Bookshelves, like many other items of furniture, have to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing, but they’re often one of the more forgotten items in a room. Take a look at yours – are the books in any particular order? Do the shelves look cluttered? Are there random objects wedged in amongst the books? The answer is probably yes, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Ordering a bookshelf so that you can find what you need, and it looks good to the eye, isn’t as hard as you might think. Here are a few quick and easy tips.

Keep things clean and simple

As much as you might want to be able to fit every last book on that bookshelf, it’s unlikely to happen. And chances are, you won’t need all of those books anyway. Before you start, take everything off the shelves, and go through all of the books and objects that you plan on putting back. Be brutal, and remove anything that really doesn’t need to be there. Good books will always find another home, either elsewhere in the house or at a charity shop. Giving yourself more space is always good, and books can take up lots and lots of space.

Don’t be afraid of asymmetry

It can be very tempting when reorganising a shelf to insist that only books of the same size go together, that they’re all lined up vertically, and that there’s no uneven ordering. In reality this will be more stressful than the end result is pleasing. Don’t be afraid to stack books horizontally where called for. If you do this with some thought, it won’t look messy at all, and will help to ensure an uncluttered look. The key here is in the previous point – if you’ve decluttered as much as is reasonable, then uneven and asymmetrically stacked books won’t look nearly as messy as you might think. It can even look good in a quirky way.

Have a system

This is probably the issue that there’s most stress and debate about. As you’re placing books back on the shelf, what order do you put them in? If we’re talking a small bookshelf of a handful of items then this isn’t an issue, but if you’ve got a small library in your living room, then you’ll certainly want to implement some sort of order to ensure you can find what you’re looking for. There are various schools of thought when it comes to this matter, from alphabetical, to chronological, by genre and more. In truth there is no best way, but many people tend to go with a hybrid option if they have a lot of books. Group some shelves into particular genres, and then alphabetise these sections. That way you should fairly easily be able to find what you’re looking for when you go back for a re-read.

Don’t forget accessories

Finally, while it’s true that you don’t want to stuff every last crevice with objects that aren’t books, it’s rarely a bad idea to choose a few ornaments, and book ends in particular, to decorate the bookshelf with. They can really help tie a room together and make a bookshelf feel like a piece of decorative furniture rather than just an item of storage. Pick a few great items and they’ll help make the whole thing pop.