Books are beautiful. And though it may seem as though electronic reading devices are starting to replace traditional books, for many of us there will always be a place in our homes for big, beautiful books – whether they’re to read or just to display and look at.

If you’re the kind of person who loves to collect books you may find at some point they fill up your bookshelves and start to spill over into other areas. For some of us it seems as though books begin to take over our entire homes. But don’t worry, there are many ways of decorating with books that make them fit right in and look great in your space, no matter how many you have.

Decorating with Books

While a wall full of built-in bookcases almost always looks fantastic, it isn’t always feasible, whether because of money, space, architectural features, or something else. If spacious bookcases just aren’t in the cards for you consider some of these other ideas for decorating with books.

Use a Pile of Books as a Side Table

This works best with large coffee table-style books. Place larger ones on the bottom to create a steady base and then build upwards to the desired height. If the books are wide enough you can place a lamp, vase of flowers, or other item that you would normally put on a side table. If possible color coordinate the spines of the books (all black, all red, all neutral and so on).

Create a Coffee Table with Books

If you’ve got enough books you might be able to create a functional coffee table. Create four piles in a square shape in the desired spot. Again, be sure to put large ones on the bottom to create a solid base. As you build mix the sizes a bit so that you don’t end up with a bunch of tiny ones at the top. Remember that you want a functional tabletop so the books need to provide a solid surface area. Play around with them until you get it right. Remember also to put books you won’t likely want to look at closest to the bottom. Taking your table apart every time you want to look at a particular book will be a huge pain.

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Display Books on a Bar Cart or Console Table

Books don’t have to go on shelves. They can be displayed just about anywhere. If you’ve got a two-tiered bar cart or console table try filling the bottom shelf with books. Display them horizontally or vertically or both – whatever is most practical and looks best to you. Then you can place whatever other items you need on the top shelf (such as lamps, flowers, bar items, or whatever else). Display the table in a front entryway, behind a sofa, in a bedroom, or wherever else you like. There are no rules.

Display Books on a Mantel

A mantel (Shelf that projects from wall) is a great place to store beautiful books. They just have to be small enough to fit. Since few coffee table-style books will fit, you can always take smaller, less attractive books and cover them with a heavy paper or cloth. (Some people are really against covering books but if the spines are damaged or unattractive there’s really no reason not to. Just remember to write the name on the inside of the book jacket so you can easily see the title.) Line them all the way across the mantel or create a few small vertical and/or horizontal stacks.

Make Shelves Out of Books

All you need for this project is a couple of brackets and a solid, hardcover book. Make sure the brackets are large enough to properly hold the book and then install them on the wall as you would any other shelf. As long as the book is solid and everything is properly installed you can use it as a shelf. Install a few in any arrangement you like. This is a particularly fun look in a small bedroom when used over or instead of bedside tables.

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Decorating Bookshelves

Don’t just fill your bookshelves with a bunch of books. Use them as an opportunity to make a great looking focal point for you room. Accessorize them, arrange them, personalize them, and have fun with them. Decorating bookshelves in a thoughtful way will ensure they won’t just be functional, they’ll look great too!

Getting Started

Start off with an empty bookshelf so you’ve got a clean slate. Depending on what kind of unit you have you might want to consider painting or wallpapering the back of it to add some interest.

Decorating Bookshelves with Books

Obviously, bookshelves are usually used for storing and displaying books. But there’s more to decorating bookshelves than just throwing books on them haphazardly.

  • Use both horizontal and vertical stacks of books to create some diversity in the shelving unit.
  • Consider sorting them by color and/or size to create a cohesive look.
  • If the spines of your books are damaged or unattractive consider covering them in paper or fabric to make them look cleaner and prettier.
  • Use a mix of hardcover, paperbacks and magazines.

Decorate Bookshelves with Accessories

Bookshelves are great for displaying all sorts of items.

  • Use interesting items like small statues, vases and candlesticks to add interest to displays. Lean them against stacks of books or place them on top. An item with an interesting shape placed on top of a stack of books can create visual interest.
  • Layer items in front of one another to create depth in your display.
  • Think outside the box. A small mirror can look terrific when mixed in with books and other items. There are no rules as to what you can use when decorating bookshelves.
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Fill Empty Space

Bookshelves tend to look best when they’re really full of stuff. But rather than filling them with a bunch of bitsy items that can look cluttered try adding some larger items like baskets and boxes. Not only do they look good but you can fill them with all sorts of things like remotes, manuals, and other unsightly items.

The most important thing to remember when decorating bookshelves is to fill them with items that have meaning. Don’t just fill them with a bunch of impersonal items for the sake of filling them. Just like the works of literature they’re usually filled with, your bookshelves should tell a story.


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