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Simple Tips for Staging Bookshelves and Built-ins

Oct 20, 2020
Simple Tips for Staging Bookshelves and Built-ins

So you’re staging a home with a massive built-in, a bunch of awkward niches, or some cluttered bookcases. What do you do? Here are some simple tips for staging bookshelves and built-ins to maximize the property’s perceived value.

With this easy formula, those shelves or niches will be an asset to the home, rather than an eyesore!

Start by Decluttering the Shelves

When you stage, it is important to style the bookshelves for great MLS photos. We used to have a general rule that items smaller than a basketball will show up as clutter in photos.

While that is still a good rule of thumb, photos are becoming higher-quality, so that guideline can be relaxed a bit. Home stagers have more freedom to include smaller items occasionally. Just beware that too many small items will still clutter up photos.

Begin by emptying the bookshelves to have a blank canvas to work with.

empty bookshelf with plant

Adjust the Shelving Heights

Some bookcases have shelves that can be moved to different heights to accommodate larger objects. Get permission from the homeowner to move shelves, but help them understand that this will make for AWESOME pictures!

Adjusting shelves can be beneficial in bringing a symmetrical look to your client’s space. You can create drama by removing some shelves altogether, and maybe hanging or leaning small art in the space.

staging corner bookshelves


Curate Beautiful Items for the Bookshelves

If you are doing an occupied stage, you will need to edit the homeowner’s existing items. When we prepare and make selections for vacant stages with bookshelves, we include the following list of accessories:

  • Hardback books
  • Small artwork
  • Greenery (NO old school ivy or trailing plants) – we use faux succulents or small pots of ferns
  • Matching plates, boxes, or accessories that can be repeated in different parts of the bookcase to give it symmetry

White bookshelves are the easiest to work with because almost anything will show up in them.

When staging darker bookshelves, use white, light, or shiny decor to help the camera ‘see’ more than a black hole.

If the books are all different colors or the bookshelves are dark wood, one trick to make the vignette appear lighter and brighter is to turn the books around.

built in bookshelves

Arrange Items with Our Secret Shelf-Styling Formula

We have a secret step-by-step strategy for arranging items on shelves! Follow this order for the easiest and most pleasing arrangements:

  1. Start with art leaned in the largest openings
  2. Then add the largest accessories
  3. Place books stacked horizontally and vertically
  4. Last, add life, like a plant!

Remember to leave some negative space – you don’t have to fill every shelf. It’s good for the eye to have a place to rest.

staged bookshelf

We teach all of these real estate styling strategies and so much MORE in our Staging Design Professional® course. Become a certified home stager today to transform every listing into a buyers’ dream home, selling listings faster and for a higher profit!

Written by Staging Studio Lead Stager Michele English.

Staging Studio was created BY stagers, FOR stagers. Learn more about the accredited Staging Design Professional® training courses we offer.

home stager staging studio training certification

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