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Originally published March 29, 2012 at 10:01 PM | Page modified March 29, 2012 at 10:32 PM

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Create bookcase displays that are bound to please

Home Style: 4 tips on how to use books, mementos and artwork in a bookcase display that celebrates your family.

Scripps Howard News Service

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If you're rolling your eyes at the thought of covering dozens of books, try this: Turn... MORE

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When I visit friends I love to look at their bookcases. The best bookcase displays, in my opinion, are those that tell a bit of their owner's story. Here are some tips for using your collection of books, accents, artwork and personal artifacts to create an arresting display that celebrates your life.

When I design bookcase displays, my mission is to craft a visually gripping scene that spotlights a collection of items, each of which helps tell the story of the people who own them. To do so, I often use different combinations of these four elements:

1. Books

This may seem obvious, right? But not all bookcase displays need to include books. And not all displays need to treat books the same way. One approach is to make your books the main attraction. My home is filled to the gills with books. Unless I want them stacked from floor to ceiling, I have to pack every bookshelf I own with books.

Even then, I like to break up the endless sea of spines with a few accents or some artwork. One trick is to lean artwork against the books. I've also hung artwork from the bookcase shelves.

Another approach is to treat the books in the bookcase as a backdrop for artwork and accents. One idea is to cover your books with plaid paper. I found the idea in a decorating magazine that featured an inn in Scotland. The books in the inn's library were covered with tartan fabrics. It looked marvelous!

If you're rolling your eyes at the thought of covering dozens of books, try this: Turn your books around so the spines face the back of the case. You'll be left with a textured backdrop of creamy white pages against which to create displays.

2. Accents

The key to creating a great display of accents in your bookcase is not to overdo it. Don't pack the shelves too full. Look at the forms and shapes of each piece you pick. Do you have an interesting mix of sizes, styles and textures?

Avoid using too many small pieces because they can get lost and can make the display look busy. Or, if you have a few small pieces you really want to display, group them together on a tray so they become one unit.

If you want your display to be about half books and half accents, try creating groupings of books and groupings of accents. I really like displays that include bulky items like lidded baskets or wooden boxes because they add some weight and serve the dual purpose of providing storage for things like loose photos and papers. I'm also crazy about using pottery, statues and potted ferns in bookcase displays.

3. Artwork

Bookcases make an ideal spot for smaller pieces of art. Usually, I group the artwork with other accents, allowing the art to serve as a backdrop, giving the tableau yet another lovely layer. Get creative when picking art for displays. Try a beautiful plate or tray propped up in an easel, an old engraving or a botanical.

4. Artifacts

Your personal artifacts are among the most important ingredients of a great bookcase display. Try working in some framed snapshots that capture the faces of the people you love, memorable life moments and places you hold dear. Maybe it's a shot of your first birthday party, or a great black-and-white photo of your children, or an old portrait of an ancestor.

Next, weave in some specific objects that are special to you, like a family heirloom, a piece from one of your favorite collections or a keepsake from your travels. Each helps tell the story of your life.

This column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at http://www.nellhillsblog.com/. She can be reached at marycarol@nellhills.com.

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