hanging art on a bookcase & styling tips

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Decorating, My House, Office79 Comments

Since Jeff did all of the furniture moving for me last week I have been working on moving back into my office and studio.  Don’t worry!  I’ve been pacing myself, taking lots of breaks, and working mostly with my left arm.  It’s been slow going (like moving one or two books at a time), but I can’t tell you how awesome it’s been being productive again.  I just am the sort of person who needs that in my day.

So, one of the things I worked on over the weekend was moving into the new bookcase in my office.  It’s the Amityville Oversized Bookcase from Birch Lane.  It’s sold out right now but will be back in stock in June.  (They also have this bookcase in a triple-wide and single-wide.  Use code “GEORGE” to get 15% off for President’s Day.)

Anyway, this bookcase has been sitting in my cart on Birch Lane’s website for weeks, because it’s the style and color I wanted and it’s the perfect size for that wall.  Having a taller bookcase takes advantage of the space much better than the shorter antique craigslist cabinet did.  (And that looks fantastic in my studio!)

I also like that it provides some closed storage under the bookcase.

I’ll share more specifics about the bookcase in the final reveal of the room, but I wanted to chat a little bit about styling a bookcase like this.

I think bookcases are tricky because they need to straddle the balance between functional and decorative.  Yes, they are there to house things, typically books, but a bookcase this large is likely the focal point of a room as well.  And, in my case, this bookcase is very visible from our foyer.  I don’t want it to simply be crammed with books and office stuff without any attention paid to aesthetics.

So, I started by putting everything on the bookcase that I knew I wanted on there and a few other things I might try.  You can tell from the picture below that I had plenty of room!  I didn’t have to purge but instead had to figure out how to spread out the books and accessories so the shelf didn’t look half-naked.

As I was playing around with some ideas, I decided to try hanging my Durer rabbit print in the center of the bookcase.  Even though this seems like a slightly unconventional idea, it’s been around for a long time, making it a classic but also interesting decorating choice.

I didn’t want to put a nail hole in my new bookcase, so I used Command clear 2lb hooks.  I used them for swags and wreaths during Christmas and was pleased with how well they worked.

What I like best about this idea is it’s completely temporary.  If I don’t like it down the road or if I continue to build my decorating book library, I can simply take it down.  (One comment on the hooks…  I have heard from a few people that these seem to have a time limit and eventually fall off.  I haven’t had that happen, but it’s probably a good idea to add a new adhesive every 6-12 months or so and I wouldn’t hang anything that was too precious.  If this print falls, the worst thing that will happen is the glass will break, which is easy and inexpensive to replace.)

When styling books, remove any ugly dust jackets and arrange the books by color and then by size.  This will make a mish-mash of books look tidier.  This also works well with magazines.  I grouped multiple issues of the same publications together, so they make a nice, neat stack.  Ones that were more colorful or random in size, I put in the wood magazine holders.

The upside is it looks nicer.  The downside is that it does take a bit of maintenance.  When I get a new book or a magazine I want to keep, I can’t just throw it on the shelf or on top of a stack.  I have to take a bit of time to figure out where it goes. We’re not talking that much time, though, so it’s worth it to me.

One thing that made me happy as I was arranging these books is how many were written by my friends and acquaintances.  It’s amazing how the blog world and Instagram have made publishing books possible for people who aren’t “in the industry”.  I look at all of the familiar names on those spines and it makes me proud of all of the creators and readers who were a part of making that happen.

Anyway, one last secret about this bookcase arrangement is that the top right basket holds our router, Orbi, etc.  I cut a hole in the back, so the cords can hang out.  Air can circulate, but everything is hidden.  The rest of the baskets hold the original boxes for my cameras, lenses, iPhone, etc.  Those are things I want to keep, but I don’t need easy access to them.

I can’t wait to show you the rest of the office!  It’s looking amazing and it functioning so much better.  I can’t remember a time I’ve been so excited about my workspaces.

What are your thoughts about hanging art on bookcases (or over windows)?  Do you like that look?

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hanging art on a bookcase & styling tips

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79 Comments on “hanging art on a bookcase & styling tips”

    1. Yep, I bought them planning on painting them, but I never did. The tone of the wood isn’t quite right, so I’ll probably do something with them eventually.

  1. Looks wonderful. I think you may have mentioned this a long time ago, but where did you find the wood magazine holders?


    1. I found them at Target, but they don’t carry those any longer. They have stained wood ones now. I think Ikea might have some natural wood ones, though.

