in your plan and what doesn’t, and play with the placement of items. As far as the bookshelf itself goes, affordable units from discount stores will do just fine. But if you’re looking for showcase shelving, Kaposta’s personal favorite finishes are vintage chrome and brass, which will really highlight what they house.

Maintain a Sense of Balance and Symmetry
When you’re deciding where items should go, vary the placement to increase visual interest: Try stacking some books horizontally while lining others up vertically. Create balance and symmetry on your bookshelves by mirroring one placement pattern on an opposing shelf. Kaposta also suggests grouping things in odd numbers.

Color Coordinate Books and Objects
Grouping items by color “instantly changes up the space,” says Kaposta. Line up book spines in a rainbow order to turn books into an eye-catching element from a distance where titles are indecipherable.

Group Collections Together
If you have a collection of similar items -- such as colorful rocks or sea shells -- keep them together in one area. Give order to your collection by placing the pieces on a lacquered or mirrored tray. 

Stack Boxes Full of Paperwork
Keep important documents within reach -- but out of sight -- by storing them inside chic boxes. Buy boxes in multiples and look for luxe textures and graphic patterns to make a stylish impact.

Include Travel Keepsakes
Remind yourself of fun getaways with objects from travels, such as volcanic rocks and carved statuettes. Mix them in with other treasures to keep it interesting.

Use Mirrors and Artwork Sparingly
Remember, this is a bookshelf -- not a wall. Save most, if not all, of your artwork for a wall instead of hiding it away in a bookshelf. If you want one piece, that should be sufficient; use two small pieces at the most.

Make Use of Eye Level
A standout photo or detailed statuette is of no use to anyone on the top shelf of a floor-to-ceiling unit. Arrange objects that require a more detailed appreciation within eyesight.

Capitalize on Storage Opportunities
Your bookshelves can serve as functional storage for more than just your books. For example, a showpiece serving tray that’s too big to fit in kitchen cabinets can find a home among other objects. Plus, it can be appreciated at all times from this perch, instead of just a few times a year when you’re entertaining.

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How to Organize Holiday Decorations

The holidays have come to a close, which means you can finally relax and stop worrying about that persistently pesky to-do list. But before you get too comfy, you’ll need to tackle one more holiday task -- storing and organizing holiday decorations.

These expert tips will get your decorations perfectly organized and ready for next year. Your ghost of Christmas Future will thank you!


Downsizing is an important element of organizing holiday decorations. Before you pack away this year’s items, bring out all the decorations that didn't make the cut. Decide which treasures you can donate, give away or throw out, suggests organizational expert Kammie Lisenby of Seattle Organizing Experts. Just think: If you get rid of old ornaments, you’ll have extra space for new ones next year!

• Store decorations in “the heavy green and red containers that are on sale this time of year,” suggests Marilyn Bohn from Get it Together Organizing. You’ll immediately recognize them as Christmas decoration containers thanks to the festive colors, and you won’t be scouring the attic or storage shed next year to find them. In addition, Lisenby suggests storing all your holiday decorations in one area for easy access next year. Somewhere that’s not prime year-round real estate -- such as the back of the garage or attic -- is best. And make sure that your containers are made of hard plastic and have a tight locking lid.

• Label, label, label, Lisenby says. Mark even individually wrapped ornaments so you’ll immediately know what’s what next year without having to unpack everything first. Clear nametag inserts attached to the outside of boxes are great because they allow you to change the label from year to year if needed.

• Accidents happen, so keep a tube of crazy glue with your Christmas decorations, suggests Bonnie Joy Dewkett of The Joyful Organizer. If you open your holiday decorations next year to find a break, you’ll be ready for a quick fix and the broken ornament won’t be left sitting in the corner all holiday waiting for you to “get around” to mending it.

• We all like to keep the original boxes with our grandmother’s writing on them, Lisenby says. But to really preserve memories, make sure you have the proper storage for your treasures (large, sturdy boxes in which to store the smaller treasured boxes). 


• One trusted (and inexpensive) trick for organizing holiday lights: Keep them from becoming tangled by wrapping them around a flat piece of cardboard -- a paper towel tube also works. Bohn, Dewkett and Lisenby all love this trick. On an exposed end of the cardboard or on a label tag, jot down where the lights belong next year (Christmas tree, mantel, entry window, and the like). Wrap lights in newspaper or packing paper and store them in a hard plastic, durable container.

