Interior Design

A $0 Simple and Impressive Design Trick for Any Room

January  4, 2018
Photo by Posie Harwood

I'm not an interior designer. I don't have an eye for pulling together the perfect curtain and rug combination, or mixing prints on sofa pillows. But I appreciate good design, and I could (and often do) lose myself poring over design magazines and Instagram accounts of beautifully put-together lofts and apartments and homes.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Not only is it challenging to execute great interior design without an innate sense of style, it can also be expensive. It's easy to feel like you'd have to invest in lots of new furniture or art or textiles in order to change up how your home looks. As a recent first-time homeowner, this is particularly relevant. We have a new, empty house to design and I've struggled with how to achieve maximum impact with minimal investment (both time and money).

Photo by Posie Harwood

Happily, I've picked up one excellent interior design trick that I'll be using for the rest of my life. It's the most commented-on aspect of our apartment in New York, and I've used the same method in our new home to similar effect (although as you can see, the bookshelves at our house are very much a work in progress and still quite bare!). Both of our spaces are similar in style: white, clean lines, modern. But it'll work in any space and with any sort of style or personality that your house or apartment has.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Best of all, it's incredibly easy and uses what you already have: books! All I do is rearrange all of my books by color. That's it. Your bookshelves will have the most impact if you keep them pretty streamlined, so I suggest doing away with as many little tchotchkes and decorative objects as possible. As you can see, I have a few (candles mostly), so it won't necessarily detract from the overall look, but it's smart to try and group those things together with other like items.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“This isn't a stuffed-shelves, overflowing library design, where all you can do is have fun with the colour of the spines. The space still left, and the smattering of non-book objects like candles and pans, leave a lot of fun options. Show the front of the floral editions of Little Women or Heidi and add a potted flower. We always see coloured spines, but not beautiful covers. Instead of putting different salad books on many different shelves, group them with a stack of bowls. Put baking books near loaf pans, the cup and saucer with drink or baking books. You could even play on themes -- Rich People Problems with something frugal. ”
— M
Comment

You might be thinking that you don't have enough books of each color. Here's a tip: Try removing the jackets from your books (I always save mine so I can switch the color theme later). Often the actual book cover is a different color from the book jacket.

Photo by Posie Harwood

Your color organization can be loose; try and keep similar hues together but don't stress about making it perfect. When you step back, the look is striking even if it's more of a shaded ombré effect. Another smart technique is to switch up the direction of your books. Keep some stacked on their sides, and others vertically arranged. This helps to break up the shelves visually and makes the arrangement by color even more prominent.

And there you have it! The perfect project to revamp your home for the new year.

Do you have a favorite way of organizing your bookshelves? Share your tips with us here.

9 Comments

breff M. October 15, 2018
I, too, have worked in a library. Maybe colors work for those who don't actually have many books or read much, but books for me are not design but life and passion. That means organizing by genre and then by author's last name! Now, if you organize your clothes by color, I'm with you.
 
Barb June 8, 2018
No, no and no. I have hundreds of books, and they are arranged by genre and alphabetically by author not title.
 
M January 4, 2018
Kindly - this is, literally, the only way I've seen pictures of books organized on shelves for many years. Google book shelves, and that's all you see. It's cute for visuals, impractical for access unless you have small libraries or have lots of time to hunt for what you need. <br /><br />What strikes me from these photos, however, is the potential to be different. This isn't a stuffed-shelves, overflowing library design, where all you can do is have fun with the colour of the spines. The space still left, and the smattering of non-book objects like candles and pans, leave a lot of fun options. <br /><br />Show the front of the floral editions of Little Women or Heidi and add a potted flower. We always see coloured spines, but not beautiful covers. Instead of putting different salad books on many different shelves, group them with a stack of bowls. Put baking books near loaf pans, the cup and saucer with drink or baking books. You could even play on themes -- Rich People Problems with something frugal. <br /><br />
 
Hana A. January 4, 2018
This post appeals to me on so many levels! Mind sharing the bookshelf source when you can, Posie? Thanks in advance!
 
Author Comment
Posie (. January 4, 2018
Of course! The white bookshelf in the 3rd photo is from IKEA--the VITTSJÖ model.
 
tinybanquet January 4, 2018
"Books are awfully decorative, don't you think?" -- Gloria Upson
 
Mackenzie S. January 4, 2018
Seems like a good way to not be able to find the book you're looking for. I organize my books by subject, while my boyfriend organizes them by the author's last name. Unless you have a photographic memory or don't use your books that often, this idea is impractical.
 
Author Comment
Posie (. January 4, 2018
Hm, I've never had an issue with that! (Then again, before I organized them by color, they weren't organized by any method at all and somehow I survived, ha!) I can scan the spines really easily for titles as you can see in the photo--plus, I sort of love having to spend time looking over the books! It always ends up with me pulling down one I haven't read in awhile.
 
amandainmd January 4, 2018
As a librarian, I was thinking the same thing. However, so many people remember books by their color (ask any librarian the last time they were asked for a book without a title but just the memory that "it's green.") In the end, if it works for you, then the system works.