  2. I love artwork hanging on a bookcase. I’ve been trying to talk my husband into putting built in shelves in his den for years! I love the look! Maybe someday…..

  3. I don’t like hanging things in front of shelves or windows. I am also not a fan of color sorted books. It makes them too hard to find. All that said, your bookcases look great!

    1. Yep, I get that! It’s not a look everyone will love. 🙂 As far as the books, I think it depends on the volume. If you have a ton of books that need to be categorized, yes, I agree that color sorting (or putting the spine in) would be impractical. Since these are just my decorating books, it’s pretty easy to find what I need.

  4. I love the look you’ve achieved with the new bookcase, and I know you’ll tweak it as time goes by, BUT, as another nitty-picky person, I notice that your books are not all arranged in the upright position, and as I read the titles, my head turns from side to side. I think you will be more comfortable with it all, if you rotate them so they all stand upright. It’s a tiny thing I know, but goes to ease of use. You’ve accomplished a lot, in spite of your bum shoulder.

    1. Ha, so funny you noticed that! I actually agree that I like having all of the text facing upright or the same direction if they are standing up. Since I was moving books with one arm and it was taking forever, I decided to leave that for another day!

  5. That’s a really nice bookcase. I really like the art hung on it. I’m going to take a look at it and see if will fit in my soon to be office. BTW, I noticed we have the same decorating books!

  6. Yes, I have been hanging stuff from the bookshelves for years…..sometimes you can get away with a thumb tack or even a sewing pin if it is lightweight enough, or put a permanent hook on the top or back of the bookcase and run a cord to the front to hang the item. I wouldn’t hang art where you are having to get at the stuff on the shelves frequently, though, as it would be in the way and have to be moved, bumped, or jostled and might scratch or fall off.

    As for art over windows, light is too precious to block, even when the view is ugly. For ugly views, I just use lace.

    Those are some nice bookcases you bought! Great style for non-custom made!

  7. Kim,
    I love that bunny print!
    I often place artwork within the book shelves, but haven’t hung any from the front.
    It may be something I try in the future.
    I love your book selection, and I see that we have several titles in common!
    I’ll keep watching as your studio space evolves!
    S l o w and steady as your continue to recover, dear one.

  8. Not sure how I feel about the art hanging on the bookcase. It’s something I would have to live with for a bit to see if it worked for me or not. Love the bookcase though! It’s perfect in there and brightens the room up. Can’t wait to see the reveal!

  9. I love how you’ve got the styling going! I also have a set of double bookcases with lower storage, and I often hang a framed picture or art of some sort on the top their of the center divide. It is an interesting look and definitely breaks things up. Right now though, I have a rather large collection of milk glass pieces displayed on that shelf so I’m considering painting the back wall of the shelf a contrasting color so the white glass pieces stand out a little better!
    I hope you’re well in the mend!

    1. Oooo, that would look beautiful!

      Yeah, I don’t think I’ll always have something hanging there, but it’s fun to try.

  10. Love the shelf unit and all your styling! For the 1st time in 6 yrs I actually don’t particularly like something you’ve done. Lol That picture hung on there, I like the idea but think it’s too big or the frame is too big. Just my personal opinion You are my favorite blogger and I just think everything you do is so inspiring! I would’ve never said anything but you asked 😁

    1. Ha, I love the honesty! And it really is okay. I did ask and I expected some people wouldn’t like it. I thought it would be an interesting decorating debate.

  11. I love the print on the front of your new bookcase. I haven’t tried that, but have always liked that look. Everything you do is amazing, and I am glad you are on the mend. One thing that truly amazes me is how many people love to tell you what to do and how to do it! I don’t think I have ever read any other blogs that have had so many “bossy” comments as yours have. You are always so gracious in dealing with these people. You must be a very sweet and patient person!

    1. I agree with Joan, in that I have not seen any other blogs that receive such rude, bossy comments.

      My understanding of the purpose of these blogs is that they’re meant to show different design styles and ways of doing things that we might not think of on our own. I love your bookcase and wish I had room for one just like it. The picture is a different look than what I’ve seen but offers an option for someone without a lot of wall space. A lot of design trends seem a bit awkward at first, and I admit I don’t understand the current trend of backwards facing books, but leaning pictures rather than hanging them is another one that seems to strike some as odd. I cannot tell you how many times my husband has hung either a picture or mirror while I was out and not here to tell him I wanted them that way. The key is that we all own our living spaces whether it’s a house or an apartment and we get to choose what we like.

