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Use Books As Accessories

Books are a great décor accent. Whether they are featured in a built-in bookshelf or placed on an accent table for effect, books make a room complete. Their varying sizes, colours and textural qualities make them great finishing items and a room without books can feel incomplete.


Book lovers know how quickly a collection can overtake a space. If you have the room, built-in bookshelves can be a great addition to the home. Well made, well designed, quality woodwork will increase your home’s resale value so it’s worth the initial investment. If you are surrounded by piles of books, having custom cabinets installed will enhance your home and solve your storage problems while keeping your treasured books within easy reach. There’s nothing worse than having to store books away in an attic or closet. If your family room needs focus, bookshelves flanking a fireplace will make for a stunning focal wall. Built-in bookshelves on either side of a window can be dramatic also and will provide the option for a cosy window seat for reading. In an attic bedroom with sloped ceilings, built-in bookshelves would be perfect for otherwise useless space on the short vertical walls under the dormer ceiling. If you don’t think you have enough room for built-ins, what about using unused spaces like areas under stairways, underused closets or spaces overhead. If you have high ceilings, a set of long shelving planks mounted on decorative brackets can be wrapped around a room near the ceiling to hold your books. A decorative ladder leaning in the corner would be a great touch. You’d have to have an actual working stepladder in order to be able to reach this high shelf so it’s a good idea to use it for books that are read less often. Decorative shelving like this was popular in Victorian times in a formal dining room and might be perfect if you have an older home.


There is a trick to making a bookshelf look attractive. Yes, books with nice bindings help, but how you arrange them is really the key. You want to fill each shelf with a variety of items in various shapes, sizes and finishes. For example, on the top shelf you might have three hardcover books laying flat with a round decorative twig ball on top; next to that six matching books set upright and next to them a fern in a brass pot. The next shelf down you’ll want to achieve a similar look with different objects and stagger them from the placement used above. Play with the settings for a bit to decide what items are in scale with the overall look. Change things up occasionally to keep things fresh looking and interesting.

HINT: Don’t push the books back into the bookshelf. Place them near the front of the shelf so that the bindings are at the forefront. This will make for a much cleaner look.


Students living in a student dorm are usually low on funds but have an abundance of large, heavy textbooks. Because the books need to be in easy reach, consider using them in decorative piles as side tables or coffee tables. Place a serving tray on top to protect the books from spills and voila, you have furniture! If the books you have are not exactly pretty, you can still stack them up and drape them with decorative fabric. For a more uniform look, cover the books with craft paper all in the same colour. Temporary book jackets like this can mask many flaws.

You don’t have to be a student to use these ideas. In a den, porch or even the bedroom, stacks of large, hardcover books can make great occasional tables or nightstands. Easy to make and easy to break down and move.


Children’s books come in all shapes and sizes so they are a little harder to store on a traditional bookshelf. The more decorative and popular books can be stored in plain view on slim plate railing placed around the room. Install the plate rail shelving in a fashion befitting the room and the needs of your child. You could, for instance, place several four-foot shelves in a stacked pattern on one wall and hang the two bottom shelves at your child’s height for easy reaching. The more fragile books can be placed on higher shelves for the grown-ups to get at storytime. Because kids’ books are so colourful, having the fronts on full display will make the room a fun place to be. No painting necessary! The books can do all of the work in that department.

Connie Oliver is an interior designer from Winnipeg, Manitoba

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