bookshelf styling

Styling with Books.

One fun way to make a big statement using items you already own: organize your book spines by color rather than height or subject matter. I always get a lot of comments on the monochromatic arrangement of books on my bookshelves (seen above and available here — you won’t believe what a great price these are!), and have even had visitors ask whether I buy my books according to color. Ha! If you don’t have enough books in the same color family, don’t be afraid to remove the jacket cover — they often reveal beautiful colors/patterns beneath. I’ve also seen creatives arrange their books spine-to-the-wall so that you see lots of white/cream pages instead of the book jackets. Less functional (you can’t see which book you’re looking for!) but I can see the appeal if you’re simply trying to tidy up a bookshelf of never-touched books. (For example, we have loads of Lonely Planet Travel Guides that are used rarely — i.e., only when we are traveling to a particular destination — that are something of an eyesore on a shelf, but you could flip them all around to just see a tidy row of white instead.)

All that said, a few absolutely beautiful coffee table / book shelf books that I have purchased specifically for their design/color (and also lovely to spend a morning poring over with a cup of coffee!). These are great if you’re looking for a short stack on an end table or to lay flat on a bookshelf. Some of these are cookbooks that were purchased by Mr. Magpie for their content alone that proved so attractive, I gradually co-opted them into the decor of our home. (Mr. Magpie routinely asks me where such-and-such cookbook is?! — and I’ve usually nestled it artfully on a bookshelf. Ha.) I own nearly all of these!

chic coffee table books

Row I: India Hicks, Palms, The French Dog

Row II: Ralph Lauren, Lost Fish, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

Row III: Lillian Bassman, Tom Ford, Architectural Digest

Row IV: Domino, Michael S. Smith, Domino

Row V: Allegra Hicks, Heritage, Beautiful

Row VI: Prune, Lee, My Last Supper

A few specific notes on particular books, some shown above and some not…

THIS ALLEGRA HICKS IS OVERSIZED AND SUCH A DRAMATIC PRINT — TRULY A FAVORITE

I LIKE STACKING THESE DOMINO BOOKS (1 AND 2) ON TOP OF EACH OTHER ON A TRAY ON A COFFEE TABLE

THIS BASQUE COOKBOOK HAS A GREAT BRIGHT YELLOW SPINE WITH A FUN SQUAT FONT ON THE SIDE — PERFECT FOR A POP OF DRAMA ON A BOOKSHELF

THIS RL BOOK IS ENORMOUS AND LOOKS FANTASTIC WITH BROWNS/LEATHERS/RUSTIC VIBE

ANOTHER FAVORITE — SUCH A GREAT SHADE OF PEONY PINK, AND LOVE THE FONT ON THE SPINE (ALSO ONE OF OUR FAVORITE COOKBOOKS)

DON’T KNOW WHY THIS IS UNDER $10 ATM BUT IT’S A GREAT RED SPINE

I THINK THIS FRENCH DOG ONE MIGHT BE MY FAVORITE…LOOKS GREAT LAYERED BENEATH A SMALL POTTED BOXWOOD IN AN ENTRYWAY

LOVE THE FONT ON THE SPINE — ALSO LOVE ALL OF OTTOLENGHI’S COOKBOOKS FOR THE SAME REASON; GREAT DRAMATIC FONT

I don’t own these yet, but I also absolutely love the look of the Assouline destination books. These would be fantastic if you already have a color scheme going in a room and you want to nail it home or draw out one of the “supporting” colors in a throw pillow.

And a few other decorative books currently on my lust list:

P.S. The Prune book holds special sentimental value, as the restaurant (semi-permanently closed, sob) was the site of a major turning point in our adult lives.

P.P.S. More coffee table styling ideas and while we’re talking coffee: the best gear for coffee and tea service.

P.P.P.S. The Lee book also taught me a thing or two.

10 Comments

  1. Ooh, so many nice titles here! Working in publishing, we have an insane amount of books in our apartment β€” probably close to 2,000, in my estimation (!) and we could definitely do a better job of organizing them properly. Currently we have a handful of bookshelves dedicated to specific genres (photography, art, trade fiction, trade nonfiction, and cooking β€” alphabetized within those sections), and then some more “styled”/themed stacks in our living room. When we move into a larger place, I’d love to have a true library! That’s the dream for me πŸ™‚

    From your wishlist, I own Mexico: The Cookbook and really like it β€” it’s a great reference point and looks amazing, too, with the papel picado-inspired jacket. And I love the look of the Patterns of India book! Adding to my list.

    On a separate note, I recently finished Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being β€” have you read it? I loved it and am still thinking about it … the mark of a great read, in my book!

    xx

    1. I haven’t read the Ozeki but thank you for the rec! Added it to my reading list. I always discover such great titles from you all!

      2,000 books!!! GOALS!

      xx

  2. PS: Not about styling, but have you read the memoir Eyes To The Wind by Ady Barkan? I learned about him from an interview he did with Lucy Kalanithi on her podcast (whose late husband Paul Kalanithi wrote When Breath Becomes Air — another one of those “too beautiful for words” book, in my opinion).

  3. So many beautiful books here!
    …And I’m seeing some of my personal favorites on your shelf too — All The Light We Cannot See (too beautiful for words), The Nightingale, A Homemade Life, Cooking for Mr. Latte…

    I have the Patterns of India book and it is gorgeous.

    I was also intrigued by this one: Art by Andrew Graham Dixon. Love the bold colors on the cover, and the font! There are others in the series too, on Fashion, and one on Design (with similar cover styling).

    I personally could never flip my books to spines facing the wall! I would drive myself crazy, haha.

  4. I love this post. Arranging books by color is something I did within the past 2 years. Do you have them arranged by alpha too within each color? Also your post on prune, the statement : β€œThis is enough. This is life at its peak, at its fullest. I am enough. We are enough.” really resonates with me where I am right now in life.

    Extremely optimistic, upbeat, and realistic.

    On a book note, what are you currently reading? I just finished Where the Grass is Green and the Girls are Pretty and am in the middle of Hour of the Witch. I started Ask Again Yes but it’s a bit depressing.

    1. Hi Michelle – Thank you so much! So glad that post hit you at the right time :). Such a wonderful feeling, to be content and full.

      Separately, I do not alphabetize but now you’ve planted a seed and I may find myself doing just that after the move…though sometimes I’m more motivated by the play of shades of color alongside one another so we shall see! (I.e., dark orange to pale peach on one shelf).

      I am on a reading hiatus at the moment — still midway through a Ruth Ware I started weeks ago and then trying to start the Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy this summer! Keep me posted on your reading adventures!!

      xx

  5. Oh I can never style with books. I have to many I read constantly and there every where, in book cases on book cases. I do love my RL book it’s in my bedroom where I read and love the pictures a lot lol.

    1. Hi Jeanne — That’s a vibe, too! Love the image of an apartment dotted through with books in various permutations/degrees of readership. Lovely! :). xx

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