      Again, I think your responses to negative comments show that you are a very gracious person. Even a different opinion can be couched in a positive way. Perhaps it’s a result of social media where the art of polite face to face conversation has been replaced by posted comments where we just say what we feel.

      1. Well, I did ask for opinions in this case! 🙂 I really was interested in hearing different takes on this idea and it’s okay if people don’t like it. I don’t take criticism on design choices personally and it sometimes does make me rethink an idea. I see that as a positive thing.

        What I don’t engage with and will delete are comments that are personal attacks or just ugly and mean. It’s very rare that I get comments like that, but they happen to all bloggers, social media posters, and sometimes even readers leaving comments! It’s just a part of putting yourself out there.

    2. Ha…well, in this case, I did ask for opinions! And it really doesn’t offend me when people don’t like a decorating decision I make. I think it can be productive to hear constructive criticism. Sometimes it makes me rethink a decision and other times it makes me even more sure of my choice.

  12. The new bookcase is fabulous. I don’t think I’d paint the back even if your shoulder could take it.
    I could never get those 3m hooks to hold for me either. But, I used them on the plaster walls in the building. That might make a difference. I have oak bookshelves from an old city library in the shop and in my apartment above and I hang small prints and other small interesting things from the center vertical boards. I’ve often thought when I see big artwork hanging from them in magazines that it is too hard to get to the things behind, but I’ve seen sofas placed in front of bookcases, too. My ceilings are 11 feet tall so I have to use a ladder to get to the top. That is really inconvenient as the ladder is kept in the basement 34 stairs down and then 34 stairs up! I dust the top of the bookshelves about twice a year…okay, once a year. My German grandmothers would not be pleased with my housekeeping.

    1. Yes, I think that’s a good point. If your bookcase is full of things you need to access regularly, it wouldn’t be practical to hang art in front of it.

      That sounds like a massive bookcase! It sounds like you need a rolling library ladder!

  13. I agree with Michelle. I almost always love everything you do but this idea does not work for me. I have on occasion placed a small painting on an easel, no frame, in a bookcase but do not like the look of this picture. I am green with envy at most things you do. Your painting for starters. The mural in your dining room is to die for. I marvel at the speed of your painting. Hope you heal fast.

    1. I really like pictures in a bookcase, too. This is just a fun alternative, but not everyone is going to like it! 🙂

  14. I love how this turned out, and had contemplated doing something similar years ago to my own large bookcase, but I find that I am frequently taking books out of it, and returning them, and sometimes they do become a mish-mash of those that are organized, and those that were put back in haste. At any rate, my grandson, who is an avid reader and bookworm at his young age (8 years), LOVES to visit and looks in awe at my book collection (which is mostly art books, gardening books, interior design books). I now don’t want my bookcase so perfect that he feels he can’t look through them, so I decided this particular mish-mash works well for Connor and I !

    You office/studio is very beautiful, Marian!

    1. Oh, I love that sentiment! I agree that you don’t want things to feel so precious that people can’t interact with them in a meaningful way. Good for you for recognizing that!

  15. Marian,
    You make a terrible patient….ha!! Glad you are pacing yourself and not over-doing things but I totally get how difficult it is for someone like you to sit still for long. Your new bookcase looks amazing with such a clean and custom look. I cant wait to see the whole room finished.

    I was surprised when I spotted “Modern Mix” by Eddie Ross in your book collection. I adore his sense of style and fell in love with this book. It really helped me define my own style which was different than the French farmhouse décor that I had embraced over the years. I found I loved more modern & mid-century vintage pieces especially from the 60’s era which I grew up in.

    1. I know I am! Poor Jeff…trying to get me to rest. 🙂 I actually wouldn’t have bought that book, because my style is definitely not modern, but I met him at an event and he gave me a signed copy, so who can refuse that! I like that it challenges my design boundaries and I can see how we use some similar elements in different ways.

      1. Wow…wish I could meet him and get my book signed! Yes, you are correct that the two of you do use some similar elements but in different ways especially flatware and copper cookware.

  16. I have hung art, etc on bookcases and it’s fine. A suggestion might be to take a cord and fasten it on each end around to the inside back edge of the lip of the bookcase. You end up with a loop that you can then hang a picture on and no nails, tacks, etc are showing. Of course, everything depends on weight, etc. I hope you understood that.

    1. Yep, that’s a good idea! There is a divider on this bookcase, but it would work otherwise.

  17. So now I’m having buyer’s insecurity! I ALMOST bought that same bookcase but went with another lol! Maybe wish I’d seen your lovely styled photos first, it looks beautiful!

