12 Minimalist Bookshelves - Quietly Understated Design For Calming Decor Schemes

Minimalist bookshelves are key to curating spaces that are filled with your favorite things - but displayed in calming ways. Here's our edit of the 12 best

bookshelf collage on colorful background
(Image credit: Pottery Barn, Lulu and Georgia, Room & Board)

Minimalist bookshelves are a key part of the calming, curated home. But they can be hard to get right - how do you find something functional that doesn't get in the way of your soothingly pared back aesthetic?  I've been there and know it can be particularly overwhelming for anyone with minimalist tendencies. In a world in which we're spoiled for choice, how could anyone possibly have the time to find the perfect understated and sleek selection?

That's where I come in, dear reader. Off the back of my round-up of the 15 best bookshelves available now (required reading for anyone in the market), I've curated a selection of the best minimalist bookshelves, at the end of which I speak to an expert about how to spot a minimalist bookshelf in the crowd and how best to style one. You're welcome in advance.

For more inspiration, check out the Livingetc round-up of the best home decor websites when you're done.

12 of the best minimalist bookshelves

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What makes a good minimalist bookshelf?

"I'd look for a clean-lined, simple design, preferably with an open back so that it isn't too chunky or overwhelming," Abi Dare of interior design blog These Four Walls told me. "Modular shelving units are ideal because you can configure them how you like and adapt them in the future as your needs change."

If you'd prefer a more fitted bookshelf, "floating designs with no visible fixtures create a sleek, pared-back look." Or, "you could also consider painting the shelves the same color as the wall, meaning they fade into the background and place the emphasis on whatever they display, rather than becoming the feature themselves."

How should I style a minimalist bookshelf?

First and foremost, the perfect minimalist bookshelf isn't "overcrowded," Abi told me. To avoid this, "I like to break the books up with vases, sculptures, plants and other objects, varying heights and layering some items in front of each other for interest and depth."

To style a minimalist bookshelf, Abi also recommended leaving "sections of negative space, too –  it looks far better on the eye than a dense, monolithic swathe of books." Further, she might also "vary the way the books are stacked, placing some upright and some on their sides, perhaps with an object on top of them here and there." 

Style Editor

Brigid Kennedy is a Style Editor at Livingetc.com, where she is responsible for obsessively combing the internet for the best and most stylish deals on home decor and more. She was previously a story editor at TheWeek.com, where she covered both U.S. politics and culture. She describes her design style as colorful and clean, and in her free time enjoys reading, watching movies, and curating impossibly niche playlists on Spotify. She lives in New York.