Now that you've chosen the books you want to display, let's dress up the shelves with a little decoration. The rule of thirds, a tool that photographers and artists use to compose pictures, can help you create a dramatic point of focus on each shelf. To use the rule of thirds, visualize the shelf divided into three equal sections both horizontally and vertically. You'll establish the focal point for each shelf by including an object between the books at one of the intersections of these dividing lines. If you need to lift a small object up, stack books horizontally under it until it reaches the appropriate level, but remember to leave some empty space on either side. This draws the eye naturally to the focal point and lets it rest there. The items you choose for focal points might include clocks, vases, framed photographs and collectibles. To highlight a particularly special item, let it stand alone. If you want to include greenery, use artificial plants. The moisture and sunlight necessary to nourish living plants are damaging to books.
Some designers suggest repeating a color on each shelf to tie the entire display together. If red is the color you choose, you can place a red vase on one shelf, a red bowl on another, and a photograph framed in red on a third shelf. Or you could use themes to connect the items displayed on each shelf. For example, if you're arranging photo albums on a shelf, include something relating to the subject of the albums. If the albums are collections of vacation photos, use a souvenir from a memorable trip to create a focal point. Identify the wedding albums with a pair of toasting flutes. Let trophies, craft projects, sports equipment or framed certificates act as bookends for albums of children or grandchildren.
Speaking of children and grandchildren, you should set aside the highest shelves to display fragile items. Slip attractive or unique but sturdy baskets into the bottom shelves for clutter control. Use the baskets to store toys, remote controls and television viewing guides, unfinished crossword and Sudoku puzzles, and in-progress needlework. Baskets are also a great functional accessory in bathrooms to corral personal care items.