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Style and Harmony on a Bookshelf

Clever ideas for organizing bookcases.

Without careful attention and a design plan, bookcases can look cluttered and sloppy, warns Sallie Kjos of GreyHunt Interiors in Chantilly. "The key is to unify the look and not have a bunch of little things mixed in."

Without careful attention and a design plan, bookcases can look cluttered and sloppy, warns Sallie Kjos of GreyHunt Interiors in Chantilly. "The key is to unify the look and not have a bunch of little things mixed in." Photo courtesy of GreyHunt Interiors

Whether one’s bookshelves house a literary library or a mixture of photos and media equipment, most do double or triple storage duty. Because bookshelves are multifunctional, however, it is easy to end up with a chaotic and unorganized space.

With the right mix of organizing, arranging and simplifying, local design experts say that sort of mess is easy to avoid. They suggest ways to create bookshelves that are both functional and aesthetically appealing.

"Bookshelves can be used for more than books. Intersperse some decorative items to break up the display," said Courtney Thomas of The Picket Fence in Burke. "Add pretty stacking boxes to hold papers and pictures."

Vienna-based organizer Susan Unger, of ClutterSOS, suggests using rattan bins on bookshelves to create extra storage and make the space appealing to the eye: "When there was limited drawer space in an office, we used these bins to store … stationery, office supplies [like] paper clips, tapes, staples, post-it notes, checks, mailing supplies, pens, pencils and markers," she said. "They are very functional and pretty and look great mixed in with books and other knick knacks. We even put a pretty hanging label on each to identify the contents."

Without careful attention and a design plan, bookcases can look cluttered and sloppy, said Sallie Kjos of GreyHunt Interiors in Chantilly. "The key is to unify the look and not have a bunch of little things mixed in," she said. "You can also wrap [the books] and write on the binders with silver, gold or black. Then whatever your accent colors are, let’s say orchid and navy, look for vases, urns, sculptures in these colors and keep the scale larger to fill the space and to really pop the colors."

When it comes to picture frames, "I also suggest replacing mix-matched frames with frames that are color coordinated," said Kjos. "But have a variety of shapes and sizes and group them together."