The art of decorating with books

There is the library as a room in itself. There are bookshelves used as practical or prestigious furniture. And there are books which are more than a simply decorative accessory. Organized with taste, they can astonish visitors, regardless of the room.


Books adapt to all styles, from the rural to the contemporary, not to forget lounge. They can also generate the desired decorative virtue: classical elegance, warmth and intimacy, whimsical, disorder and anarchy. The role of the book in decoration is underestimated.

Books fit with all materials: glass, wood, bamboo, vinyl, marble. Mobile, they can be placed anywhere or permanently: At the end of a table, on a couch, on a fireplace mantel, on a night table, near the bath and even on the floor if you stack them into a column.

Old books with old, dark bindings accentuate the country charm of a room. They bundle themselves in the warmth of the wood, in the warm colours of a curtain or wallpaper and in the atmosphere of an English cottage. They generate softness.

On the contrary, they can be turbulent by creating a decorative shock from a colour standpoint. Imagine a pure white room with a series of books whose dominant colour is red, violet or black. A new trend: Cover all books with coloured paper.

An idea: Why not make several niches along a wall meant to hold books? Placed vertically or horizontally, in steps or a diamond, each niche would hold a collection with a different colour. The idea is to create harmony in each niche: Colours of the same tone, identical subjects, new or used books.


Do you have a large window framed with books, on top and on the sides? It’s quite pleasant to look at. The effect is just as spectacular around a door. Also, as a photo by Ralf Roletschek shows on Wikipedia, a German bookshelf is used as a partition between rooms. On a reduced scale, the concept can very easily apply to a private residence.

The same photo shows a second possibility: Cutting the bookshelf to make room for a piece of furniture or work of art that you want to highlight: sofa, chair, sculpture, portrait, set of black and white photos. Here again, you can play with the contrast of colours. A dark bookshelf will highlight a white sofa. A bookshelf with clear colours will channel the eyes toward the portrait with dark or flamboyant colours.


A large book, magnificent and prestigious, attracts the visitor’s look if he is open and inclined, instantly offering itself to be read, especially if it bathes in the light of a lamp.

Placed vertically or horizontally, books find their place in a room reigned by an obsession for geometry. They rival the circles, the squares and the diamonds.

No need to enjoy reading to exploit the decorative power of books. It’s perfectly legitimate to count on books without necessarily liking to read.

Nothing beats pictures to stimulate the imagination. We recommend the following two books.


  • Decorating with Books, Marie Proeller Hueston, Hearst Books, 2011, 143 pages
  • Vivre parmi les livres, Alan Powers, s’organiser ranger, décorer, éditions Soline, 1999, 144 pages

Photos: iStockphoto