One of the most difficult areas to stage and stage well, are bookshelves or bookcases. It can be an overwhelming task and does require a lot of props and creativity, more so than staging an entire room. I must admit, when I took on home staging projects that had a lot of bookshelves or bookcases (and there have been homes with multiple rooms with bookshelves), I would cringe because it did take a lot of planning to ensure we had enough “stuff”. This is when those old encyclopedias come in handy. By the way, hard back books work very well for staging these areas. I recommend packing away all the paperbacks as they don’t stand up well and won’t be as effective. If you have some large, thick paperbacks, they may work if you stack them laid one on top of each other, but generally speaking, I would opt for only hard back books. Greenery (cascading vines), small/medium sized framed art, and miscellaneous accessories like statues, plates, vases, some framed photos, etc. work very well for staging bookcases. Keep in mind, you DO NOT have to fill all the shelves, but choose the ones that would make the most impact, namely the ones at eye level.
I highly recommend staging bookcases or bookshelves over keeping them completely empty. Custom built-in bookshelves can be a great selling point, but merchandising them well will really help highlight this feature. Take a look at the before photos (click on the images to enlarge them)- naked bookshelves are just not as appealing and are not as buyer attractive. Remember, most buyers have a hard time visualizing how spaces can be utilized – take the guess work out of the mix and just show them. Two of the examples shown below have window seats (these were rooms in the same house) and we staged that area by adding some colorful accent pillows and a throw which adds color to an all-white background and creates a more inviting space. It draws you towards the window. The room on the top carried a travel theme in the space by linking the safari framed art to the use of a trunk, vintage suitcase, leopard and palm tree print throw pillows. We did very minimal staging on the bookshelves since it was a bedroom at the end of the hall and buyers would have seen the main landing space in the middle photos prior to reaching this space.
TIP: If you have dark shelves and you want the books to stand out, you can wrap the books with paper like you used to do back in school. Using the same color throughout can be extremely impactful or you can choose colorful paper and really add a punch. These would be inexpensive (although time intensive) methods to create a really nice focal point with your bookshelves. If you have photos of bookshelves you have staged, please share them with me. Good luck and have fun!