dining room with walls full of books and lots of patterns and gold mirror
Here: the library-dining room in textile designer Carolina Irving's Paris home.
Bright Ideas

5 Tips That Make Decorating With Books Easy-Peasy

Designer and author Nina Freudenberger has a new book about the best bibliocentric interiors

Images reprinted with permission from Bibliostyle, by Nina Freudenberger, copyright © 2019. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Photographs copyright © 2019 by Shade Degges.

Bookworms already know that a stack of well-worn hardbacks or a decorative tome can do more for the character of your room than, perhaps, anything else. Beyond that, books are incredible conversation starters and a highly personally touch to any room. That’s why Surf Shack author Nina Freudenberger, journalist Sadie Stein, and interiors photographer Shade Degges teamed up on their latest project, Bibliostyle: a look at some of the best book-filled interiors around the world.

The trio documented 35 homes across 15 cities in eight different countries. “As an interior designer, I created this book as a source of inspiration,” Nina tells us. “I always believed luxury is not with what you live, but how you live. And the people I included in this book have found the absolute, endless passion in books—which couldn’t be more reassuring in this day and age.” Just a few of the well-known subjects include the artist and illustrator Pierre Le-Tan and publishing couple Gay and Nan Talese. Of course, we couldn’t help taking a little personal inspiration from the tome ourselves. Read on for our favorite things we learned about books in interiors.

Surrounded by ancient textiles, the concrete home of Pedro Reyes and Carla Fernandez is stacked to the brim with books.

Neatly organize stacks in slightly different heights to get more depth.

Don’t be afraid to stack

Bookcases and shelves can sometimes be overrated. Surround your home with stacks of books instead, to create a more lived-in feeling. You also don’t have to limit yourself to stacking on the floor. Use a statement table, stools, or benches to create a modern library—like Mexican sculptor Pedro Reyes and his fashion designer wife Carla Fernandez did in Mexico City. “The cast-in-place concrete architecture that holds their book collection was simply a wonder in itself,” explains Nina.

Fashion designer Philip Lim’s books are organized by his own visual memories. Says Lim: “Books about art would be next to interiors, interiors would be next to sofas. It’s a visual kind of memory. If I’m looking for Fortuny fabrics, I’ll know that book is next to Louise Bourgeois, and, of course, she’ll be next to Art Deco Mexican silver.”

Create a statement book wall

Select one wall and completely devote it to books with floor-to-ceiling shelves. Instead of art or wall hangings, you’ll have some of your favorite books on display and easily accessible. You can also create your own organization system easily, whether by color or association. “No two systems were alike in the book, seen through visiting 35 homes in total,” says Nina. “Books can find a home anywhere and be organized in the most personal of arrangements.“

Keep the rest of the room minimal so floor-to-ceiling books can shine. Illustrator Joana Avillez sleeps surrounded by books in her own personal library.

Layer shelves

Why have one bookshelf when you can have two, layered together? As seen in Bibliostyle, a floor-to-ceiling bookcase can be positioned behind a smaller shelf, whether stand-alone or in a different form, such as the headboard of a bed that functions as a shelf. It’s an easy way to layer your tomes, novels, and other keepsakes like framed photos, in a more dimensional way.

Books at every level can be reached with this custom-built staircase in the cement-poured library of Carla and Pedro.

Stairs, meet books

Take inspiration from classic library walls, where there often might be a wooden ladder to reach the top, and position your books around or at the top of a staircase. It’s a more livable, modern version of the library ladder and a fun way to explore the stacks.

The bold, neon green cover—as seen on the end of this case—perfectly matches the eclectic furniture in the home of the art curator and collector Emmanuel de Bayser.

Coordinate your colors

We’ve all seen a bookcase organized by color. And while it can be stunning, there’s also beauty in playing with color through books in a very different way. For example, pull out statement flashes of color from the books you own, and then coordinate them to your furniture or decor.

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