I’m back with this month’s Design Discussion post and another hot, controversial interior design topic. Today I wanted to chat about shelf styling with books. I get a lot of these types of comments & messages… “I’m so happy you actually use books to style your built-ins,” or “your shelf could really use more books- after all, isn’t that the purpose of a BOOK case,” and “why would anyone ever flip their books with the spine facing inward?” There are a LOT of opinions and preferences when it comes to shelf styling with books, so I thought it would be fun and interesting to break it down, see where everybody stands, and share my personal preference. Click through for the post and to weigh in!
I’m a firm believer that a bookcase should reflect the inhabitants of a home and serve function for the room it is located in.
For example- in our formal living room, our shelves are stuffed with books. Remember this post explaining my decision to go heavy on the books? I love how it turned out and that it houses so many books we love and read. My previous office shelf styling, on the other hand, didn’t include nearly as many books. Instead, it housed bins for my design samples and swatches. From design magazines and sculptural art to clipboards and vessels for USB drives, the space was functional and beautiful. Do I love either space or shelf styling less? Not at all… they both reflect my aesthetic and serve a purpose for the room they’re located in.
On that note… it’s time to talk about quantity. I think the amount of books you fill your built-ins with is totally a personal preference. Are you a big reader and you genuinely a space for your books? Do you like the texture they bring to a room? Do you prefer less books and more objects? Perhaps you enjoy displaying treasures you’ve collected traveling? Maybe filling your shelves with conversation starting pieces is your goal. Regardless of WHY you style your shelves the way you do, I think it’s important to stay true to what you like while making sure your built-ins are functional.
Ready for another example? Above, in our previous living room… the built-ins were awesome for displaying curated items, books, AND our surround sound system (totally Emmett’s thing and non negotiable). Below, in our current formal living room- it’s more about beauty and storage for our books. We don’t watch TV in this room and we don’t need our surround sound to nicely blend (that lives in the basement). There is no right or wrong answer, special formula, or calculated design plan as to how you should decorate your shelving! It’s all situational and a matter of personal preference. You’re also allowed to have different types of shelf styling throughout your home. My office and living room serve different purposes, so why would the shelves not be styled accordingly?
Are you a minimalist or maximalist when it comes to shelf styling? I think I can be a bit of both. In my office, I like everything to have a place. Too much clutter in my work environment leads to anxiety, but in our living room- I love how the styling tells a story. I tucked into little pieces and filled nearly every gap. I love that it’s kind of like a treasure hunt. Many friends who come visit ask about the pieces and books that fill our shelves… I love that it’s eclectic and leads to interesting conversation. The best compliment I received for our built-ins was this… one friend said, “Every time I come over, I discover something new on your shelves.” Of course I hadn’t switched anything up, but it made me smile.
Another question for you… would you ever reverse your book on the shelf or flip the spine inward, so it looks more neutral and less busy? I honestly do both! If a book has a strange title or isn’t a book that I’d read again, I’ll flip it and forget about it- especially if I’m craving a calm moment or negative space on a shelf. I know lots of people are totally against this, but I say do whatever makes you happy and makes the vignette sing!
It’s poll time! Where do YOU stand when it comes to shelf styling with books? I thought up lots of options below and would love to know your preference..
If you missed any previous Design Discussion posts, feel free to check them out below…
- Hardwoods in the Kitchen
- Wool Rugs in the Bathroom
- TV Over the Fireplace
- Stacked vs Side-by-Side Laundry Units
- Furniture Arranged Against a Wall
As always, we also have interesting conversation in the comment section below… if you’d like to elaborate on your vote- I’d love to hear more! Variety and individuality is a good thing. If all of our shelf styling looked the same, the world would be a boring place. As an opinionated designer and creative person, I love reading a shelf and formulating how it represents the person who styled it. I’m also a big believer that our homes tell the story of who we are. Isn’t that the same for built-ins packed with our favorite books, collections, and keepsakes? It’s really a beautiful thing!