Are you a book lover, a bibliophile, a bookworm? Does your pulse quicken at the crack of a new spine or the smell of fresh pages? If you’ve got books in your home, don’t just settle for storing them in an out-of-sight box somewhere. The volumes you can’t part with can be decorative objects that add to the design and ambiance of your home. In fact, decorating with books is a wonderful way to add texture and a personal touch to your space. You can make a statement by creatively displaying your old books, new books, or new-to you books by mixing them in with art and other accessories. Even if you’re not much of a reader, a few carefully-considered books – even just four or five – can really make a home feel more inviting and lived-in.
Bookshelf Display Tips
Shelves are the most usual and functional way to display your literary collection. But (and of course there’s a but!) trying to display a store of too many books can end up creating an unwanted cluttered look. It’s all about creating a balance. Just because you have shelf space doesn’t mean you have to cram it full of books or other objects you don’t really need. I generally recommend leaving about half to a third of a bookcase empty. Building in some intentional space in this way actually creates a more visually-inviting display.
So, how do you strike the right balance when it comes to a book display? There are ways to maximize your storage space and have a beautiful-looking bookcase without conveying the image of a musty old bookstore basement. If you have a LOT of books, the best place to start is by deciding if there are books in your collection that you’d be comfortable parting with. This might be a great time to do a mini-purge! Consider which books you need (such as reference books and cookbooks) and which have served their purpose. A novel you have read once and won’t revisit may be better passed along to a friend to enjoy. It may also be time to admit that some books you bought and planned to read but have never got around to may need a new home. It may be worth applying the Marie Kondo principle here: ask yourself whether a book sparks joy before you decide whether to keep it or not.
Once you’ve whittled your collection down to the books you truly want to keep, it’s time to put on your designer and/or librarian hat, whichever suits you best (and depending on how often you access your library!) Or you could also try on a combination of hats and try to view your collection with the love of a reader but the discerning eye of a designer as well!
One way to start is to group your books by subject matter. The resulting collection might be somewhat random in color, size, and shape, but it’s easier to pull out the exact book you need when you need it. Organizing your books this way may naturally look chaotic and even busy, but there are a few creative touches you can then add from a design perspective. For example, books naturally come in lots of colors. Embrace this by inserting some artful objects like interesting pieces of driftwood, or wooden artifacts that are all the same color, to create a sense of continuity within the colorful patchwork.
On the other hand, if you’re storing books that you don’t actually refer to very often, then the door opens up for you to be able to utilize even more creative display options. For starters, your bookcase will look more calming and balanced if your books are grouped more or less by color. Think about choosing your favorite color, and then focus on featuring displays of books that are similar to that color. The books don’t need to match perfectly; it’s really more interesting to have some visual variety in a collection, anyway. For books you want to keep that are the wrong color, or that just don’t look that visually appealing, you can turn those books around with the spine facing in.
Alternative Book Display Ideas
Another way to deal with books that don’t fit into your color palette is to pull them out of the main bookcase and display them someplace else, to create a different effect. Here are some fun options:
- Coffee table display: The most common way to display books outside of bookshelves is the coffee table. This is a great way to add color and height to a coffee table space, and books can be used as the starting point for a stylish vignette. Placing a decorative item on top of the book stack creates a focal point. Or you could keep it simple and focus on curating books by color and content, choosing those with a striking title, cover, or spine to make a statement.
- You don’t have to limit book stacks to the coffee table. You can create one in a corner of a bedroom or study, or on a spare surface that needs a little extra personality. Either choose books that are all the same size or arrange them with smaller books stacked on top of larger ones for a more interesting visual grouping. The colors of the covers should echo the style you are trying to create for the room as a whole.
- A book stand or easel is another way to display a special book and can really make a striking statement in a room. In this case, your book is elevated to a piece of art. And best of all, you can change out the books you display depending on your mood or the season!
How else do you use your books as room accessories? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!