Interior designers share their ideas to help your go-to novels stand out.

By Nashia Baker
February 02, 2021
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Our connection to physical, bound books has certainly changed over the years. "With people reading more and more online and e-books, actual hardcopy books are becoming displays of artwork—and are more important, as well as precious, in the context of curating a space," Linda Hayslett, the designer and founder of LH.Designs, says. "They can elevate an interior and create a vibe that adds visual interest." And while designers are using these pieces to add unexpected décor moments to all types of areas, you easily can, too.

kitchen corner with blue cabinets and hanging exposed shelves with cookbooks and dishes
Credit: William Abranowicz

As for first steps? Shari Francis, the designer and owner of Dadapt, says to ask yourself a few questions, including where and how you want to display your books. "Once you have an area in mind, consider sorting the books by subject type or collection," Francis explains of strategically placing your reads. "Some categories to consider: easy access, least used, for décor only, and for social use. Once you've organized to this point and sorted them by dimensions (primarily height), you can display in ascending, descending, or similar height order—or make waves." From this point on, you will need to create a display for your books—but it doesn't have to be a standard bookshelf or library nook. Ahead, our interior design experts share their ideas for unexpectedly showing off your prized reads in your home.

Stack Your Books

Instead of simply placing your books on a shelf, create a more nuanced setup with ceramics, glassware, and more. Hayslett suggests stacking your collection, face down, to any given height and topping off each pile with a sculpture. "For those of you who have heavy hardcover books that are durable, try stacking two to four of them on the floor under a bench," Francis adds. "It's visible, it's safe, and [it's] easy to access." And don't be afraid to get creative—Francis layers several of her own hardcover books by an art easel and places a clay or glass vase on top for another eye-catching accent. Include some dried flowers, she notes, and you now have a makeshift plant stand, as well.

Display the Pages

"Another way to arrange them is to turn the binding around and have the pages displayed," Hayslett says. "The coloring of older books can create a beautiful, collected look." Plus, turning a novel you have already read around marks it as such—and makes the ones you haven't torn through yet, displayed with their bindings out, that much more noticeable. "Together, this makes for a more interesting setup," Hayslett shares.

Use Concealed Bookshelves

Looking for something that deviates from the traditional library structure but still maintains order? Francis recommends concealed bookshelves—as these will still keep your reads organized, but allow them to "float" instead. "It removes the hassle of large bookcases or floating shelves, while providing easy access to and fun ways to display your collection," she says, noting that she prefers the West Elm Conceal Shelf (from $25, westelm.com).

Create Book Seating

Instead of enlisting a furniture maker to create benches or seats for your space, use your book collection to make some of your own. "Stack books either side-by-side or horizontally to the same height and depth, then add a piece of plywood from your local hardware store and put a cushion on top for seating," Hayslett says.

Place Pieces in a Faux Fireplace

"If you have a non-functional fireplace, this is a good place to store an abundance of books," Francis shares. Some of her favorite ideas? Stack books in horizontal and vertical patterns for a brick-like appearance. Plus, coordinate the colors and use similarly sized reads to make it that much more cohesive.

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