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How to Decorate with Books: A Bibliophiles Guide to Using Your Books

Updated on April 22, 2012
janikon profile image

I'm a thirty-something writer who lives in downtown Toronto. I've been an online writer for over seven years, focusing on health trends.


When I was small my father, on occasion, would take my sister and I downtown to shop for books; unbeknownst to him it was the equivalent of giving a child crack-cocaine, at least for me. There is nothing more depressing than seeing the look on your friends faces when they've come to help you move the twenty-six boxes of books to your new apartment. My ex collects action figurines, comic books and movies - he had to come up with a design plan to incorporate those items within the overall space.

Some people have to decorate with ceramic clowns, of various shapes and sizes, a hobby which is both horrifying and creepy. Why anyone would enjoy sitting in a space while being watched by a thousand painted eyes is beyond me. But I'm sure there are people who wouldn't understand my compulsive need to buy and read books before stacking them, in shame, on the high shelf in the closet.

But nowadays I've had to use the books in my overall bedroom design plan, there are only so many bookshelves you can line the walls with before your roommate starts slipping Hoarders applications under your bedroom door.

alphabetizing is a no no: please random is always better

The best part about books is they are stackable, come in various sizes and are often amazingly written - yes - even the shameful teen novels can be displayed (somewhere in the back). What I like to do is divide the books you have into categories; top tier and lower tier - books you want to show off you've read out for the world to see and the harlequin romance novels somewhere in the back of your room; those books shameful and no one needs to see them.

I have a few of them in my collection - not harlequin but teen fantasy - and they are always on first row of the double rowed shelf. When you've divided your books into categories the next step will be the hanging of the floating shelves. Why does one use floating shelves in a shared space? They leave optimal room below for other larger pieces of furniture and give the room a touch of simplicity. Although it cannot hold as much as a full bookcase, many together will give any wall a touch of character and will keep you from overfilling your shelves - which looks cluttered and messy.

Many people make the common mistake believing they need to line up their books uniformly, when it's more appealing to the eye to come up with a different configuration. There is no rule stating style has to be streamlined, if you can make the broken mould work then more power to you.

As the owner of hundreds of books I can tell you a properly stocked bookshelf can inspire hours of conversation when you have guests over. There is always a literary snoop in your mess of friends, one who will leave happy when s/he fills up her bag with some new reading material.

turn the page!: book built furniture?

One of the most interesting new design concepts are the book built end table or nightstand, for those of us with a low sofa or bed. This idea was first introduced to me by one of my friends, a fellow bibliophile, when I was unpacking my books - she suggested in lieu of a nightstand I stack my heavier volumes and create a nightstand. Nothing screams book-hoarder more than resorting to building furniture out of your books but I will say, it does look very interesting and has become sort of a conversation piece.

In the living room, a high traffic area, have a piece of plastic cut at your local hardware store and place it on the top book, so you can rest glasses without ruining the books cover. I'm would never suggest replacing all the end tables or nightstands in your house with stacks of heavy volumes but if there is a lone chair in the a dark corner I would say try it out.

My mother was a firm believer in trying something for a week and if you don't like it after then, well you've given it a fair chance so no one can fault you for taking it down. There was a recent article in Vanity Fair by Christopher Hitchens, a british author and essayist, who stood proudly in front of the many stacks of books in his study. Though it wasn't for me and it would drive me insane to come home everyday to different sized stacks of books against my living room wall - it worked for him and in his space.

The best advice I can give to someone trying to decorate; is to have fun and work with the space you have. Just because Martha Stewart designed a room and you loved it, doesn't mean it will look good in your space - you may need to alter her plan to fit your room. A home should be an expression of you, so if you have a lot of books, show them off.

Because you know you'll only buy more and still find an excuse to not throw the old ones out - so, my friend, create something amazing with those books and really give those audiophiles, who decorate with old records, a run for their money.


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    • lilyfly profile image

      Lillian K. Staats 

      6 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

      Janikon, I'm honored that you are following me... I thought I was invisible for awhile...for me, books and the written word bloody run my life, not the other way around, what do I do with a thousand slips of paper with errant poetry written on them? I want to burn them, but I find the greatest stuff on them. I've thought of scrapbooking them, as just a snapshot of time, but then I thought, I might as well get a crockpot and live in Kansas. Well, dear boy, love your stuff. Bibliophile, Do you realize most of America thinks that's a sexual offense? Time to move to Greece, anyway. Will follow your thoughts now... be happy.... lily

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Oh my god, it's me! I'm the literary snoop! (And the hub snoop).

      I still think you should do the nightstand. All those awesome Reader's Digest classics would be perfect.

    • profile image

      chi flat iron 

      6 years ago

      Fine posting would make consistent develop, thanks a ton promote, a build-up with awareness will be to continue to keep knowing, particular attention is definitely the start of huge selection.

    • janikon profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Canada

      I'm ashamed to say, SallyTX, I've dabbled in the electronic reading devices - I felt dirty and had to go to my local bookstore and apologize to as many books as I could. I also hate not knowing what someone is reading, on the bus or subway, when they've chosen to read on a electronic kindle ...

      ... you can't book snoop.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 

      6 years ago from Only In Texas!

      I know, I will never use Kindle or any other electronic reading device!

    • janikon profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Canada

      @bud gallant

      i just moved a whopping twenty-three boxes of books to a new apartment, there is something about a kindle which leaves me cold. I dream of the day I will have a library in my home - but sometimes I think the hassle is worth it.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Bud Gallant profile image

      Bud Gallant 

      6 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      Very creative ideas in this. I love to read, but somehow have avoided amassing a large collection. I think a lot of my books are on my mother's bookshelf, actually. That's one problem with books: they are heavy and are a hassle to travel with. Once I settle down somewhere (if ever), I would like to start up a library of them.

      Of course these days you can avoid the typical problems of books with digital readers like the Kindle, but it just isn't the same!

      Great hub.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 

      7 years ago from Only In Texas!

      What a lot of good ideas. I used to keep all my books, but now I only keep reference books. I trade the others at my local second-hand book store. Voted up and useful! ;D

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      7 years ago from Midwest

      I totally agree - between my partner's comics/books and all of my books we barely have room for the kids ;). We have shelves stacked full and have them strategically placed all over the house. I too am a book hoarder :) great hub.


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