Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Interior Inspiration: How To Style Your Bookshelves


With a book publishing career spanning nearly a decade, I've amassed quite the collection of books - not to mention the books I brought over from my teen and college years (think Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, Ayn Rand, and other angst-y, teenage lit) and my extensive interiors magazine collection (thanks to a friend who donates a stack of World of Interiors every time she sees me).

When we moved into this house a year ago, built-in shelves and cupboards were my dream. After making do with an IKEA Expedit shelf for years in rented accommodation (seriously, we dismantled and put that thing back together a record number of times), I wanted a place to display my books, photos and objets (I really don't know how else to describe my gold pineapple, brass starfish or geode bookends) that felt permanent.

I wanted my bookshelves to say: I live here.

But frankly, we received laughable quotes from several builders last year (as in, £3,000+ HAHAHA) and I abandoned the idea of having bespoke shelves altogether, especially when we started work on the gardens this summer. But after a tip from a local Facebook group, we found a builder who could make shelves, cupboards and built-in wardrobes upstairs for a much more reasonable price. Within a week, I was the proud, new owner of these beautiful shelves.

Over the weekend, I experimented with different arrangements and came up with the displays below. I'd love to share a few things I learned along the way, if you're interested!

1. Consider the depth of the shelves you have/want.

The depth of the shelves was important to me. I wanted to display objects and framed photos in front of the books. Depth, I learned, would give us more options (and options are always good to have!).



2. Layer in "objects".

Along with my books, I've got a good little vase collection going on (mostly stuff I've picked up in Habitat sales). They're too pretty to hide away in cupboards, so I sandwiched them in-between books and used them as bookends. Objects like candles, figurines, and even plants can be placed on top of, beside, and in front of books.


3. Decide how to organize your books.

I organized my books by color, rather than alphabetical order (which seemed to bother a lot of people, judging from the comments I received on social media!). Even books with similar colors (like my Penguin Modern Classics) were haphazardly placed on the shelves, with no regard to the order of titles or the authors' names. I've always loved having randomly arranged bookshelves - from childhood to college - so my shelves at home also embrace this randomness.


4. Take advantage of beautiful book covers.

Have you ever noticed how books on bookstore shelves are often turned so that the cover, rather than the spine, faces the customer? It's so effective (and trust me, a lot of thought goes into designing book covers and jackets for this very reason). So, it's a shame that book spines are often the only part of the book that shows on the shelf. Along with stacking books on their side, I also occasionally flipped a book so that it's displayed like a piece of framed art, which adds a bit of interest to the shelf.


5. Save the top shelves for artwork and the bottom shelf for framed photos.

I love the look of leaning, framed artwork, and placing mismatched pieces on our highest shelf gives the illusion of higher ceilings, I've found. I also invested in some silver frames for black and white photos of our wedding, so I've put these on the bottom shelves, on top of the cabinets, to add a personal touch.

I'm looking forward to cozy nights in and reading books on the couch! How do you like to organize your books at home? Are you a fan of organizing by color, author, subject, or a combination of everything? I'd love to know!
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30 comments

  1. Oh my god, these are the book shelves of my dreams!!!! I may need to find out about your guy - we're looking to get shelves fitted in our living room. Though I don't think my reading collection will every look as pretty as this!

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    1. Thank you, Vicky! Definitely let me know if you want his name/number - he also made fitted wardrobes for us upstairs and they look amazing. He's local to Walthamstow and works mostly in the area, so it depends on if he'll travel or not but it's worth a shot! We really liked him and he ended up fixing our sink for us too, haha! We're probably going to get him back to sort our front step ...

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  2. Love this piece. They look beautiful, Jaime - but then books are a beautiful thing. I LOVE that you organise your books by colour - me too! I knew you were a kindred spirit. I can't do it with all my books though - some authors have to be with their other books, like the Margaret Atwoods, the Ian McEwans and the Hilary Mantels for example. I put champagne bottles and whisky bottles in-between the books on some of our good old Indesit shelves ( I love the square deep size of them) but really like your pretty book covers and special pieces on display in yours. You've given me plenty to think about!

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    1. Thank you, Clare! So nice to know that we have similar taste in authors as well - I grew up reading Magaret Atwood and my dad and husband are the BIGGEST fans of Hilary Mantel! I saw her in a restaurant once, but was too shy to approach (probably better anyway, since she was having dinner and probably wanted privacy) ... it was so exciting.

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    2. I'd have been too shy too - for sure. You've got some of my favourite books on your shelves - I think next time I'm looking for something new to read I may just come back to this post and have a browse! Have a fabulous weekend. Cx

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  3. Your shelves look amazing and I now officially have bookshelf envy!

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    1. Thank you, Ruth! I can't wait to play with them more this weekend ... it's definitely been making me very, very happy!

