8 Tips for Artfully Displaying Your Books

Your book collection is about to get way more beautiful.

Emily Henderson is hands down our favorite interior designer. Her website Style by Emily Henderson is the ultimate destination for drool-worthy pictures of rooms (and bookshelves) that actually feel achievable. Her motto? Perfection is boring; let’s get weird.

So when her new book came out this month, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it to find further inspiration for organizing and decorating our bookshelves. Below, find Emily’s key tips, tricks, and ideas for creating a beautiful book lover’s homestead.



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1. Organizing by color can eliminate some visual chaos from your surroundings. 

The ‘style by color’ is a controversial trend. It depends on whether your eye can handle the “visual chaos” that mixing your books NOT by color can ensue. In other words, sure, if you want to style it by color, go for it, but I’m not going on a national campaign to make sure that people do it because it’s not terribly practical. I think if your shelving is used more for aesthetic purposes and you are mixing in a lot of objects, then sticking to a color palette (and moving some books out that are popping out in a bad way) is a good idea. But otherwise books are meant to be seen, viewed, mixed and loved – so whichever way you style them is fine by me!


2. To stack books in a way that doesn’t just feel like clutter, keep your piles neat, and have the stacks be as uniform as possible. 

Put them in a place that garners a little bit of respect – don’t pile them in places where it looks like you are trying to hide them. Instead, think about putting them next to the fireplace (away from flame, obviously) or on your credenzas or other favorite surfaces.


3.  Don’t keep books just for decor. With one exception. 

If you didn’t like the book, why do you have it? If you wouldn’t recommend it then does it deserve a place on your shelf? That’s what I would edit out. Sometimes I keep a book if it has an exceptionally beautiful cover or spine, but otherwise if I have no intention of ever reading it or recommending it then I get rid of it. 

coffee table books

4. Bookshelf trinkets can come from a huge variety of sources. 

I buy a ton of vintage at the flea market or thrift stores, then mix them with big box retailers. The key is to have them all work with your color palette and then mix up the styles, textures, sizes and finishes so it feels collected yet pulled together.


5. But don’t go overboard with the trinkets. 

Art is the perfect way to take up visual space in a shelf without adding too much busy-ness or too many Knick Knacks. Lean or hang them against the back of the shelf and if you want a more collected look layer some in front of others.


6. Give books center stage.

Stack them, pile them and give them center stage. Under benches, on top of tables, etc. If you have a lot of vintage books you can even put them under glass domes–I love the look of that and it definitely elevates them as art.


7. Extremely large collections don’t have to be messy. 

I think, if you really have that many, then keeping them as simply styled as possible is good idea. Organize them as much by height in your shelf as possible so you aren’t going from really short to really tall back to really short all the way along – that can look messy. Make it as easy on the eye as possible. But honestly, I think books are one of the best accessories for bringing personality into your home, so go for it.

large bookshelf collection

8. Any fun ways of organizing cookbooks so they don’t get messy in the kitchen?

Stack them according to size with the biggest on the bottom, like a pyramid, or if you are storing them vertically, put similar heights together. You don’t have to get crazy about it, but the neater you can keep it the better it will look.


EMILY HENDERSON is a stylist, interior designer, TV host, and Editor in Chief of the daily website Style Emily Henderson, which Apartment Therapy named the Best Home Design & Inspiration Blog of 2014. Her work has been featured in InStyle, House Beautiful, and domino. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and daughter.
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