…is like a body without a soul. (Cicero)
I have loved books for as long as I can remember. As a child, every time I visited someone’s house, I’d spend a lot of time checking out their bookcase. It is true that this was also a strategy to avoid (or ease) social interactions of which, as a shy kid, I was terrified. But I was also genuinely fascinated by books. Once, during school holidays in the country, I discovered a “hidden” collection of books in my grandparents’ shed and that was one of the most exciting events that summer. (In case you wonder, yes, with their permission, some of the books went home with me and are still amongst my most treasured possessions.) Later, at uni, I had a merit scholarship (yeah, I was a bit of a nerd), and most of that money was spent on books (and homewares). And how lucky was I that my very first job was sales rep for a publishing house? (Free copy with every book launch, often signed – pretty cool, right?) And now? Books are amongst the things or props I always use to style an interior. They bring warmth and beauty and give the space such a homely feel.
So how do we display our books? The first obvious option is the good ol’ bookshelf – or bookcase of floating shelves, depending on your preference and space available. And how do we arrange the books? Depending on what look you’re trying to achieve, you may choose to organise your books by colour, size, height, collection, author, genre, or alphabetically. You may separate the hardcover from paperback, or the ones you’ve read from the ones you haven’t yet. There are so many options. Or maybe you don’t care about the look at all, and that’s fine too. Just line them up in your bookcase so they don’t look messy and untidy, because the bookcase can be a focal point and attract a lot of attention.
If you’re focused more on the aesthetic and less on practicality, then you may want to mix or alternate books with accessories like framed photos or artwork, vases, pot plants, candles, storage boxes. You don’t need to spend a fortune to achieve a beautiful display. Maybe you have some unique decorative objects, collectibles, antiques that you have collected through the years that you would like to display, or perhaps you like to hit the op shops sometimes – they are a great source of affordable homewares and knick-knacks.
It is likely that not all of your books will visually match the look you’re trying to achieve, for example if you want to organise your books by colour or size. You may not have enough reds or blues, their number or size may not work with your shelf etc. In this case you could, for example, turn the books around so it’s the pages that are facing outward and not the spine. This is a popular trend nowadays, and it does create a clean, cohesive look – maybe not the most practical, since it will take you longer to find a specific book. However, you could do this for the books you’ve already read.
Another simple way of achieving a particular look is to cover some of the books in wrapping paper (of course, this won’t work for a large collection of books and big bookcase, but rather for small displays that include a few books). You can use this option if you have a specific colour scheme in mind or you want to achieve a streamlined look.
What about other places to store or display books? Some very creative and unconventional ways of displaying books are to hang them off ceilings or attach them to the walls like artwork. You can stack books in any space that you want and is not used, really – a console, a coffee table, a chair or a bench, an ottoman, your bedside table, your desk, the kitchen counter. Just make sure they’re not in the way, so you don’t have to move them often. Find the right balance between aesthetic and functional. Some people simply stack their books on the floor – under the coffee table, under the bed or near the walls. I prefer the floor to be as clear of items as possible, so that it’s easier to clean and allows air (and energy) flow, which is important when, like me, you live in an area with high humidity.
What about you? How do you display or organise your books? Please share – leave a comment below.