Hanging Artwork in Bookshelves

Artfully arranging bookshelves requires some skill.  The trick is to show off your accessories in an effortless way.  It's a balancing act - too much and they look over styled, too little and they feel disjointed and cluttered.

   The most important thing to remember is bookshelves are an opportunity to create something special and unique in your space.  They offer a source of variety - you can constantly rearrange them to give you a different look depending on the style you are going for at the moment.

 One thing I love to include in bookshelves is artwork. If your bookshelves have adjustable shelving, this is super easy to do.

Here are the steps to properly hang artwork in your bookshelves. 

Decide where you want to create the artwork vignette, making sure to maintain symmetry with the other shelves in the unit.  You may need to remove a shelf or two to create an opening large enough to accommodate the artwork. 

This is a picture of the bookshelves in our family room (at least a section of them).  You can see the artwork in the larger opening I have created by removing one shelf.

Select the artwork - preferably from somewhere else in your home (there is no need to buy something new).  I like to select pieces that will bring a bit of color into the space.

This is a photograph from a client's home and a great example of incorporating a darker framed piece of artwork into lighter toned bookshelves.

Remember, artwork can include a mirror, plates, or really anything you we are clever enough to hang vertically on the wall.

Create the complete vignette for the shelf before hammering your first nail!  You need to make sure you are going to be happy with the entire shelf and how it reads, before you hang the artwork.  Take into consideration the space below the piece and how it's going to look overall.


In my home, I chose to center the artwork.  But because the opening is large, I needed to include additional accessories to "fill in" around the smaller scale piece.

Properly Hang the Artwork.
Most built-in bookshelves have a floating back (meaning there is a space between the back of the unit and the wall).  So, if you attempt to nail straight into the back of the unit, the nail will go straight through and not support the weight of the artwork.  You'll then be left with an ugly hole in the back of the shelving unit.

Here's my solution.  Hang all artwork on monofilament from the shelf directly above the artwork.

Voila. You have the look.
Here's a close up of what I'm talking about.  The stack of books to the left go in front of the nail and hide the hardware. 
Here are my favorites for getting the job done.  I never leave home without these when I'm styling a client's home! 

Clear 60 lb. test Monofilament (or as we like to call it here in the South "Deep Sea Fishing Line")

Small Picture Nails
I like these nails because they have a prominent head that will not allow the monofilament to slip off. 

Self Adhesive Hooks
If the homeowner does not want a nail hole in the shelf, I use a self adhesive backed hook like this.  To use these, you place the hook flat on the above shelf with the top facing out (hope that makes sense!)

Girly Hammer
I like this particular hammer because A. it's pink and B. it's only 12 oz. so you can easily handle it.
It's very important to use these on the back of the artwork to prevent the picture from sliding and becoming crooked on the wall.  They are also super helpful for photo groupings to keep the series straight on the wall.

I hope this gives you a new trick to use in your home!  Have a wonderful short week. M.


  1. I am so bookmarking this post! Excellent how to and very comprehensive on ways to incorporate artwork into bookshelves, something I think many (myself included) have no clue how to do! This was great! I am happy you gave some visuals too becuase I happen to love the look.

  2. Mandi- this is a great step by step tutorial on hanging artwork in bookshelves...thanks for sharing! Take care, Caroline

  3. Nifty! I had no idea how to hang art in bookshelves. Not that I have much room. But it is good to know!

  4. Excellent advice all around. I love the look of artwork in book cases...so interesting. And I must buy some Bumpon. I have a girly hammer, too. :)

  5. What a great post! Super helpful! Thanks!


Thank you for thoughts on my post! M.