Judging a Bookshelf by its Contents

Dear Ruth,
Our new home is coming along nicely, but we’re stuck when it comes to filling up our built-in bookshelves. Help!
Delilah B., Boulder

Hi, Delilah. Bookshelves are like a blank canvas! Perfect for books, obviously, but also a catch-all for every trinket, bottle and bowl that has no home. Bookshelves are the best excuse to become a collector of just about anything. There is no better way to make a statement than to put things together in quantity.

My favorite theme for styling bookshelves is to do them by color. There are so many ways of going about it, but the bold statement that the end result makes never gets old.

The easiest way to see where there are gaps is to take all of the books you have and separate themmost obvious being the colors of the rainbow, but I also love the look of random color blocking or even just black and white.

Next, take all of the things in your home or from your recent thrift store hunt and put each piece into the book piles of corresponding color.

I often pick up old bottles while thrift store shopping as these make the perfect accessory to a bookshelf done by color.  They give good height to any space and sub for a great bookend.

Lastly, fill your shelves in the color order you are drawn to, and once books are up, fill in the empty spaces with any remaining items.

You can load them up with books in different directions to give the eye plenty to look at or keep it simple and line up books vertically.

Bookshelves are also such a perfect place to hang artwork. Whether it's a small piece that has been in your family for decades, or a child’s proud creation from school, frame it and hang at a bookshelf intersection as seen here.

My favorite thing about bookshelves is the immediate way in which they provide a peephole into the lives of the home dweller, so enjoy the process and proudly display what you love and adore!

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Got a design question?  Ask Ruth!  

Ruth SonnensheinRuth's style has always been a perfect mixture of high and low, pairing flea market finds with new gems to create a wonderful balance and a well lived-in space.  


Having grown up in Denver, Ruth stayed close to home while studying Apparel and Merchandising at Colorado State University before moving to New York City to start a career in magazines, followed by a tenure in Los Angeles where she was an editorial and celebrity wardrobe stylist. 


Whether curating a client's wardrobe or making a room in their home come to life, Ruth's ability to pair old with new, add infusions of color and dimension and maintain an overall understanding of each individual's sensibility has made her transition from wardrobe to interior design a natural progression. 


Ruth now resides in Denver with her husband, three children and two Brussels Griffons. 

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