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  4. Omg I love this so much. I also have so.many.books (teenage angst to clinical psychology to travel etc), and I always tell myself that the day I have all my "books"'with me, is the day I am finally settled. Right now they are littered around my parents house and my tiny flat and in my attic but one day, I too will boast a bookshelf like yours. That means, "I'm home". ��

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    1. That's exactly how I feel ... with the garden done and the shelves up, I really feel like the house is ours!

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  5. How beautiful! I love all the visual interest you've added, even in the different arrangements of just books. It stops everything looking dull and uniform. :)

    Right now, I've had to admit I don't have the space for all the books I want and I donated many, many, many! It was sad - but given I still share with flatmates there's just no space, even for an IKEA number, to hold them and I got sick of having haphazard piles of books around my bedroom.

    So I have a baby bookshelf and some on my mantlepiece. I've mostly arranged by size and then I'm trying to arrange a little more by colour after that. There's so few it's not difficult to find what I want so I'd rather make them nice to look at!

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    1. Thank you, Sorcha! I saw a photo on Pinterest the other day of someone who just stacked her books in stacks in her room on the floor and that looked great also - very bohemian! I feel you about not having enough room for books ... our last flat was so tiny, I didn't even unpack my books from the boxes. :( I think arranging by size is a great way to go!

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  6. I love this! I love the colour organisation mixed in with ornament and frames! I don't have any space so I have a moto of only keeping only 10 books at a time! This would be a dream for me!

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    1. Thank you, Nital! I can sympathize with not having enough space ... it can be frustrating!

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  7. Ahh this is like bookcase porn - I love it! I'd love to colour code my books but I think I couldn't handle it if everything wasn't in alphabetical order! I might have to try to get rid of that slightly annoying OCD:ish behaviour because this just looks way too beautiful a way to organize a bookshelf! x

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

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    1. Haha, thanks so much, Laura! Yes, I know a lot of people who like to organize by alphabetical order and I don't blame them, as it would be frustrating to not be able to find something right away without scanning the entire shelf first! Luckily, I know my books pretty well, so I have a vague idea of where everything is. x

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  8. I must admit that I'm definitely more of an alphabetical organiser - a trait remaining from my stint at working at a library - but as time has gone on and I've lent more books out to friends I've found it's slowly becoming more organised by size/wherever a gap on the shelf exists. It's annoying when I'm trying to find somehting by an author and their works aren't grouped together, but it does make the shelves look better when they go from smallest to largest. Colour-coordinated probably looks the best though, as your shelves look gorgeous! I love all the little knick knacks you've spread throughout it as well.

    Kate | girlinthebluejacket.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Kate! I totally get it. I kind of "know" the books I've got so well, I have a vague idea of where each title might be, but someone coming to my shelves new would probably go crazy trying to find anything!

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  9. I envy your book collection! I rarely buy books myself (I use kindle) and giveaway cookbooks when I don't use them often enough. As an expat, I try to keep my belongings to a minimum (just in case I will one day move to a new country...)

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    1. Hi Giulia! I love my Kindle for travelling, but when I'm at home, I like to curl up with a book. Cookbooks ... I need to have a bit of a cull on those! I get nervous everytime I buy something new for my house for the very reason you stated above ... what if I move?! I guess I'll have to deal with that at some point ...!

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  10. I swear, Jaime this is absolute gold (like THAT pineapple). I used to sort my books in colour as well until I got super OC about how they weren't in alphabetical order! You did such a great job here, the colours are perfect! In LOVE!

    Honey x The Girl Next Shore

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  11. Oh my goodness, I can't believe how simple a tip it is to arrange the books in colour order and that I've never thought of that! Totally up for trying that at our place too to see if it brightens up the shelf and I'm loving the little touches with the vases and objects. Great job with this decor , as always, Jaime :)

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    1. As long as it doesn't drive you crazy, you should totally do it! It gives me so much joy to look at and to organize them in this way!

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  12. I organize by genre (Fiction, YA, Graphic Novels, Travel, etc.) and alphabetically by surname within each category because I know I'd never find what I was looking for otherwise. Your arrangement looks beautiful, though! I'm definitely interested (once I get more space) in using my shelves to showcase artwork and knick-knacks like you've done. Love that pineapple :D

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    1. that is ORGANIZED! I'd love to see your shelves!

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  13. I thought I had a large book collection, but yours is immense! We moved recently and my books got unpacked before my clothes! Love looking at colour-coded bookshelves, and you've done yours very stylishly, but I couldn't cope with doing it myself. I have to group a book series together, it would drive me mad if they were all scattered! I also have a large collection of 'things' which live on the shelves, so I totally get the depth issue.
    Love your style, as always!

    Sophie

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