Decorating with Books: bringing rhythm to your bookshelves

DIY re-bound set of books – keep reading to find out how

Books are beautiful. The repetitive lines, with promise of history, knowledge or pure intrigue make them seem like added parcels of sophistication in a room. They can create depth to a space, or help solve design dilemmas, such as balancing heights of unequal elements or added symmetry. When it comes to full libraries, I am awestruck. My first memory of a Disney movie is the scene in Beauty and the Beast when Belle is first shown into the library in the enchanted castle. All my residential blueprint designs from when I was a kid include a larger-than-life library, embracing the feeling of being surrounded by gorgeous volumes of books.

My bookshelf before (left) & after (right)

But rarely in life do I find that my personal collection of books looks even remotely like my romanticised ideals. My bookshelves look disorganised and confused at best, and like the wreckage of a tornado at their worst. The lack of overall colour scheme, branding and binding method just turns it into visual dissonance & chaos. I long for the good old days when people had to take loose pages to the village bookbinder to create a set of books for their shelves, but Nostalgia can often make us forget to appreciate the benefits of the present. Today we have the opportunity to own more than a handful of books, which is a huge privilege, but one that I intend to whip into shape to fit my interior design goals.

Set of Roald Dahl Books, re-bound

There are a few ways to go about doing this. Some designers swear by colour-blocking in which you group books with similar hues in areas together on your bookshelves. Geneva Vanderziel has a great step-by-step article on how to colour-block your bookshelves. Another good option is to buy your books within beautifully bound sets, such as the Penguin Clothbound Classics. Julia Seales has a great post of other gorgeous sets of books.

Books before & After

Finding inspiration from Lauren, owner of Blesser House, I considered painting all my books to give them the rustic, French feel of Restoration Hardware’s Mute Journal collection. However, I found that while I loved the finished look, it would be impossible to paint all my books because most of them are paperback. Lauren suggests tearing the covers off paperbacks, however, I knew my husband would think I had gone bananas, so I came up with the idea of recovering them with plain white paper to have a similar effect. It did take quite a few hours, however, it was extremely cost effective with a great visual impact.

Here’s a list of what you’ll need to recover your own books (hardcover & paperback) and directions:

Materials & Tools


  1. Trace out open book on cover paper, creasing the paper at the edges of the book
  2. Cut out shape of book with Stanley knife and steel ruler on cutting mat, leaving excess to fold over the book
  3. Apply glue from the glue stick to the spine of book, then use the creases made in step 1 to adhere the paper onto the spine of the book
  4. Fold the excess length of paper inside the book, then apply glue to the edge of the cover and firmly press the paper onto it.
  5. Cut a label out for your book using scissors. All of my labels are about 5cm long, but the depth was cut slightly less than the depth of the book.
  6. Double check the name of the book and author, then write the name of it on the label. Adhere this with the glue stick.
  7. Repeat for each book
  8. Tie sets of books together using the twine.

Ta-da! Enjoy your own spectacular set of gorgeous books.

If you tried it, send me a snap of your work to – I’d love to see it!!


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