HGTV's Jasmine Roth reveals the truth about the controversial 'backward books' trend – and the reason for its existence may surprise you

Jasmine Roth reveals a decorating quirk that is a staple of HGTV sets

Staples WFH Squad with Jasmine Roth
(Image credit: Staples)

HGTV, the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned powerhouse, is responsible for many of the biggest interior trends over the past decade. 

Whether you've looked to replicate Joanna Gaines's contemporary farmhouse décor aesthetic or Erin Napier's Grandmillennial style, you've likely learned much from the ever-popular channel. 

Among HGTV's most recognizable names is Jasmine Roth, the host of Hidden Potential and HELP! I Wrecked My House, who is certainly no stranger to the decorating quirks behind the most successful shows of the moment. The most interesting of these 'trends' is the backward book storage idea that caused quite a stir when we first saw it, but not all is as it seems...

Eagle-eyed HGTV fans may have already noticed that all books shown on film are placed with their spines facing inwards – contrary to conventions. The bibliophiles among us, myself included, might have questioned why anyone would want to hide the spines. After all, books can bring culture and intelligence to any room; as Cicero said, 'A room without books is like a body without a soul.' While shelving the books backwards may contribute to a room's character and palette, I was never convinced that this was a legit trend.

However, in her blog, Jasmine Roth reveals the fundamental reason all spines are placed inwards, and it is not because she doesn't want them to be seen.

'It’s a really simple answer: copyright! That’s right; this isn’t some breakthrough of a design trick. Although it’s actually kind of a hot-button issue with book lovers who aren’t fans of hiding the titles,' Jasmine reveals. 

When learning how to style a bookcase the HGTV way, the process is simple. But as Jasmine explains, the process comes down to more than how it looks in a home.

'It’s because the network would have to get copyright clearance from every single title in order to display them.  And that’s not very realistic considering each design could have at least ten books in them,' she adds.

Plus, Jasmine suggests that the rule stands for all books, whether on a bookshelf or elsewhere. She uses the example of when a clip from Season 1, Episode 8, Have a Big Kind Heart and Stay Weird, when she was filmed holding the books backward. 'If it has a title, it can’t be shown.'

Staples WFH Squad with Jasmine Roth

(Image credit: Staples)

Beyond HGTV, Peter Erlandsson, the co-owner and director of String Furniture agrees that stylish bedroom or living room shelving ideas have the power to set trends and make a statement in a room. 

'Styling these objects on a simple shelf can be beautiful and decorative. Treat your shelf like a canvas, and create a work of art on top of it with artfully styled ‘clutter,' he says. So, whether you turn your books around (as seen on HGTV) or like to proudly show off the spines – let 2023 be the year your bookshelf does all the talking. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.