The Secret Life Of Organized Bookshelves

June 26, 2013

Whenever I work with clients, the area they inevitably assume doesn’t need attention is the one I automatically go for–bookshelves.

The truth is that bookshelves aren’t a top priority if the rest of your space is cluttered or disorganized. I mean, you put your books on the shelves and you’re done, and who are they hurting if they aren’t perfect, nobody. But equally as true is that books belong to that class of belongings that, when purposefully arranged, make a vast difference to the eye, and to the overall feel of a space.

I generally organize books by category, and by color within each category. Regardless of the method you use to order your books, by taking care to stack them neatly, you can achieve a great sense of order (without all that much effort).

To illustrate the effect of the book revamp I’ve assembled a few pictures from my own work for your perusal. You’ll notice that in some of the before pictures (on the left) the books don’t look all that bad! That’s the point. They may have looked for the most part fine, but when thoughtfully arranged, they look a whole lot better.

In general, here are the ways bookshelves can appear cluttered:

– Books stacked horizontally on top of a vertical stack (i.e. you ran out of room and just crammed them in there on top of the shelf of books anyway)

– Book spines not lying on the same line (some are pushed all the way to the back of the shelves, some all the way to the front)

– Books interspersed with loose pages from magazines or books, 3-ring binders, etc

– Shelves that are sagging under the weight of too many books

– Books arranged randomly in regards to height

– Shelves cluttered with too many decorative tchotchkes 

In contrast, bookshelves may be said to be Living Simply when:

– Books are arranged by height and/or color

– Books are ordered by category

– Shelves are filled with enough books that stacks can stand up straight, but few enough that it doesn’t require any struggle to pull out a title

– Every book title is visible, with spines facing outward, and unobstructed by other books, objects, etc

– Shelves have separate sections for varying paper items such as books, maps, loose pages (the latter of which are necessarily corralled in magazine files, binders, etc)

– Shelves have a few select decorative accents, which make for an interesting, multi-layered display

– Stacking approach alternates between vertical and horizontal as the owner sees fit, so long as it isn’t done on top of each other

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