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.
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.
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.
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
- Paper (I used A3 printing paper, but use a colour that you think will suit your space best)
- Label Paper (I used brown mail kraft paper)
- Glue stick
- Cutting mat (Try this cheap & cheerful A3 mat from Kmart!)
- Stanley knife / box cutter
- Steel ruler
- Felt tip pen (Black)
- Trace out open book on cover paper, creasing the paper at the edges of the book
- Cut out shape of book with Stanley knife and steel ruler on cutting mat, leaving excess to fold over the book
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Double check the name of the book and author, then write the name of it on the label. Adhere this with the glue stick.
- Repeat for each book
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to see it!!