How To

How To Create Aesthetic Bookshelves

Ashlie Swicker


Ashlie (she/her) is an educator, librarian, and writer. She is committed to diversifying the reading lives of her students and supporting fat acceptance as it intersects with other women’s issues. She's also perpetually striving to learn more about how she can use her many privileges to support marginalized groups. Interests include learning how to roller skate with her local roller derby team, buying more books than she'll ever read, hiking with her husband and sons, and making lists to avoid real work. You can find her on Instagram (@ashlieelizabeth), Twitter (@mygirlsimple) or at her website,

The best thing about being a bookish person is that there is so much more to this hobby than just reading. You do not have to collect books or curate dreamy reading spaces, but you absolutely can! I often find myself scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram, browsing the aesthetic bookshelves the Bookstagram folks are perfectly photographing. I find it really cool that a hobby like reading can also lead people to create settings that are, frankly, art. The untrained eye will say that all aesthetic bookshelves look the same, but this is a gross miscalculation. Organizing books, gathering decorative pieces, and arranging everything in a way that pleases you specifically will actually give the owner a chance to showcase a lot about who they are. Like all the best things, this is completely changeable from day to day!

If you’re looking for a push to create or refresh your own little oasis, I’ve got you. Below, I’ve gathered some gorgeous inspiration photos that show some of the trends in decorating bookshelves. There are a lot of different ways you can go when setting out to create your own aesthetic bookshelf, and the choices will be as personal as your favorite book character. It’s easy to say “add some plants and a Funko pop and you’re good to go,” but you can also take these (super valid) ideas and stretch them into a very specific look. Whether your end goal is a relaxing reading space or the perfect Instagram post, read on!

Commit to a Theme

When it comes to theming out your aesthetic bookshelves, you can take it or leave it. If you do go the theme route, there are options ranging from fantasy getaway to bright rainbow pop to the moody dark academic theme shown above. If you have certain genres that you tend to read or if most of your decorative elements are similar, a theme might be for you. However, if you’re not willing to tie yourself down to a single theme, there are other ways to embrace that aesthetic lifestyle.

Plant Parents

I have no idea why, but plants and books go together like peanut butter and jelly. One of the quickest ways to add some flair to your shelves is with some plants — extra points for anything drapey. Ivy is a huge hit for that aesthetic look, but anything potted is going to look good. Real plants might be best for some, but I have a horrible track record for keeping green things alive. Luckily, artificial plants have come so far, and you can get an amazing look that you never have to water.

Artful Clutter

One of my favorite looks is the artful clutter effect. Crystals, mugs, trinkets, and bookends add a certain pop to a bookshelf that I just can’t get enough of. I love how the library above used pretty mugs to show off bookmark collections. I’m also a huge fan of the layering — the lights, the plants, the little signs and statuettes. It all works together to create this cozy bubble that is perfect for curling up to read — or snapping the perfect picture. Two things can be true!

Picture Worth A Thousand Words

Bookish prints are a cornerstone of a lot of book boxes and subscription programs, but bookish art can be found in many places. Some prints simply celebrate the love of reading (check out this round up of bookish wall art), while others are fan art or character/series specific. You could choose to use the space near your shelves to display some of your bookish art, but there is also a very aesthetic move where people allow framed book art to share actual shelf space.

Light It Up

Lights are an incredible way to turn up volume on your aesthetic bookshelves — we’re going all the way to eleven here, people. I really love the look of twinkle lights wrapped around shelves (bonus points if the lights are also twined through ivy), but the LED rope lighting featured in the picture above is a showstopper. If you get a set of lights that changes color? You’ve just gained fodder for a million bookish photos — the possibilities are endless.

Bookshop Charm

Bookstore facing is a simple way to give your books some more star time. This leads to some questions (which books will be hiding away while others get the spotlight?), but ultimately allows you to show off the beautiful covers that these artists work so hard to create. This option is especially fun if you enjoy tinkering with your shelves often — switching out the front facing titles can give you an entirely different look without buying any new props.

Read the Rainbow

An oldie but a goodie — the rainbow shelves! Divisive, sure, but if you can get over the shelving for aesthetic reasons only, it can be very adorable. Shelving by color might not be the most efficient way to find what you’d like to read (you can find options for that in this article by Tracy Shapely Towley), but it’s a striking look. You can get a lot of mileage from this organizational strategy without needing a lot of other decorative elements to make a statement. A side effect — neither pro nor con — is that you may find yourself seeking out certain editions of books just to get the spine colors you need. Happy hunting!

Old Standbys: Candles and Mugs

This is a classic for a reason. As long as there has been Bookstagram, there have been pictures of books with a mug of something warm and a candle flickering in the background. Etsy has a wealth of shops selling bookish candles and book-themed mugs abound, as well. Whether you choose to go for a general book nerd vibe or spend time curating candles and mugs that compliment your favorite series, this is an impactful way to build up your aesthetic bookshelves.

Hopefully, you’ve found the aesthetic bookshelf inspiration you were looking for. I’ll see you on Bookstagram!