How To Style a Bookcase for the Christmas Season.

And yes, this does mean my bookcases are done.  And they were indeed finished by my goal date of December 1st. Mainly due to a super-effective mix of adrenaline and Pop Rocks.  At least I think they were pop rocks.  They were blue and kind of clear and I got them from a candy store owner named Bob the Drug Dealer.  Don’t worry, his given name isn’t really Bob the Drug Dealer, people just call him that because he’s a drug dealer. His real name is Bob Schlumpel.

Let’s get this first look at the bookcases out of the way …




I’m not offering up too much of a look; you’ll see more of it in my Christmas House Tour post coming up in the next few days.

I’d like to direct your attention to the randomly placed black presents in the bookcases.  Go back and look in case you missed them.  Although I don’t know how you could have missed them because I know you spent at least the length of a made-for-tv-movie checking out what books I read.   O.K. Have you seen the wrapped presents in the bookcase now?  Good.  Now I’d like to tell you how that idea came about.

2 weeks ago I finished the bookcases and waited as long as humanly possible to put any books back in them because technically you’re supposed to wait 30 days for latex paint to dry. I waited 12 hours.  Which is 30 days OCD years.  I just couldn’t wait any longer.  I had to throw everything back in them quickly so I could get started on Christmas decorating that night.  Because I was in such a rush I had a bunch of empty spaces in the bookcases and nothing to fill them with.  Once January rolls around I’ll take the time to sort them out.  But for now I was screwed. And the worst kind of screwed.  Bookcase screwed. Anyone who has ever tried to style a bookcase knows all about this affliction.

I kind of pondered a few things that I could do that would be Christmassy and quick to fill up the spaces. I tried a different little Christmas tree in each hole but I didn’t like it. I thought I could maybe fill them with poinsettias but didn’t love that idea.  I shoved live squirrels with bows on their heads into them.  No dice. None of the typical ideas were working.

Then the perfect solution came to me via a University basketball coach. Because that, as we all know, is where the very best decorating ideas always come from.  Amos, the basketball coach, is a friend of mine who also happens to love design and the very night I was struggling with my bookcase dilemma, he sent me a photo of his Christmas decorated bookcases.  The ENTIRE bookcase, every single nook was filled with fake Christmas presents.

THAT WAS IT!  Now all I needed to do was find approximately 6 boxes that fit perfectly into my bookcases.  WAIT.  NO I DIDN’T!


The next photo he sent me showed me they’re not made with boxes.  They’re 2×2’s that have been screwed together to form a square. Or rectangle. Or whatever shape you need.


By forming the presents with just a few 2x2s you don’t even need to take anything out of your bookcase. You just stick the false present in front of the books. When it’s time to get rid of them you slide them out and your bookcases are exactly like they were before Christmas.  It’s a Christmas miracle, cue the squirming baby Jesus.


My presents fit really tightly into their spots but apparently according to my new decorating mentor you should put a little leg on the back of them so they don’t tip over.  He didn’t.  And I didn’t.  But you should.  Apparently they’ll twist a bit over time and independently try to do a back flip every once in a while, ruining your wrapping.

I used black paper, which is going to be a theme for this Christmas by the way, black velvet and black silk ribbon.  And they pretty much disappeared into a blob of nothingness.  Without even consulting a basketball coach, I figured out I just needed to add some contrast.  Enter greenery.  Two sprigs pine, one sprig cedar, one sprig juniper.  I put them all in little floral vials so they won’t dry out by the end of the month.

HAHAHAHAH.  Do you know how little those floral vials are?  You need to fill them like once a day.  I got sick of filling them after day 2. The greenery will be be crispy in about 4 days.  But it’s the thought that counts and I know you’ll be far more conscientious than I am.


If you find yourself being bookcase screwed this holiday season, give this slam dunk a shot.


  1. Elaine says:

    Beautiful and so elegant! This is a bookcase version on “the little black dress”!

  2. Jacquie says:

    What a genius idea. And I’m worried about Margaret too.

  3. says:

    Tres chic!
    Great idea. Surprising how black can look so festive.

