A Guide to Decorating with Old Books


“A series of books, dilapidated and faded, sit bundled together. Most of the bindings are separating from the yellowed pages, but each is at home in its battered state. Their wrinkled pages and discolored skin tell not of old age, but of a good life. These books, unlike so many others, were not just read, but revisited, loved, and experienced.” -Kelseyleigh Reber

Every room needs a bit of agedness to make it truly homey. For years this has been one of our favorite decorating tips- old books. You can find old books at thrift stores, antique shops or yard sales. Keep an eye out for the yellowed pages, worn bindings and eloquent titles etched in the cover. These are the treasures we look for. But if we don’t find them first, help yourself.

Old books don’t demand attention like the glossy, brilliant, new ones. They have a simple, living feel about them that adds character to nearly every space. Below are some of our favorite ways to arrange and utilize old books:

Arrange in threes or fives. Books don’t mind having a third wheel, a fifth wheel or even a seventh wheel. Vary the width of the bindings to create interest.

Turn some books around to show the pages. Most times the old books we find aren’t necessarily the books we are reading. So there’s no harm in switching the binding out of sight and letting those tea colored pages show.

Add some creative bookends. Let your imagination go wild, use a stack of tea cups, vase of flowers or whatever is catching your fancy. Tip: make all the finishing touches best friends with each other.

Open the books up. While this isn’t as practical for tidiness, we love to place open books in unnoticed places. Some books just seem to be happiest when they get to show off all their words. Place several open books on a bench, windowsill or next to some potted plants.

Pair books with the cozy items of life. Basically, put the books in places where you relax, drink coffee and (obviously) read books. So put up some shelves or make some space beside the couch- wherever it is, remember that books like to live in the coziest rooms of our houses.

Buy books in sets. Whenever possible, owning a series of old books is a great choice. Because of the similar bindings or patterns, sets of books always look like tight friends. And whether you read those books or not, they add a touch of whimsy to any space.

Place some books upright and others down. The eye likes these intentional inconsistencies in décor. So place some in unexpected positions next to others. You may need to play around with them, but the key is to find their most natural position- vertical or horizontal. And no, I haven’t over thought this.

Be strategic in which colors you choose to place next to each other. For the more fun environments, contrast the colors. For cozy, library type environments stick with the more neutral covers.

Collect some, experiment and have fun with it. The most creative elements in a room are often the least expected ones.


With love, Claude


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