Five Coastal Bookshelf Essentials

Wow, how is it almost August?! This summer is truly flying by, although let’s be honest – don’t they all? Like all of you, we’ve spent a bit less time out and about, and more time at home these last handful of months. This has provided an opportunity to refresh some of our decor – with our office bookshelves getting my most recent attention. I know I’m not the only one, so I hope that this post gives you some coastal bookshelf decor ideas for your own home. To make it easy for you, I’ve included my five essentials for creating the perfect coastal bookshelf.

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A refresh of your bookshelves doesn’t have to be an expensive update either! I often borrow items from other rooms in my home and purchase just a couple of new accessories, and it’s usually enough to give the shelves (and the room) a brand new look! I’ve also included a couple other tips within this post to help keep costs down on a shelf refresh.

Summer refresh featuring five coastal bookshelf essentials
Summer refresh featuring five coastal bookshelf essentials

Five Coastal Bookshelf Essentials

1. Coastal Objects

As one might guess, you’ll first want to select some coastal objects for your shelves. These should be the focal point on your shelves so once you have these selected, then select accent pieces from the other four categories on this list.

If your coastal items are on the tall side, you’ll want to balance with some shorter items or vice versa. In general, look for coastal objects with texture. That will help draw people’s eyes to them, and they will balance out the straight lines of the picture frames, decorative boxes and books that you’ll also incorporate.

There are SO many pretty coastal objects out there, and they really add interest when you use the right combination! I love the new addition of the White Spiked Coral to my bookshelf, as well as the White Shell Balls and Coastline Fishing Weight Sculpture Set. I bought my “Life’s a Beach, Enjoy the Waves” sign two years ago during a Cape Cod getaway with my mother and I love how it evokes memories of the time we spent together. Shelves are such a great way to display items purchased while traveling, which make the shelves unique to YOU.

Summer refresh featuring five coastal bookshelf essentials
White spiked coral
White spiked coral
White shell ball
White shell ball
Fishing weight sculpture set
Fishing weight sculpture set

Here’s a few other coastal objects on my own wish list that would be a great addition to any set of shelves: Serena & Lily: Maritime Door Stopper (splurge) OR Etsy: Monkey’s Fist Knot Doorstop (save) 

William Sonoma Home: Beverly Wicker Chain Link Object

Wayfair: Decorative Natural California Driftwood Branch

Wayfair: Allaire Wood Natural Spheres Sculpture

Amazon: Amadour Bubble Glass Bottle (small)

Pottery Barn: Riley Handcrafted Rattan Lanterns

Birch Lane: Augustus Sculpture Set (set of 5)

2. Picture Frames

Yes, framed photos are a great way to surface memories that make us smile each and every time we walk into a room. But they are also a great way to personalize your shelf space and create a more casual, inviting look.

While I love a good seagrass or wood frame with gentle distressing, you don’t even need to buy new frames for a refresh! Do you have a new favorite photo from a recent vacation or a day at the beach? Even a simple switch of the photos inside of your frames is an inexpensive update that can introduce new color, while changing the look of your shelves.

Picture frames personalize and create an inviting space. Vary the material and colors of your frames as well.
Picture frames personalize and create an inviting space. Vary the material and colors of your frames as well.

Some of my current favorite frames include:William Sonoma Home: Point Reyes Seagrass Picture Frame

Pottery Barn: Wood Gallery Single Opening Frame (Gray or Modern White)

Carlyle Avenue: Abaca Rope Photo Frame

Wayfair: Wash Wood Picture Frame (White)

3. Decorative Boxes

I love the simplicity that a pretty mango wood, rattan or bone decorative box can bring to shelves. They also make a great place to stick any unsightly objects away when guests come over such as TV remotes, phone chargers, receipts, etc.

A decorative box is essential to a coastal bookshelf
Decorative Box

While the box shown in my photo was a Homegoods find, there are so many gorgeous ones out there, including:Pottery Barn: Tava Lidded Box in Whitewash

Wayfair: Carlotta Chiseled Mango Wood and Bone Decorative Box

CB2: Maya Bone Inlay Box

Walmart: Natural Mango Wood Whitewashed Carved Design Boxes With Lid (set of 3)

CB2: Chelsea White Concrete Box

I love the look of beads placed on top of a box, such as the wood bead garland shown in my photo above.

4. Greenery or Flowers

Adding greenery or flowers to your shelves will bring the fresh outdoors into your room, provide color, as well as some much-needed texture among the clean lines of your bookshelf. Whether you go the live or the faux route (which I often do unless I’ve treated myself to fresh flowers – hello black thumb!), be sure to display them in a decorative planter or a pretty vase. 

While the exact hydrangea and plant on my shelves are no longer in stock at Pottery Barn, I’ve included some very similar options below (in addition to a couple of other great finds!). Faux plants have come a long way over the years and I typically buy most of mine at Pottery Barn. Not only is the quality good but Pottery Barn’s usually look very authentic.


5. Hardcover Books

You didn’t think I was going to forget about incorporating books into a bookshelf did you? 🙂 While including books in a bookshelf definitely isn’t a requirement in this day and age, they are a great way to introduce some additional color. Depending on the look that you’re trying to achieve, you can showcase books in a neutral palette such as soft whites, creams, grays, blues or blushes. Or you can go for a bolder coastal look with bright pinks, greens and turquoise, which is especially fun in the summer!

They can stand upright with a pretty set of bookends such as these Corbel bookends from Birch Lane. On a different shelf you might alternate the direction of the books and stack a few of them on top of each other with a decorative object, just as I did.

Add hardcover or coffee table books to your shelves
Add hardcover or coffee table books to your shelves

Some favorite sets of books that would look amazing on any coastal bookshelf:

One budget-friendly way that I’ve built up my collection of pretty hardcover and coffee table books is to visit secondhand bookstores. T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, Marshalls and Homesense are also great places to check!

Additional tips for perfectly styled coastal shelves:

  • Texture is a must on your shelves! Whether it’s coral, shells, beads, plants, flowers or baskets. Place these next to, or on top of smoother objects to provide some interest and balance.
  • Stagger the height and width of your objects. You’ll want a combination of tall, short, thin and wide objects.
  • Remember the rule of threes – odd numbers typically work best when pairing items together. You’ll notice I have two books paired with a shell ball, as well as three fishing weights placed next to each other.

What’s currently on your shelves, and how frequently do you change up your decor? Share some ideas with other Casually Coastal readers in the comments below!

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Five Coastal Bookshelf Essentials