Styling Lesson: Designer Tips for Decorating with Books

August 20, 2015

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have fabulous built-in bookcases (how about this entryway) or miles of wall space to install custom shelving? While this would be LOVELY, these features don’t often come standard in most homes or apartments. While you might not have the perfect built-in nook, there are still many creative ways to style your space with books. It’s easy to make a bold and colorful, or delightfully subtle impact based on your personal taste.

Below are three different routes you can take with your book styling, plus my personal shopping tips. Next time you see that bin of $1 books, you’ll be armed with inspiration!

styling books

image via @paddotopalmy

styling bookshelves

image via @dwellmagazine

Tip 1: Shop for Neutral Books & Decorate with Vintage Touches

If you gravitate towards a neutral palette (think whites, creams, wood tones and a hint of green) there are several options for you to consider. Look for books with cloth covers, particularly neutral or pastel in color. Take book jackets off of vintage books. You may be surprised to reveal gorgeous cloth covers underneath.

  • Try turning books around. Arranging books to show the white pages may not be great for finding your favorite novel, but it sure looks nice if a neutral palette is what you are after.
  • Get a little destructive and rip off book covers altogether. If you like this more organic look, stack a few “deconstructed” books together and tie them with bakers twine.
  • Add textural baskets, vintage trinkets like clocks or frames, and even artfully place a special vintage book under a cloche for a unique, polished look.
styling bookshelves

image via Homepolish

styling bookshelves

Neutral & Vintage Styling

Tip 2: Shop for Colorful Books and Decorate with Modern Touches

If you gravitate towards bold colors, geometric prints, and clean lines try these ideas.

  • Shop by color. Whether the book jacket is on or off, hunt for similar colors or combinations you think will look good together.
  • I repeat, take book jackets off! Try this with books you have at home. You’ll be surprised how many great colors are underneath.
  • Look for modern imagery, designs, shapes, patterns on book covers. These will often be art books, so look in the art/design/architecture sections first.
  • Style books in groups based on color palette. Decorative fireplace? Fill it with books! Empty coffee table? Fill it with books! Sad looking bar cart? Fill it with books! You get the idea.
styling bookshelves

image via @apartmenttherapy

styling bookshelves

Colorful & Modern Styling

styling bookshelves

image via @westelm

Tip 3: Shop by Category and Decorate by Organizing

If you are deeply inspired by art, travel, history, science, etc…there’s a book for that. Use your collection in an artful and organized way to create interest and impact.

  • Example: travel books are constantly updated and therefore recycled often. Scoop up travel books, and create categories to organize shelves and showcase your worldly interests. This look would work with any category and help keep you organized!
styling bookshelves

image via @popsugar

General Styling Tips:

  • Think horizontal and vertical for book placement
  • Add accents – sculptures, frames, plants, vases, decorative bowls, baskets
  • Narrow your focus – decide what the “look” is going to be. White and brass, natural tones and plant accents, colorful with modern accents, etc.
  • Once you’ve styled till your heart’s content, grab a favorite book and settle down for a good read!
styling bookshelves

image via @domainehome

What do you think? Are you armed with some “shelfie” inspiration?! Are you going to stop at the next garage sale you pass by that’s got piles of books? Maybe check the local library and see if they know about any upcoming local book sales or fairs. Here’s a little shelfie from our place. These are Luke’s dad’s old history books, plus some artwork and pottery we bought on our honeymoon.


styling bookshelves

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Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

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