The Idealist

Get the Right Book Look

Being an avid reader, book collector and bookshop fan doesn’t mean that your home has to look cluttered and unorganised. Done well, books and bookshelves can give your home a warm, lived-in look that reflects your personality, while making your books easy to locate. Are you looking to get those books off of the floor, but don’t know where to begin, we have a few suggestions:

Ideas for storing your books with style

1. Custom shelving

While custom shelving may seem like a major investment, it doesn’t have to be. Custom shelving not only offers a personalised way to house your books, but you can turn awkward spaces into stylish bookcases. For example, do you have space on either side of a fireplace, or a cut-in area between your plumbing pipes or radiators? Turn it into a bookcase. Perhaps you have a small closet that you never use. Fit it with bookcases to create a miniature library.

2. Floating book shelves

One of the most recent (and hottest) trends in bookshelves is floating bookshelves. These shelves hang on the wall without any vertical supports (making them seem to be floating on the wall.) Books can be stacked on them horizontally or placed vertically with bookends. However, don’t pile on too many books; you’ll bring down the shelf.

3. DIY bookcases

Do-it-yourself bookcases used to be limited to bricks and boards. However, a quick search on Pinterest will yield dozens of creative ideas on how to store your books with style. Wooden shipping pallets can often be found for free and turned into sleek bookcases, or unfinished timber can be upcycled to bring an urban look to your place. (These aren’t just fun and attractive ideas, but they are good for the environment, too.) Metal piping can be used on its own or with board to create bookcases with an industrial chic look. Even unexpected materials, such as rope, leather straps and skateboards can be used as “outside of the box” book shelves.

4. Making Ikea your own

Arguably, one of the easiest book shelf solutions is to go to big box retailer, like Ikea, and purchase ready-made shelves. However, the downside is that your library or living room will look like your neighbour’s, your aunt’s and/or your best friend’s.

You don’t have to choose between convenience and being ordinary. You can use these ready-made shelves as a starting point for your own design. For example, Ikea’s “Billy” bookcases can be customised by fitting them snugly along a wall or into a niche and surrounding them with crown moulding, so they look like them were built into the space. A whole wall looks much smarter than one or two standalone bookcases.

5. Found spaces for books

When you really start looking for places to stow your books, there is practically no limit to the places you’ll find. Do you have dead space underneath your staircase? Put up shelves. Empty space above your kitchen cabinets, arrange your cookbooks there. Even the space between the risers in your staircases can be used as bookshelves.

6. Letting your imagination soar

There’s really no limit to the stylish storage options you can create for your books when you let your imagination soar. For example, consider creating a reading tree, where the branches become the bookshelves, or using glass panes to become “invisible” shelving.

Book storage caveats

There are only a few things you want to avoid when designing your book storage.

  1. Avoid moisture. Moisture and humidity are the enemies of paper and books. Therefore, you’ll want to avoid putting books in your bath or near the kitchen sink.
  2. Store books upright or horizontally, never at an angle. While those bookshelf designs on Pinterest that curve around the door or spell out words are intriguing, storing your books an angle will damage their spines, make them more difficult to read and destroy their value.
  3. Limit sunlight. Another enemy of books is sunlight, particularly UV rays. Direct sunlight will quickly fade the spines and dust covers of your books, making them less vibrant and attractive and lowering their value. Best to situate your bookshelves away from the windows or to use low-e window glass. And yes, books even fade in the dim winter light of England!

Loving to read and collect books doesn’t have to mean resigning yourself to a lifetime of clutter. Let us know if you have some more ideas how to give your books a stylish-looking home!

  • Joan is an interior design project planner and freelance writer from Boston Massachusetts who lives with her husband and two bulldog terriers outside Wellfleet on Cape Cod.

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