  18. I think what you’ve done looks great! Really nicely put together & I love the idea. Inspiring & beautiful as always Marian… just like YOU! Prayers for continued healing (& extra patience during this time as wel!)

  19. Sorry, not a fan of the bunny print on the bookcase. Normally I like the look but it seems too large, too “ in the way”, or something! Love most everything else you do though. Keeping healing……

    1. Yeah, I think it’s right on the border of being too big, but I felt like it worked with the large scale of the bookcase. A smaller print or picture would work, too.

  20. I have the Durer rabbit print also- love anything with rabbits. Never thought about hanging it on the front of one of my bookcases. But can’t see why not, especially if I use a Command Strip.

  21. So disappointed to see what yo do with books. No dust jackets devalues them and filing by color makes them so difficult to find. And it’s just trendy, not practical. I’m someone who feels books are precious.

    1. I love my books! I typically don’t remove dust jackets unless they are damaged or ugly. I don’t have these books as an investment, but because I enjoy them as a resource, so I never even considered that removing a dust jacket would devalue the book.

      If I had a huge library, I wouldn’t arrange them by color, but this is just a small collection of all decorating books, so I’m not worried about not being able to find a specific book. It’s not going to work for everyone, though.

      You’re certainly entitled to feel disappointed about whatever you like, but I’m not defacing books or mistreating them. We’re just talking about a difference of opinion in the way we like to store our books. We can both love and value them, but chose to store them in different ways.

  22. Your bookcase looks lovely. I like the art hanging on the bookcase. As long as it’s temporary and easy to move to get to the books, I see no problem with it. However, I question placing books according to color. I have an extensive book collection. I sort mine by author, genre and subject. This means anything I want is easily accessible. I understand that the color blocking is a “design” choice, but I believe books are meant to be used and should be sorted and displayed for the easiest access. I must say that I am so happy you didn’t place them with the spines to the back. This design trend boggles my mind. Different stokes for different folks.

  23. I do not like art in window; however, I really like on bookcases. They have done this in Europe for a very long time and many US designers have also done so for some time.

  24. Love the bookcases. If I may opine, the picture is lovely, but just too large to hang there. Love the idea of hanging a picture there though! Continued healing 💕

  25. Maybe it’s just me, but … having the text on the book spines going in different directions would DRIVE ME CRAZY!

    1. Ha! I’ll fix that. I was just trying to get them on the shelf with one arm and I wasn’t paying attention to which way the text was facing. 🙂

  26. I’m going off topic here but would like feedback from fellow readers and Marian. I am looking at slip covered sofas from Ballard and Arhaus. Has anyone had an experience that can be shared? I’m not seeing a huge difference in price other than replacement slipcovers. Is there a difference in quality and customer service?


    1. I haven’t bought a slipcovered piece from either place, so I don’t have any suggestions. I have a few furniture pieces from Arhaus (from purchases and sponsorships) and I have always been impressed with their quality.

      I did have a slipcovered sofa from Ikea for several years and it was a great piece for the price, but it depends on the style you’re looking for.

  27. Hi Marian , if your still looking for a recliner and haven’t checked out , Josh and Main , and Birch lane , they have some cute ones that would fit your style or as close as we can get to our style! Very reasonably priced . When it comes to decorating, you and I were cut from the same cloth .

    1. Yes! Many of the recliners I shared in the post about recliners were from there. I wonder how comfortable they are… This issue with my shoulder has me considering purchasing a recliner in the future.

  28. If there was room for art to be propped up on a shelf I’m all for it…..hung in the middle like that, no thank you, not for me.

    1. Yes, I like that look as well! It’s definitely a more conventional approach to putting artwork on a bookcase.

  29. I love the bookshelf, love the styling, the “upside down spines” would drive me nuts, and LOVE the picture on the front of the shelf unit. The frame ties in beautifully with the texture of the baskets on top and it gives the entire thing a finished look. I can tell this room is going to look amazing!

    I would love to hide some of our electronics (router) in a basket. Does it not interfere with its operation?

    1. Yep, I’m going to turn the books so the text is all facing the same way. I had a lot to do and was working with just 1 arm, so getting them up there and in place was the goal!

      Having the router, etc. in the basket does not affect the way it operates.

  30. Your bookcase looks great. I love the bunny, but like some others, I think the frame size is too large. The actual picture is small, so I think it would be easy to take it out and try it in a smaller frame/mat. That way you could judge if the suggestion has any merit. You may decide you like the bigger option but as long as you don’t do any cutting then it can all be put back together.