Bohn recommends investing in a Lightkeeper Pro (about $25), the complete tool for fixing miniature lights. It is worth its weight in gold as it fixes light strands that have been rendered useless thanks to a fixable problem. Keep it with your lights for next year for ease of use.


• Next time you’re at the wine or liquor store, Bohn suggests asking if you can take some empty boxes with bottle separators off their hands. The boxes are perfect for dividing and protecting bubble-wrapped delicate ornaments.

• For another affordable option to safe-keep breakables, glue the bottoms of plastic cups to a flat piece of cardboard, says Dewkett. Once the ornaments are inside the cups, place another flat piece of cardboard on top, tie them together and store in a tote or large box.

• Lisenby warns against wrapping ornaments (particularly delicate or valuable ones) in printed paper. Always use plain packing paper or tissue paper so the ink doesn’t rub off on your ornaments, she says. And when you purchase new ornaments, keep the original packaging if possible.

• If you have broken ornaments that you want to keep, fix them before storing them, Bohn says. As you’re downsizing, get rid of those you don’t like or don’t plan to use in coming years. If there are ornaments you don’t plan to use but will keep for sentimental reasons, store them in a smaller box, label it and place in the bottom of the larger storage container. This will save you the time of separating these ornaments from the others next year.

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Photo: Corbis Images

Winter Style: Holiday on Display

Get the most out of your holiday decorations by mixing up the ways in which you display them. These easy ideas and tips will give your home an extra dose of cheer this year.

Find a New Home for Your Wreath
Just like wreaths can be made from a variety of materials, from ball ornaments to wood shims, they can also be placed in just about any area of your home. From the hallways to the kitchen, the right wreath makes for a festive helping of holiday fun.

To hang wreaths, use wide, fancy ribbon. For particularly heavy wreaths, first string hanging wire onto your wreath for reinforcement. Follow it with ribbon to hide the wire. You’ll get the best of both worlds: sturdy and decorative.

Creative Displays
Christmas ornaments aren’t just for the tree. Fill a decorative bowl with colorful balls to make a pretty centerpiece. Keep the container’s color neutral so that the ornaments truly shine.

Make the Most of Your Space
If you have limited space, or would like to carry the Christmas spirit throughout your home, consider smaller pieces. They pull more than their decorative weight with vibrant colors, plus they’re easy to move around and blend well into any holiday scene.

You can also extend your holiday décor by placing figurines and other treasures creatively throughout your home. Mantels and entryways -- and even unexpected places like powder rooms -- benefit from the festive touch.

Create a Colorful Scene
Mix it up! Traditional single-hue ornaments get extra attention when they’re paired with others that use stripes or unusual shapes. Paint faux branches and berries in complementary colors for an easy way to bring them all together.

Bring the Outside In
Bring a little of the outdoors into your holiday décor. Dip pinecones in metallic paint and thread them with gold string for a sophisticated hanging ornament. You can add a touch of the metallic paint to faux flowers and birds, too, and perch them on the tree.

Consider the Details
Pay attention to the details for maximum decorating impact. Applying glitter spray paint to just about any object will give it a textured, festive shimmer. Ribbons tied to garlands add another layer of color.

Also take pieces from your holiday theme and put them in unexpected places. Save a few pinecones and hot glue them to a centerpiece at the top of a lamp. Or make ornaments out of them and hang from doorknobs.

Safe-Keep Your Decorations
To ensure your ornaments last for years to come, wrap them in acid-free tissue papper. In a crunch, old dish towels work well, too. For further protection and organization, make a grid out of cardboard to place them inside storage boxes.

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Decorating Inspiration: 5 Easy Holiday Centerpieces

When you’re hosting for the holidays, it’s your time to shine. The perfect way to show off your hostess-with-the-mostest prowess is by placing an “I-would-never-have-thought-of-that” stunner atop your table or in your entryway. Check out our five holiday centerpiece ideas for some decorating inspiration. They may move you to create your own unique showstoppers -- or just duplicate these and call them your own. We won’t tell.


