Using Books in Interior Design

The great decorator, Billy Baldwin, called books the greatest accessories. Books are one of my favorite ways to bring color, texture, height and interest into a room. Not just for lining library walls anymore, you can use books to add height and color to a tabletop display, place books in tea carts, on a server in a dining room – and much more.

If you are anything like me, you have more books than you have storage space. So, by default, I had to devise ways to 1) organize my books, so that I could find them and 2) use my books in other ways rather than just on bookshelves.

One of the first things that I had to do was to whittle down the number of books that I had. When I got married, I also married into my husband’s books. And when my father-in-law passed away – we inherited his vast book collection! That was more than my little house could take! Several garage sales later – and then I had a somewhat manageable number.

A Christmas vignette on my piano.  Books add height, texture & interest
I didn’t style the above picture yet in my great room, but I wanted to show how some of your larger books can be used decoratively on a table top.  They add height and color.  Plus people looking at this may think I am smarter than I am with that huge tome of Shakespeare!
Even in small spots around the house, a grouping of books adds a lively note.  On top of a chair next to your bed, stacked next to a reading chair or in piles on a large coffee table, books provide warmth and informality to a space. 
Think of books as accessories and even art!  I advise that you should take off the book jacket because most of the time it’s a lot nicer underneath!  Group the colors of books together – and make sure they coordinate with your other accessories and room colors.  Also, combine books by category – gardening, design, travel etc to bolster a theme in a room. Use books to heighten other accessories and objects – you want to stagger the heights in a display for greater interest.
Margot Austin, the senior design editor of Style at Home – the Canadian magazine, uses the following books as her “go to” accessories.
1. I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson

2. David Hicks On Living – with Taste
3. Slim Aarons, Once Upon a Time
4. Century
5. The Way We Live
6. The Garden Book
7. Axel Vervoordt Timeless Interiors
8. Tom Ford
9. The Hamptons
10. Chanel

I would add some of the larger books (like my Shakespeare in the first photo) plus…Domus, Wall Painting in the Roman House, anything by designer Tricia Guild (her books you can keep the jackets on – they are gorgeous) and two great books for the kitchen – Bouchon and the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. I’d also add any fun and colorful Cupcake Cookbook – it will brighten up any countertop!

Books can also fill huge, otherwise empty and bland spaces. The hallway, above, would have
looked far too intimidating and vertical without the lively addition of the books.
Instead of filling an entire library, install bookshelves on one focal point wall.
In a family room, books share space with the TV, accessories and family photos
Or…use books to create furniture
Books can also be the subject of an artwork, as in British artist Su Blackwell’s work…
So get your books out of storage or off the shelves and use them in interesting ways in your home.  Let me know how you have used books in your designs. 
Sources:  1 and 2) Linda Leyble; 3) Margo Austin 4) 5) Absolutely Beautiful Things 6)  Contemporist  7 and 8) LM Interior Design  9) Stylist, Grace Light of Poetic Home and 10) Su Blackwell
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8 Responses to Using Books in Interior Design

  1. Wonderful ideas. I was amazed at the counter/divider of books! I do use books for decorating. I love stacking them in piles on my coffee table. I use them on the sofa table to add height to a bowl of fruit.

    Thanks for commenting on my magazine poll/post. Hope to see you back again soon.

  2. Linda Leyble says:

    Hi Penny! Thanks for commenting on BOTH of my blogs. That's a first for me!

    Yes – if you have any Book Decorating Ideas that you have done – let me know. I will post them on a future blog post. I don't know if I will make this a feature on my blog – but I just love the idea of using books in decor – so when I find one that's great I want to post it!

    Thanks again – I will always check your blog – I think you have such great ideas! Very inspirational!


  3. Karen says:

    I think books are in almost every vignette in my home… Dust jackets on, dust jackets off, covers ripped off, bundles, etc… I have in mind to cover a few using photo copies of old engravings. I have also been searching for those large, old ledger type books that Pottery Barn has been using. I just love the way those look. I can only seem to find them on EBAY but I'm looking to score a deal at the flea market this weekend. Fingers Crossed!


  4. Linda Leyble says:

    Hey Karen – let me know how you do at the flea market. Believe it nor not, I found some of those ripped, old books bound with twine and some gold spined books at HomeGoods. I have to check out the ledger books you mentioned at Pottery Barn. I probably have seen them – but it didn't register.

    I have some of the “real deal” oldies – but not enough of them. I supplement with the “faux” kind. I will be going to the New York Gift Show next month – there are a few faux antique book dealers at that show and I'll have to stock up. I love that look in vignettes etc.

    Thanks so much for following me – and commenting.


  5. Hey I really liked all the uses of books in design. Thanks you for this post!


  6. I am slowly working on building my collection of books! As much as I love the convenience of an ereader, nothing beats a beautiful paper book in your hands or displayed in your home!

  7. Linda Leyble says:

    You are so right! You can carry tons of books with an e-reader (and I think you can even write in the margins too on the Nook…so I've heard), but nothing beats holding a beautiful book in your hand. Borders closed near me – as well as a few Barnes & Nobles. That is really sad. Technology is great – but nothing beats a book. Thanks for commenting! Linda






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