How to....Lifestyle

How to…organise your bookshelves

b2c8b588d8902de05b66d1a4595dbf87I am just going to come out and say it: I arrange my books by the colours of their spines. There. Judge away, all you ‘by author’ types. This has, I assure you, nothing to do with wanton disregard for the correct order of things (I concede that within collections e.g. black-spined penguin classics), I organise alphabetically by author surname). No, it is simply because it looks better this way. I do also arrange by height. Yep, I am all about appearances.


I am girding my loins for a book cull – and when I steal myself to the task, I intend to play around with my shelves a little more. I want to add quirk to colour – and hope that I might create some space in which to do this. This applies no matter how you arrange your literary tomes. Books are gorgeous objects, but shelves beg for adornment and character; be that adding a photograph of your darlings, that miniature globe you can’t find a home for elsewhere, and your candle collection – or a painstakingly curated collection of antique teapots.

Do also use your books as decorative objects. Lie them horizontal and stack them, so you can see the spines – or group them (e.g. interiors books together; cook books en masse). If a cover is particularly gorgeous, turn it to face the room. It will please your eye every time you glimpse it. Make your favourite books the centre of attention (a group of much-loved, dog-eared copies of Penguin books transcends shabbiness).


Don’t feel afraid to layer your objets and art. Prop a picture against the wall, then pop a plant in front of it, off-centre, or a low vase of flowers.


Don’t be afraid to give things room to breathe – bookshelves do not have to be tightly packed to be effective. (Note to self…) If you love it, then let it show itself off!

These shelves are very simple, very pared back, but enormously effective. Note the jar of nail varnish bottles – see? Anything can work.


If you’re working with a freestanding low bookcase, or a waist-height built-in bookcase, then use the top. Do not let it become a dumping ground! (I say this as a note to self.) I like the idea of using it as a surface on which to ‘curate your art collection’ (whatever that collection might be). You could even co-ordinate above and below e.g. take the organising by colour to the next level. Don’t hesitate to look for something contrived to fill the space – your home style need not develop organically at all times. Nor do you need to spend a fortune – have a ferret around in secondhand and charity shops. Or hand your child the right-sized canvas and ask them to work their magic? (C and I did an art class where we created a Pollock-style canvas and it looks incredibly effective.)

Wouldn’t it look fab to have all black and white photographs/sketches in black and white frames? (That’s the kind of minimalist look I love but can never achieve as a I am a maximalist.) Or perhaps a collection of white porcelain/china? I have several white vases in different sizes I picked up for a song in the Zara Home sale, which look far more expensive than they are when grouped together. (I had a sneak peek of the new Kelly Hoppen online boutique, The Art of Home – this will be a brilliant source for such decorative items.) 4e19a0b309f7cd09cbde25b711443896

Some good things to put within your books:

– Vases (in co-ordinating or clashing patterns).

– Family photos – I prefer a less formal display of pictures than, say, having then grouped on the baby grand. (This has nothing whatsoever to do with the total lack of a piano.)

– Framed art – try sketches, postcards picked up at exhibitions, children’s art, properly framed.

– Flowers – a few blooms in a small vase (or glass jar), cut very low, so the blooms are clustered rather than drooping over the edge.

– A mirror. Why not? Hang it jauntily from a shelf.

– Bookends. Obvious and old school, but delightful, nonetheless.

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Get the look

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Old gold bookend, £19.99, Zara Home; White owl bookends, £22.40, Laura Ashley; Fairytale bookends, £25, Heather Alstead Design at Not On The High Street

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Oversized blue vase, £50; Indie small patterned vase, £12, both Habitat

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Linea pineapple lamp and shade, £28, House of Fraser; Assorted small mirrors, £10, John Lewis; Replica of Nefertiti, £25, British Museum Shop


Images: Interior Holic; Book Riot; Pinterest; Suyc; Imgur via Pinterest; Lonny; Habitually chic; Lili Kokanoe; Flickr; Small Shop Studio

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