  4. Jody says:

    Great job with the book cases. They look great. And hope you enjoyed YOUR day.

  5. Stephanie Hobson says:

    Yes, where is Margaret?

  6. Grammy says:

    The shelves are beautiful. I love them.

    But, where is Margaret? I’m worried.

  7. Flash says:

    don’t know how anyone has space in a book case. ours are jam packed, tighter than sardines! with some sardines overflowing the can.
    Any tips on how to give up books?
    Happy Holidays from your bud in Alaska

    • Grammy says:

      Same problem here. I used to think I could “style” bookshelves but they fill up with books before anything else has a chance. There are no tips about how to give up books — you have an illness and it’s incurable. Just live with it, because it will make you terminally unhappy if you get rid of the books. Trust me.

    • Jackie says:

      I keep some of my books but most of the time, since I was running out of space, when I am done reading them, I pass them on to another book-lover & she shares them with her daughter. Some they keep & some they pass on to others.

      And Karen – I love this idea. Your shelves look great.

      • Cassie says:

        Love your work Karen and yes you make me snort with every blog-thank you, thank you.
        Book sharing idea- I know it’s sacriledge to even think about writing in a book… but we share mom, granny and more, so we would sign and date when we read it and pass it on.

  8. Elaine says:

    Congratulations, Karen! I knew you’d get the job done in time. It all looks lovely! The touch of greenery makes the black very festive!

  9. Trackeyb says:

    I love basketball season but I wish Christmas didn’t land in the middle… Oh and the bookcases look great!

  10. Karin in NC says:

    Looks fabulous!

  11. Linda in Illinois says:

    I absolutely love the book case ! and the black wrapped gifts – they are stunning. Very nice job.

  12. Ev Wilcox says:

    Shelves look wonderful Karen! All your hard swear…I mean, work, really paid off! Well done!

  13. maggie van sickle says:

    love it.

  14. Marilyn says:

    Great job Karen, looks fantastic

  15. Louise says:

    Ooooooh! Your dining room looks gorgeous now! I keep going back to the photo to get that jolt of pleasure. What a success your bookcases are!

    The fake gifts are neat, but I’m not sure I’d trust a guy who’d come up with that. 😉 OTOH, he certainly sounds creative! We want to know more!

  16. Cred says:

    Wow! The black presents are stunning. What a great idea. I love the black theme for Xmas.

  17. Mary W says:

    I arrange the tree trimmings onto my mantle and never water them. Just lay a sheet under the mantle after Christmas and swoop them all down onto the sheet and drag them outside. I also put a huge pot of them in the bathroom with no water. I just don’t touch the branches until clean up day. Your black presents are really striking but I can’t get over how gorgeous the tall wide white stripes look on your shelving. Keep going back for the fun affect of seeing the unexpected wide white stripes. Clean, different, and just beautiful (especially set off well with black presents. I imagine the effect is even better in real life being they are satin and velvet – LOVE the texture. Totally worth your hard work and time which is very easy for me to say.

    • Mary W says:

      I did use fake presents one year under my tree since there wasn’t a lot of presents – the kids were older but I still wanted to fill it up. So I wrapped up empty cardboard boxes which looked wonderful and even better when I set out my trash LOL. They disappeared before the garbage men came.

  18. Rose says:

    … it, and yes about the coach?

  19. Ann says:

    I sure wouldn’t bother with the little water vials. Just keep cutting fresh greens every few days until the holidays are over

  20. jainegayer says:

    Beautiful, classy and I love the fake presents in the bookcase. So you or it would have been you if the coach hadn’t thought of it first.

  21. Lesley says:

    I like the look. Think I might cut thick chunks of styrofoam to fit the shelves and wrap those. Avoid that whole twisting and needing a leg thing.

  22. Lynn says:

    Oh have to say fake presents great idea ;). I use to mess with my kids an husband when I was younger, I always put out fake presents . With notes inside telling them that Santa knows an is watching. Due to the fact they they always were so snoopy, real ones were keep at a friends that had no kids. The real ones were wrapped identically so they were never sure as sometimes I would just change the name tag. They called me mean , I just wanted them to be surprised at Christmas.

