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Over the last two years, many people have sought comfort in books for a much-needed escape. U.S. print book sales rose by 9 percent(!) in 2021. If all that book purchasing didn’t include a move to a roomier space, that may mean you’ve officially run out of shelf space.
But there’s no reason to worry if this sounds familiar: Books can be stored almost anywhere and showcased in the most unusual spaces and imaginative ways. Whether that’s placing a shelf in an unexpected spot or designing the most impressive stack right on the floor, there’s no shortage of options, including your bedroom.
According to library designer Christy Shannon Smirl, founder of Foxtail Books, “Home libraries and bookshelves were an area that a lot of people decided to improve between 2020 and 2021, either by reorganizing, getting rid of books, or trying a new design angle.” Terri Hamm opened her bookstore Kindred Stories during the pandemic, first as a pop-up and eventually as a brick and mortar shop, to fill the void in the city for Black bookstore spaces in Houston.
Smirl and Hamm share their advice for how to creatively display your books in your bedroom, so you never have to go far to snuggle up with your favorite tome.
If you have room for an actual bookcase in your bedroom, Smirl suggests that you only showcase genres and subjects that you’ll want to see every day in the room where you start your day and wind down. “Which books are your favorites? Would you rather have them in this space, or on display where guests are more likely to see them?” she asks. “Are there topics that feel more private, that you would rather keep here than in a shared space?”
Strategic styling can make your books enhance your bedroom’s decor. “I like to alternate between vertical (normally shelved) books and horizontal stacks, which can function as bookends or sit beneath an interesting object,” says Smirl. Facing a book out (truly displaying it like a bookstore or library does) is less common in the home, but if you have a small stand or can get a book to stand up just so, it can show off a great cover or a beloved classic.
Smirl notes that objects like ceramics, small sculptures, interesting antiques, or natural pieces like stone or driftwood can be used as bookends or stand-alone pieces that complement the books and add interest in the room.“I’ve started to notice more simple, modern bookends and small easels for book display in recent years, and I hope that trend continues for bookish consumers.”
As for Instagram-worthy rainbow book styling? Smirl prefers to remain neutral on the color-coded trend, as she’s a firm believer in everyone doing what they want with their books. Hamm says she prefers arranging books by subject over appearance.
If you have high ceilings, get a bookshelf that goes all the way up for a dramatic effect that also holds the most books, says Smirl. Hamm also recommends taking advantage of vertical spaces as much as possible. “If you’re looking for a cool vertical bookshelf, check out the Story Bookcase from Design Within Reach,” she advises.
For tight corners, consider simple wooden crates, which Hamm used as flexible book displays in her pop-up bookstore days. You could use one as a bedside table with built-in book storage, stack two horizontally to make a shelf, or place one atop or under an existing piece of furniture .
Editing is also key if you’re short on space. “If something has to give, consider your personal policy for which books you keep forever and which might be passed along to a new home,” says Smirl. “A home packed full of books is delightful until it isn’t, and that tipping point is something each person has to decide for themselves.” Smirl notes that her primary bedroom isn’t big, so she and her husband the books they are currently reading by their bedsides (they also have a few bookended on top of a dresser that they’ll read next). “We used to let our books overflow, teetering on the table, a stack under the bed, New Yorkers on the windowsill. We simplified the space, streamlined what we keep in that room, and upgraded our living room coffee table — a much better spot for the larger books, magazines, and anything we’re not currently reading.”
Even if you don’t have a dedicated bookshelf, there’s usually a good spot on a desk or a dresser in a guest bedroom for a small stack of books. “I always recommend locally relevant books in guest bedrooms — city guides, trail books, natural history, photography — books that will help your guests learn more about where you live (and help them enjoy it),” says Smirl. Hamm suggests you might organize books arounds a theme. “I have a stack of books on my coffee table that celebrate Black art history,” she states. “The colors of the sleeves and cloth binding all flow together although they aren’t the same color. Organizing books into little vignettes around a specific theme can be great conversation starters when hosting.”