  31. I like the bunny on the bookcase. Also like pictures sitting in the bookcase. (And I LOVE ALL bunnies!)

    Years ago I worked in a very nice local furniture store. One room had a full mirrored wall. One of the managers said she wanted to do something different there but didn’t know what. I suggested hanging a large picture/painting over the mirror. She tried it & it looked very nice.

    Gotta try new ideas.

    1. Yep, I agree. Sometimes you just need to try something and live with it for a while. It’s just decor and you can have a little fun with it!

  32. Hi Marian! Love, love the bookc! It could almost pass for custom! Rabbits and sheep are my thing. I love the print on the bookcase, it looks very European. They’ve been doing that for centuries. So I vote for the hare to stay! But you do what makes You happy! 😉. The bookcase is big enough to give you room to grow and that’s a good thing. Because you know you’re probably going to collect some more art and design books at the very least. I have an addiction to design books, I have loads of them, lol! I knew youd be up flittin’ around once that office furniture came! Just don’t over do it. You don’t want any setbacks! Have a great week! 😊

  33. Love the painting hung like that – it’s what you would see in ancient libraries in private castles in France or England. Very classy!

  34. I love how the browns in the bookcase bring in your desk~ and everything as it’s placed looks grand. What caught my eye was the mold on your desk. I have one of my grandmothers and a few others have always wondered what to do with it~ I now know! Thanks again for the inspiration Marian. I’m glad your shoulder is being well tended too!

    Peace~ Cynthia

  35. I love the look of this bookcase! I especially love the painting. It is very unusual, almost quirky … and I can’t wait to try it! But I may not tell anyone that I didn’t think of it myself. 🙂

    I’m really enjoying your blog and videos. I’m new to your family, and so happy I joined.

  36. I very much like the picture on the front of the bookcase and would like inside as well! I love little unexpected touches to enchant the mind and eyes. Your studio is looking wonderful! Take care of yourself! XXOO

  37. All the comments about the bunny picture, and what I am loveing is the idea of putting a router in a basket! And the boxes for AV equipment in some are a great idea too! Can’t wait to try it!

  38. Marian you rock! I have a small , gold sunburst star on the front of my bookcase and my books are easily found even though they are “color coded” with my decor. Ignore the naysayers. You have great taste!!!!!

    1. Oh, I bet the sunburst star looks gorgeous! And yes, I wouldn’t want the public library to arrange their books by color, but it’s okay for my shelf of decorating books. I actually tend to find the books faster, because I remember what a book looks like more than I remember the title or author.

  39. Funny what gets people talking, isn’t it? I am a retired decorator, and I have hung art as well as mirrors this way for years. It always seems to provoke a response of some kind. I particularly like mirrors hung this way. Another interesting way to hang both are on the window frame between a pair of windows. Nice bookcase, although I imagine you will swap out those knobs if I can second guess you!

    1. Ha, yes, it is funny what gets people going sometimes! 🙂 Yes, I am planning to change out the hardware on the cabinet and the desk.

  40. THE bookcase is decorated & displayed spot on. In addressing the magazine holders. Possibly a coat of Miss Mustard Seeds Hemp oil would add a depth of richness akin to the frame

  41. I see the BHG Decorarating with White book on your shelf. It’s my favorite. Every time I pick it up, I feel like I’m spending time with an old friend. Love the work you’re doing here, As someone with a bad shoulder, I have to tell you to be careful….it’s so easy to overdo and not notice until it’s too late. Please take enforced breaks!

  42. I love the book case, and your choice of the bunny print on the front is charming. A little unexpected quirk here and there makes a room! And as long as you can find your books, arrange them any way you like…
    I’m not a fan of backwards books) but plenty of mind end up upside down when I’m in a rush!
    Prayers for a quick recovery, and no more pain. Marie

  43. This is beautiful Marian! Thank you for sharing. Especially the tip about color sorting your books. I have since rearranged my small collection of books by color and it has made all the difference….so much less cluttered looking! Love it!

    I also like the baskets you have on top of the shelf…can you share the source?

  44. I just did an internet search for “hanging art on a bookcase,” and this was the first website that came up. Funny that it was from when you were having shoulder problems earlier this year, and I remember reading it when you first posted it!
    This probably isn’t a good time to ask a question, given that typing is hard for you right now, but I was wondering how you determine how high to hang the art on a bookcase? Are you just eyeballing it, or is there a design “rule” to figure out its placement? I’m debating how high to hang something. Thanks!

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