1. Old is New Again

To create this simple centerpiece, interior designer Virginia Burney dug through her old and unused ornaments and found a hodgepodge grouping that looks like it came in a ready-made pack. Stick to two or three colors of ornaments so the display isn’t too jarring. Here, a couple shades of red are accented by gold and topped with fresh pine branches from the yard for the perfect Yuletide table topper (and the pine adds a nice, fresh scent too!).


2. Understated Elegance

Want an elegant holiday centerpiece for your table? Let your table sparkle and shine with white tulip arrangements adorned with pretty ribbon and sparkling silver ornaments. This one, created by Laura Trevey of BrightBoldBeautiful.com, looks crisp and classic. Placing a few identical arrangements atop mirrors adds extra sparkle. Flank the arrangement with taper candles to further add to the ambiance.



3. Centerpieces of a Feather

This centerpiece by interior designer Candace Volz is particularly attention-grabbing, but it’s a style that can be used year round. Find a beautiful display box at a vintage store, fill the box with craft Styrofoam (sold in blocks at craft stores), then stick feathers throughout the foam in your desired arrangement. Try peacock feathers for extra color!


4. Simple Style

Want a contemporary centerpiece? Go the route designer Megan Crane went by filling a tall glass cylinder with water and floating a single stalk of orchids in it. Use glass stones to anchor the flowers at the bottom. “To make it more dramatic, try adding multiple containers to the table or try different heights and sizes,” she suggests. “The result will be a custom-designed floral arrangement that is sleek and unique!”


5. Fun and Fruity

To create this colorful display, interior designer and artist Carole Meyer used artificial fruit placed in shapely glass containers. “I try to buy the most real-looking artificial fruit I can, which is a bit more expensive but the look is worth it,” she says. To add extra color and contrast, place green moss at the bottom. These fruit displays can work year round. For a look that screams holidays, use pine cones and Christmas decorations. “Let your imagination go and have fun!” Meyer says.

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Stylish Ways to Stay Organized at Home

Is your space looking a little jumbled lately? Good news: You can get organized while keeping your home’s décor interesting. We enlisted the help of organization expert Jodie Watson from TLC’s “Real Simple, Real Life” to uncover new, fashion-forward fixes for the most common kinds of at-home clutter.


Start with the one place you look every day that’s probably more disorganized than you realize: Your closet. You know how clothes always look way more chic on the store rack than when they’re hung up at home? That’s because the best shops perfect their presentation to make whatever they’re selling look most appealing.

Turn your closet into a “shopable” space by investing in nice wooden hangers (a staple at chic boutiques), and re-hang everything so that all like-items are together. Keep skirts with skirts, casual tops with casual tops, and so on. Your wardrobe will look and feel more put-together, helping eliminate those morning I-seriously-have-nothing-to-wear moments.

Seasonal Storage

As much as you love your summer wardrobe, it has no business occupying prime real estate in your closet or dresser during the colder months. Free up space by snagging some wicker baskets or other decorative boxes from a craft store, the pack them full of your clothes, shoes and accessories that are out of season. Draw up some cute labels to mark the outside of each box, then stow them on the top shelf of your closet so they’re in sight but out of the way.


Go DIY to organize grooming and beauty items, such as makeup. Clean out four or five tin cans in different sizes, stripping off any outside labels. Pick out a shelf paper in a pattern you like (Watson recommends ChicShelfPaper.com) and glue that paper to the outside of the can so no tin is showing. Line the cans along your bathroom counter and fill them with brushes, makeup, razors, tweezers and more to add flair and order to your bathroom. Win-win.


It’s tempting to tuck extras like belts and scarves into a drawer -- but that’s begging to become a jumbled mess. For a better solution, invest in self-adhesive wall hooks and affix them to areas that aren’t being used for anything else (like the dead space between your dresser and the adjacent wall or on the back of a closet door). Hang scarves, belts, purses and more on each hook. Not only will you make them easier to access, but you’ll also liven up your room with the display.


When you lose an earring or tangle a necklace, it can be ruined like that. For a practical-yet-pretty fix, buy a jewelry organizer with small drawers, which will keep you from having to thread your earrings through mesh or hang your necklaces on a hook every time. The drawers provide both easy access and storage, and will make your collection look and feel more consolidated, plus the organizer doubles as a chic decoration for your dresser top. 

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