Living with Books: How to Fill a Book Shelf

joy of nesting

Summer is movies in air conditioned theaters, homemade lemonade, homemade strawberry shortcake, and fictional novels that draw you in and keep you transported for hours on end. (Designer credits and photo sources at the end of this post).

Anyone who has had a holiday home by a lake or the ocean knows the sheer delight of spending long days shaded by the overhang or an umbrella with their nose buried. Why is it so many of us forget to do that in our main residences?

One theory I have is that people don’t know how to use a bookshelf. Not everyone has enough hard bound books to fill the shelf up and that leaves open spaces that require decision making questions such as “what should I put in between the books?”, “how do I organize my books?”, and “do I separate the hard bounds from the paper backs?” or for those who have an abundance of books, “how do I prioritize them?”. In vacation homes, they’re mostly thrown onto the shelf, gathering dust, and losing their jackets over the course of years of family outings.

Having collected books since I was in elementary school, and being an interior decorator, I naturally have some opinions about the topic and I’m willing to share them with you.

These images are perfect examples of how to live with your book collections. Store them sideways as well as upright. Inject little novelty moments like the coral or cache pot in the picture above. Keep hard bound and paper backs separate. And choose from either author or topic to organize them separating the extra small and extra large ones for shelves that fit those sizes.

I recently did a makeover for a home with a full wall of floor to ceiling book cases. The client was overwhelmed by the commanding presence of the existing book shelves and wasn’t at all certain she could embrace them. But embrace them she did when she saw them filled full with her favorite hard bound design and travel books, darling ceramic pieces, and small framed family pictures. The results were positively smashing.

Books are meant to be out where you can see them daily and peruse them from time to time. On a break I’ll stand in front on my myriad of book cases choosing what books will go in my “weekly read bag”. I love to go over my books again and again, particularly the business books I keep in my office.

Piles of books on table tops, even on the dining room table, in guest rooms, kitchen, and bathrooms add an inviting feeling to the home. I believe that a lot of books around the home indicates the inhabitants are soulful and evolved. 

My cheat sheet for living with books

1) I buy books in hard bound that I know I’ll be keeping for a life time such as my design books, and novels by my favorite authors. Those go in my living room, guest rooms, and master bedroom.
2) Paper back books are the ones I like to buy for business topics like marketing, sales, and time management. Those go in my office book cases.
3) My book cases are not ultra organized because my library isn’t big enough to be concerned with it. They are mostly organized by size because my cases require that.
4) Client’s are always intrigued when they see decorators stack odds and ends on piles of books. It’s okay to do this as long as you don’t go overboard.
5) Every week or so I’ll go to my book cases and pick out five or six books to peruse. They could be ones I’ve already read and want to revisit or they could be books I never finished. Or maybe I’m looking for something really juicy and I want to look through a stack of books before making my selection. 
6) When you’re done with paperbacks, most used book stores will take them and give you credit towards new ones. This is a good way to keep them from piling up. 
7) As for the hard bound books you intend to keep, walls of built in book shelves in the formal living room, family room, office and den will keep you collecting for years to come. They are especially lovely when worked around a fireplace and mantel. Built in book shelves add to the value of the home as well as giving you years of enjoyment. There is nothing quite like built in’s.

All photo credits Elle Decor and House Beautiful. Designer credits Shiree Hanson Segerstrom, Todd Klein, Myra Hoefer, Albert Hadley, Miles Redd, Jorge Almada, Rebecca Ascher, David Kaihoi.

June 11, 2012

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Living with Books: How to Fill a Book Shelf

Living with Books: How to Fill a Book Shelf

Living with Books: How to Fill a Book Shelf