As a lover of books and a self-declared collector of books, I am constantly reimagining and rotating my collection to display different titles based on color and design. Mix in a few pieces of decor for accessorizing and, over the years, my book collection has transformed into more than just a library. Rather, it has become a source of interior design inspiration and an outlet for creative energy.
But, imagination abounds on the internet, and contemporary interior design greats from Emily Henderson to Orlando Soria have opened my eyes to the limitless possibilities inherent in decorating a space: triangles in the fireplace, black reclaimed wood walls in a bathroom, sconces as over-the-table lighting. It’s apparent our homes are no longer bound by the conventions of design, so why should visually-compelling books and priceless, second-hand finds be limited to a traditional bookcase?
If you’re like me and would like to give your book storage a refresh, try some of these unconventional methods for putting your most beloved books on display in your home.
1. Re-appropriate Your Bar Cart With Books
A bar cart, similarly to a hutch or media console, is a versatile piece of decor that can be incorporated into almost any room and re-appropriated to hold favorite trinkets and glassware, as well as a few bottles of your favorite wine. If wine isn’t necessarily your bag (bottle?), fill up one of the shelves of your stylish bar cart with some of your favorite books, a house plant, and maybe a small lamp to create your own portable library.
2. Incorporate Books Into a Picture Ledge
As I’ve mentioned before, book covers are like art to me and I often love displaying my favorite titles front and center on my bookshelf as pieces of art, as opposed to sorted and tucked away like storage. To bring functionality back to the bookcase and free up some prime real estate on its shelves, shift the more aesthetically pleasing book covers onto a picture ledge, along with some framed prints to create a stunning gallery of mixed media art. You’ll free up much-needed surface area on your shelves and create a new interesting focal point at the same time.
3. Display Your Books on (or Below) a Windowsill
There’s virtually nothing better than the great reading nook. Place that nook near a window with plentiful natural light, and that’s basically the perfect reading spot. Why not preemptively pull some of your favorite titles off of the shelf and display them in a spot where they belong: a sunny window ledge. The limited space and the natural focal point created by the window will not only place your favorite books on display, it will keep them close at hand when you’re ready for an impromptu reading session.
4. Use a Hutch or Buffet to Display Your Books
There are few pieces of furniture as aesthetically pleasing to me as a dining room hutch. Their compact, limited space is just enough of a constraint to allow you to declutter your decor, and their unassuming presence creates a wonderful vignette in a room whose sole purpose is to house a giant table. Arranging a mixture of coffee table books and some of your favorite novels behind the glass casing of a dining room hutch is a lovely way to create some aesthetic intrigue and tie rooms together.
5. Take Advantage of Hard to Reach Storage
We all have those high, hard to reach places in our homes that often sit empty just begging to store with something. If you have untapped storage space above kitchen cabinets or at the top of tall a shelving unit, these areas are perfect for storing items you don’t need to access every day. If you’re like me and, on a whim, you’ve acquired one or two awkwardly sized coffee table books or books of photography, use them to create visual intrigue in a space that is otherwise used to house, well…space.
6. Display Your Books On the Mantel
Mantels are a fantastic way to display decorations, vases, candles, plants, clocks — you name it. If you have a decorative keepsake, your best bet for displaying it prominently in your home is to place it on a mantel. Books on a mantel might not seem that revolutionary, but if you happen to have a working fireplace and a ton of beautiful books you’d like to display, there are approximately 48 inches of lateral space to work with. Add your favorite books, turning spines inward and outward, or placing books to their covers face out, and sprinkle in some decorative items and not only have you created a visually stunning focal point, you’ve found a new way to make your books fixtures in your home.
7. Or, Put Your Books in the Fireplace
No, this is not some Orwellian call to action. Sometimes, we renters — or even homeowners — find ourselves in a position where we simply have to work with what we’ve got. If you find yourself living in a home or an apartment with a defunct fireplace, there could be a brilliant opportunity for storage in your midst.
Fireplaces are like a giant picture frame: their symmetry is the perfect home for mixtures of color, textures, and shapes. While there is plenty of design possibility along the mantel, sometimes the wall real estate above the fireplace is allocated for something like a TV, a decorative mirror, a large painting, and the like, making the mantel a precarious place for additional clutter. And so, I raise an alternative: the hearth. We’ve all seen hearths the house an elegant candelabra as opposed to a stack of logs. But seldom do we see an out-of-use hearth used to store books and records. If a hearth is at your disposal, and it’s currently sitting cavernous and empty, consider optimizing that space to store your books. You’ll be surprised how much space your fireplace really has.
8. Simply Stack Them
There is something undeniably romantic and bohemian about a stack of books as decor; it’s an aesthetic that embodies grit and a love for knowledge. Similarly to adding books to empty space above, stacks of books can create visual intrigue below. Stack your favorite books, at varying heights, below a windowsill or along a baseboard to introduce an unexpected design element to your living room, office, hall, or entryway. Face the spines of your favorite books out to create colorful chaos, or, turn all of the spines in to create more visually cohesive stacks. You’ll immediately feel the creative energy of your room shift and your favorite books will be closer at hand when inspiration strikes.
9. Arrange Your Books on a Ladder
Ladders are a fun and interesting way to incorporate something visually unexpected into a room. They create height, and their frames are often inconspicuous enough not to detract from the decor items you’re putting on display. Placing books on a ladder will allow you to incorporate color and texture in your room and put a unique spin on storage: leaving items out on display, but organizationally camouflaged at the same time.
10. Underneath a Bench
Like a fireplace, benches are useful spots for intentional clutter because they can bring uniformity to items with a lot of variation. In the case of books, that variation can be height, thickness, color, texture — books are not homogenous and that’s part of the reason why they’re so special!
If you have a bench you’re currently using in a hallway for decorative items consider using the space below it to arrange either stacks of books at various heights, or a horizontal display of interesting books spines. This unexpected spot will create a lot of visual appeal and effectively tuck your books away at the same time.