Stylist's Toolkit: Books
Updated: Feb 4
Books open the world up to us. The pervasive limits of time and geography melt away as the flow of narrative wraps around our imagination and shapes a new world view. We learn about ourselves when we are positioned to think, see and act as someone else does; our empathy is triggered and a sense of wider understanding is nurtured. The act of reading works like a meditation, keeping our hands away from our phones and distracting us in times of stress and unrest. Books force us to slow down.
Seeing books in a room can kindle a huge sense of contentment and they make a house feel like a home. A bookshelf bulging with paperbacks, or a coffee table stacked with impressive weighty tomes, indicates that time is spent in that space; pages are turned and favourite moments are soaked up and bookmarked. What do most regular hotel rooms have in common? They are stripped back to the basics and feel impersonal. You know what is always lacking in these temporary rooms? Rows and stacks of glorious books!
I love books for all the intangible benefits they offer but as a stylist, I also love what their physical presence brings into a space. Yep, I will judge a book by its cover and I use these biblio-fantastic things as a decorative element, but I won't go as far to suggest flipping your books so that the spine faces the wall and the pages are in view. I can see why it is done in some instances (like in a shop display) but I just think that by styling books this way, you reduce something very meaningful down into one mass of nothingness.
Books are a must-have addition to my stylist's took kit. A stack of books adds layers of texture and colour to a room; they create a focal point when displayed en masse or they act as a nifty platform for other decor pieces in a vignette. They are little miracle workers.
Check out the following examples of books looking oh so right at home.
This image is a very good case for a coffee table piled high with glossy, colourful books, especially because the surrounding room is so very bold and thoughtfully curated. I love seeing whole coffee table tops covered in a grid of books, with a few objects and little dishes floating on the stacks. If you go this way for your own home, may I suggest using coasters to avoid ruining precious covers with sweaty cups.
Books can act like a headboard when they are stacked high behind the pillows. That idea is pushed further in this room, as an unexpected focal point is created with the placement of an artwork on the stacks towering over the bed. The amazing mossy green throw and chartreuse glass vase are perfect for this white room, but the addition of the books is what really brings the space to life.
A paired back selection of books on this window sill allows for a subtle play of height and shape, without sacrificing the view. Sitting on the horizontal stack of books, the sculptural lamp is elevated and becomes the highest point in this grouping. The books offer a straight line counterpart to the organic, textured nature of the bust and the lamp's dramatic curve.
Books and benches are a match made in heaven! Tall bookshelves will bring books up high into our line of sight, stacked up against the wall, but when books are styled along a low bench, they are easily accessible and can add visual interest to dead spaces. Consider adding a book bench to the spot underneath a window, in a hallway or at the foot of a bed.
... Hey, there's that lamp again!
This approach won't be for everyone but I do love the casualness of this book pile, plonked directly onto the floor, a short stretch away from the dining table. I imagine that it's the kind of haphazard stack that grows and changes shape constantly, as books get added and subtracted. The room is light with pops of bright colour- it's a youthful space. Sure, a book shelf could easily fit into that corner, but that's not as fun now is it.