No matter how convenient it is to download a book on your tablet, there’s nothing like the sensory pleasures of an old-school hardback: The smell of the paper. The feel of turning the page. The cover art that evokes the story.
That said, books do take up space—and depending on how much you read, potentially a lot of space. And unless you live in the Library of Congress, you may have reached a point where you’re at a loss for how to organize them all.
Before you give up and go digital forever, take heart: There are some clever ways to show off your favorite tomes and make them the protagonist of your home decor.
If you’re a book lover, there’s no sense hiding it—embrace your bibliophile tendencies and design your home around your books. The more it feels like a library, the more you might feel like you’re in your own happy place, where a new world is only a page turn away.
“Few things are more lovely than a solid wall of library shelves filled with books and a few décor items,” says Darla DeMorrow, owner of HeartWork Organizing, in Wayne, PA. “A sliding ladder, of course, is the icing on the cake.”
Put your books in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name, or according to genres. You can even get creative: Mary Shelley next to E.L. James? One could say that both did create monsters.
2. Create a ‘reading rainbow’
Are you a visual person? Let go of logic and disregard titles. Instead, “organize books by color of their binding to create a rainbow effect on the shelving,” suggests Amy Trager, a certified professional organizer in Chicago.
Of course, this could mean shushing your inner librarian in order to put Shakespeare next to Sherlock Holmes. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly pleasing to the eye.
3. Sprinkle them into the decor of every room
Your books don’t all have to go in one place. Divvy them up in different spots around your home. Try grouping three or four at a time, vertically or horizontally—whichever feels right.
“Some books you’ll never read again, but you want them on your shelf because they’re a good memory,” acknowledges Helene Segura, a productivity consultant based in San Antonio.
4. Ditch the shelves
Books—especially rare and old hardbacks—look good anywhere. Try giving them a different display treatment by taking them off the shelf and nesting them in a handsome basket instead.
Pro tip: “If they’re filed with their spines showing, they’ll be easier to grab,” Segura notes.
Or build your own cubby system as an alternative to traditional bookcases.
“I’ve seen people use everything from egg crates to cinder blocks to build shelving for books,” says Lauren Williams, a certified professional organizer and owner of Casual Uncluttering in Woodinville, WA.
5. Play them up with accessories
“I honestly think it’s the accessories around book storage that make the biggest difference,” Williams says.
Think: a genuine library step stool, a Mason jar filled with bookmarks, a piece of art you’ve collected alongside a book about the artist. Consider your books a work of art—and your guests will too.
6. Mix the genres
What we read undoubtedly gives insight into who we are. And chances are, we’re into more than Victorian romances or true crime thrillers. To inspire discussion, don’t be afraid to mix genres—even if it feels out of place.
“I personally enjoy mixing rows of vintage books and modern books on my shelves, partially because I enjoy a lot of obscure, long-out-of-print writers,” Williams says.
7. Show some spine—with your organizing, that is
We automatically tuck books vertically onto a shelf, but there’s no law that says you have to.
“Stand some books up and stack some sideways on the same shelf so you can read the titles horizontally,” says Eileen Roth, author of “Organizing for Dummies.”
For some visual interest, pick one book to stand out in front of all the rest.
You can also organize your books by the height of their bindings to create an undulating, or wave, look, Trager suggests.
While you might not want to use your books to, say, hold up a claw-foot tub, they are capable of smaller chores. For instance, DeMorrow says, a stack of books can charmingly elevate a too-short lamp to exactly the right height.
9. … or backward
Purists may want to skip this idea, but we’ll throw it out there anyway.
“There’s a very popular trend of turning books the ‘wrong’ way on a shelf, so the spines are in,” DeMorrow says. “Which makes it impossible to find a book you want, but does a lot to calm a color scheme.”
10. Use your books as art
You can hang artwork on the outside of the shelves, partly obscuring your books for a layered look, DeMorrow says. You can also face your books outward on the shelves, treating the covers like individual works of art.
11. Put them on the stairs (yes, really)
“If your staircase is wider than normal, that’s a great spot for books!” DeMorrow says. “Just store them safely so you can be called a collector and not a hoarder.”
12. Defy gravity
Want something a little edgier than the traditional bookcase? Think custom shelves that twist, turn, and generally defy gravity. Reading never looked so good.