Taking a breather from building a deck this weekend, I flipped on the TV for some French Open action. Between sets, I happened to catch part of a design show on HGTV. There, onscreen, sat your typical couple talking to your typical design guru about how to trade their dated, mismatched style for something the host termed “casual modern.”
I started to think of my apartment, and what a “design expert” might call my style. Eclectic certainly comes to mind, as does cluttered and obsessed, about books and vinyl records. My pad, at best, resembles something between a flea market junk shop (in a good way) and a defunct school library. Like an entomologist, I derive pleasure in cataloging, so it makes sense that my style should reflect this.
It turns out I’m not alone. Book decorating is hot stuff. There are even books on book decorating. (Note to self: do not display on coffee table; too gaudy.) While most of us actually read the books we collect, some people are more interested in the look of books—the covers we’ve been told not to judge—and how they’re positioned on the shelf. Unlike curtains, books increase in value, don’t go out of style, and, combined on thoughtful shelving, come together to create a unique look not available at Ikea.
A well-designed book room doesn’t need to have an antiquated, dusty, 221-B Baker Street look; books are just as welcome in clean, contemporary rooms, or used in sparse amounts throughout the house. The key is to decide on what look you’re after, not just place things on shelves haphazardly. Books don’t have to be in alphabetical order, or even lead you upstairs. When it comes to design, the more important elements are size, colour and shape.
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to the the Big Three of interior design: design, colour and shape. As with any other aesthetic decision, you need to consider the look you’re going for. If, for example, you own a lot of colourful art books, consider lining them up according to, well, colour; same goes if you own a bunch of large books; don’t place an oversized tomb next to a tiny Ian Fleming paperback. Also, don’t just go from large to small; create variance—another design element—by grouping together books in sections rather than across the entire shelf or case.
Which brings me to another benefit to book-lined design: you can always change things up when you get bored with a certain look, or if, upon reflection, glass of wine in hand, you decide to change the mood. After all, we’re not talking about painting walls.