Successful book storage ideas are a conundrum that should be solved efficiently and practically, yet they are also one that often alludes even the most stylish of us.
Books can bring culture and intelligence to any room; as Cicero said, 'A room without books is like a body without a soul.' Not only that, but a quick glance at both the selection of titles and the way that they are organized is often very revealing of the interests and character of the owner – something we all learnt when scrutinizing the bookshelf ideas of celebrities during pandemic video calls.
One formal way of arranging books is the classic library approach, that is by genre – fiction, non-fiction, history, art and so on. It's probably one of the most popular ways to organise books in a domestic setting, explains Philip Blackwell, founder, Ultimate Library (opens in new tab). Here are a few other ways to indulge your bookish ways.
Book storage ideas
Whether you are looking for book storage ideas for because you are designing a home library, or want reading nook ideas for a much smaller space, these expert tips and rooms will give you plenty of inspiration.
1. Go for a bespoke design
Home library ideas for a living room or home office with a built-in wall-to-wall design work in both classic and contemporary homes alike. By combining open shelving and closed cupboards, you can have a display of books and objets d’art while also hiding away heavier items down below.
Alcoves are an obvious place to add floor-to-ceiling storage, even if your room is small as bespoke solutions can utilise the full height of the space.
‘Although this may not sound like it will make much of a difference the reality is that a bespoke design will offer, on average, 40% more space,’ says Rachal Hutcheson, national retail manager at Sharps. Finish off with a block color and let the books provide the detail.
2. Utilize hallways
Try thinking outside the box, as shown here in this up-and-over bespoke book storage unit. Hallways and landings are perfect places to maximize in terms of floor space. These spaces can have a dedicated function, but keep the look understated to ensure a cohesive link between each room.
3. Display beautiful books to show off their covers
Some books are works of art in themselves. Don't hide these gems away; instead, show off your best interior design books by displaying the front, rather than just the spine – this is a great way to style a bookcase.
The shelves of this gently sloped bespoke design by interior designer Jo Berryman (opens in new tab), have a narrow lip to ensure that as much of each front cover as possible is on view.
4. Build bookshelves into alcoves to max out space
If a book collection is likely to grow over the years, it's important to maximize any potential space in the house. It needn't be in a living room, either – it can help you make the most of a small bedroom layout, too.
Turner Pocock (opens in new tab) designed these fitted bedroom bookshelf ideas and painted them in the same bronze paint as the skirting boards for a sleek finish. This is the Hicks' Hexagon wallpaper at Designer Wallpapers (opens in new tab).
5. Line study walls with bookshelves for a library look
Create a studio look for your home office by lining opposite walls with book storage ideas – these are by Jesse (opens in new tab). Keep the look clean with a glass-topped table in between and use a library ladder to access the top shelves.
Bespoke shelves are best for a neat finish but you can achieve this look with ready-made formulas. Bear in mind that this effect is most successful when natural light is maximized – or when you invest in good lighting design if the room is light-starved.
6. Leave books room to breathe
Make a departure from the usual full-to-bursting book storage ideas by leaving some gaps and leaning books at different angles for a more contemporary look. Keeping the box shapes regular also creates a modern finish.
7. Combine displays of curios with book storage ideas
A library should exude personality and character, and none does it better than this quirky and intriguing display. Use color to showcase your style, and when all else fails, throw in a few curios and mismatched fabric. After all, this is very much your space to play with, so go big and bold.
There are no hard and fast rules to creating a well-curated display on living room bookshelves but leaving gaps for curios at regularly spaced intervals will create a neat finish, while placing larger books and larger curios lower and smaller ones higher can help you achieve balance, and picking a limited color scheme will help the display to feel calm rather than chaotic.
8. Use vertical space for book display and storage
In a small space, using vertical book storage ideas can make a room feel taller. Built like this, book storage can also be used to fill awkward spaces that might not be usefully employed otherwise.
9. Display books in spine colors
Those looking for a more stylized result, which will have a greater impact on the overall look and feel of the room, will arrange books in blocks of color. Some will go for one accent – we've seen entire walls in Penguin paperbacks, for example – others will want a kaleidoscope effect with different pops of color. It's a lovely way to spend a rainy Sunday...
10. Build book storage into a 'secret door'
If you want a wall of books to show off your ever-expanding collection, but find a doorway in the way, don't let it put you off – turn your door into a storage unit for books so that when closed, you get the library look you want, on the wall you want.
You will need a carpenter to strengthen the door frame, heavy-duty hinges and – likely – hidden castors on the bottom of the door/book shelf to take the weight of your tomes.
11. Blend books with your color scheme
If you love books, it's likely that you already have enough books to make this work. Otherwise, you can anticipate the pleasure of trawling antiques' markets for books to suit your color scheme.
Use book spine colors as your accent shades within the room, limiting yourself to just two or three colors for a restful result. This room by Studio Ashby (opens in new tab) is featured in the Andrew Martin Interior Designer Review Vol.24 (opens in new tab).
12. Create literary reflections with mirrored shelves
Create a ‘hall of mirrors’ with these impressive hand-made statement pieces. Six fixed mirrored glass shelves feature an antiqued finish, edged with wood painted antique gold – every inch is mirrored, including the undersides. Line them up and watch light bounce.
What is the best way to store books?
Book storage should be undertaken with care if the books are valuable to you. Packing them in tightly against an external wall without any air for circulation could lead to them becoming damp and mouldy. Equally, storing books above a radiator can cause books to buckle.
Ideally, put book shelves where temperatures won't fluctuate too much and on interior walls that can maintain a dry atmosphere.
Where should you not store books?
You should not store books anywhere that is likely to be damp. This includes basements, attics, outhouses and garages. It is also a bad idea to store books anywhere subject to extreme temperature fluctuations – this will include attics again – or anywhere subject to intense sunlight. The latter will bleach book covers over time.
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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