    • Mary W says:

      Love your story! My daughter saw all her presents one year and then pretended to be surprised on Christmas morning. About a week later she said it was the worst Christmas ever. (I used to tell my kids to not go in my closet because their presents were inside.) After my daughter looked, it never happened again. She was my best salesman on not peeking. I thought I was teaching them patience but your idea is even better – teaching them Mom always knows what they are up to. Love it.

      • Ev Wilcox says:

        I took a rather “meaner” approach when my eldest son snooped on his birthday presents when he was a kid. He got them on his birthday, but I did not wrap them. Lesson learned.

      • Julie says:

        Mary, my two daughters confessed to me several years later that they had snooped too, and that that Christmas had been the worst ever. Clearly it doesn’t pay to snoop!

  23. Melissa says:

    Wow! I had to do a double take, no wait, a triple take….those bookcases are gorgeous and awesome and not sure how you pulled it off, but, W.O.W.

    LOVE the ‘present on the bookshelf’ idea, what a completely ingenious idea, and you rocked it with the black color scheme. So stealing that idea!

    Seriously though, the shelves look custom and you did a great job, you should be proud.

  24. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Sheeez…Don’t you know that b-ball coaches make the BEST decorators…clearly the man is a genius…my coach/decorator is awesome…I just love the hoop hanging from the center of my bookcase…and I find tossing the ball in the basket from the comfort of my sofa is sooo relaxing… seriously looks great Karen! lol

    • Nancy Blue Moon says:

      and once again you’ve gotten yourself in a mess by mentioning a man friend…didn’t I warn you the last time??…by this time tomorrow people will be wanting to know when the wedding is…God help you girlfriend…

  25. Stephbo says:

    Oooh. Nice catch, CJ! Yeah. So what about this coach?

  26. Edith says:

    What a great idea! Love the black!

  27. Auntiepatch says:

    Love it! It looks beautiful!

  28. cj says:

    So about this coach. Is no one going to ask about the coach?

    • Marti says:

      Yeah, is the coach single? Or… otherwise?
      Does he make housecalls?

      Meantime, OCD years. CDO is more like it. (CDO=OCD with the letters in the correct order. Get with the program!)

      I find myself wondering if you have any evergreens left in your yard or if you swipe all the greenery from your neighbors bushes, making you the pariah at caroling parties?

  29. ronda says:

    the bookcases look amazing! good job. the black “boxes” fill the spaces nicely, and the greenery adds just the right touch of Christmas.

  30. Tina says:

    Meanwhile (as we’re all aware, I just moved here a couple of months ago, I’m old and that’s my excuse for unpacking at a snail’s pace) I have a jet black bookcase with a few empty spots…and I can’t wait to wrap up some “gifts” to fill with! I’m leaning toward yellow…maybe with green bows!

  31. Julie Napier says:

    Now I am going to have to put in bookshelves, so I can have the faux boxes! I love them!

  32. Larraine says:

    Really, Karen — ” Oral Surgery” by Mead??!!!!?

    • Laura says:

      I was wondering the same thing! I think we’re getting a dental related post next year!!

        • Jan in Waterdown says:

          Ladies, ladies! Obviously, you have collectively not been keeping up with the rest of us or your “taods” homework. This issue was dealt with a couple of posts or weeks or whatever ago. Karen has dental stuff in her ancestral blood and inherited said tome legitimately. Apparently.

  33. TucsonPatty says:

    Beautiful! Slick trick and clever to boot. Those little vials are just for the 30 minutes of pretty orchid for a corsage for Mother’s Day church goin’. Just sayin’.’ Pretty worthless for anything such as this. My fresh wreath came with instructions to spritz it with water every day, and I can do that. Soak it in the bathtub in water for overnight before putting up to display – I can do that. Soak it weekly in tub to keep it fresh. Not happening. Take it down from the door and shed needles through the house to the tub and clean the needles out of the tub next morning and drip water again all through the house and then re-wire it back to the security screen. Nope. It will just have to get crispy. It will match your sprigs just fine!

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