Books are as diverse as people—and arranged meaningfully in your home, will tell the story of who you are
Books are objects of pleasure, utility and identity. We might buy one for its beautiful story, one for its recipes, and another because we like how it looks. In the home, books are a physical manifestation of our life experience, our interests and our curiosities. Considering how they can work with your interior design can make a difference in any space.
For many of us, our collections have grown organically since we were young, adding one title at a time as they come into our lives. Other times, we might be in the position of building a collection from scratch, perhaps in the case of a second home or if a new space includes endless shelving to be filled.
Even the most beautiful space can feel sparse and not fully lived in, without books. The smallest “library”—just one shelf or a stack of books—adds a wealth of personalization and cultural context to a space. Books in a home are also an offering of hospitality—an intellectual, visual or literary gift for our guests to enjoy.
Whether five titles or 500, books make a simple but powerful statement in a room: Someone who lives a rich life and who values culture, lives here. The variety of books you choose and display can speak, quite literally, to the depth of your life experience, to the layers of context your world is built upon.
Imagine a friend buys a new home and decorates it to the nines. Walking through, you pass all of the design choices she made. When you approach shelves of books, her collection echoes the design context behind all of those choices. What she read, the places she traveled, the artists she is obsessed with—all inspired the design, after all. In that way, the books fill in the details of the personal story we all attempt to tell with our homes.
Just as we expect our furniture, for example, to serve the dual purpose of being a comfortable space to sit but also a beautiful piece of the overall design, books serve more than one purpose in a space. Books are design objects, resources and emblems of culture all at once. Books can complement or emphasize interior design—whether with color, texture or even content. There are few elements of a room that are both aesthetically pleasing and employ our minds.
Consider what a stack of books on architecture, on your favorite design era, or on the location where you live, can add to the feel of a room. New, old, paperback, hardcover, paper, fabric, leather—the content is what draws us to particular books, though it is the physical form that draws us to them in the first place.
Some rooms come to life with large stacks of art books, others do best with small accents of delightful novels here and there. For those of us lucky enough to have extensive shelving or (even better) a dedicated library space, books are the primary elements of the room. There is a style of book suited to every type of personal style, from midcentury modern to minimalist to traditional.
Books might be one of the best indicators of the level of formality or casualness in a space. Whether they are leaning on one another or all perfectly upright, whether they are in order or a beautiful mess, should correspond to the rest of the room.
If you have a room that you would like to look more elegant, tidying up books both by subject and by size can pull things together. A more bohemian space doesn’t necessarily require bookends, and books tipped upon one another—as if just set down from an afternoon reading—can fit with the mix of objects and textures that surround them.
Books go well with so many things—sculpture, antiques, personal objects, picture frames. Shelves that are completely full and shelves that are half empty both have their benefits. An airy space, or one with many objects to display, might look best with fewer books. On the other hand, a bookshelf that is completely full has almost a wallpaper effect. Just remember that a full shelf is one that cannot be added to (unless you subtract every time you add).
There is no “wrong” way to organize or arrange a collection. Literature and information should bring joy and ease to your life, and sometimes it takes a few iterations to find just the right way to live with them in the home.
Christy Smirl, MLIS, is a librarian and the owner of Foxtail Books & Library Services. Based in Jackson Hole, Foxtail Books & Library Services curates, designs, and organizes home libraries around the country. View their profile or contact Smirl at 307-264-0220.
Content for this article provided by Foxtail Books & Library Services