5 Ways to Style Vintage Books
So this obsession goes back a ways.
Actually, back a loooooong ways.
I know it’s hard to believe that I ever got in trouble as a child (haha!), but from time to time, it would happen. And you know what got me in trouble more than anything else?
My nose in a book.
Now it wasn’t that my parents didn’t want me to read. In fact, they both still love to read and it was a big part of our family. But reading when I was supposed to be doing my chores…that got me in trouble once or twice…or more. Who’s counting?
(And you know what’s funny? This is our current parenting “problem” with one of our children now! What goes around comes around!!!)
Fast forward to about 4 or 5 years after Robb and I were married. We had SO MANY BOOKS! Everything from all the books our parents sent with us to college textbooks and beyond. Most of our books were on two bookshelves in our bedroom that I had picked up from a yard sale. I distinctly remember when my patient hubby got home from work on this particularly creative day of mine…
“Robyn! What in the world????”
I had turned every single book around so that the lovely, neutral-colored pages were showing, rather than the array of colors and styles of ALL THOSE BOOKS! I don’t really know where I got the idea because it wasn’t a thing in decorating like it is now. But I was just so tired of all those crazy colors and mis-matched spines.
Did I say he’s patient? For the most part, yes, and he agreed to give it a try. Especially since those neutral pages were making me so happy!
Fast forward about 13 years later…and yep! I’m still facing those pages outward!
(Except the kids books…I’m not that crazy about my neutrals!!! Ha! Besides, their books are on the bookshelves in their room, so it’s totally fine.)
If you follow me on Instagram, you are used to seeing me decorate with books all the time! In fact, they are a staple in almost every room and definitely for every season.
To me, books add so much interest and character to a space. They help tell the story of a space that is well-loved and well-lived in. Books bring a sense of a room being curated over time, rather than picked up at a big box furniture store.
There are so many ways to use books in your décor. Today, we are going to go over five of my favorite ways and see how many of these styling ideas you already use!
Before we launch into styling, let’s talk about where all these books came from! Every time I go to any thrift store, I always hit up the book section. Since I am using these books for décor, I am less concerned with the book content as I am the actual color, style, and patina of the book. If I am working on a particular color palette for a space, like the light blue I did in the girls room, I will browse the shelves for color. Sometimes, I am looking for books that have a particular size for layering or stacking. Other times, I am paying attention to the title. For example, I have vintage books that I like to pull out with my summer décor, each title referring to the sea or ocean.
You may want to browse for décor books by:
- Title/words on the spine
Almost all of my décor books have come from thrift stores! I do have some special ones that I’ve picked up at antique stores or vintage shops, and I have several amazing leather ones from my friend Jamie from @booksbycolor_jaysworld. I’ll link some amazing vintage options for you at the end of this post! It is very rare that I pay very much at all for a décor book, though investing in some of the larger ones, like a thick dictionary or French books can be well worth the extra!
So Let’s Get to Styling!
There may be a few book-loving friends that would object to this. But hear me out…I have taken many a book that would have ended up in the landfill and repurposed it to be fabulous décor! I have also salvaged discarded paperback books and turned them into works of art that I’ve been decorating with for years!
To deconstruct a book, you will simply work the spine completely off, pulling the covers with it. Even a newer book has a great look when deconstructed, as you get some of the glue residue remaining, and leaving a texture and patina that makes it look really old…and really loved. Fun trick, huh?
Sometimes I tie my deconstructed books together with twine to make a cute book bundle. Some, I leave as individuals. It is a versatile, nearly fail-proof DIY that literally costs you the price of a cheap paperback at the thrift store! And it’s also a great way to recycle an old book that is maybe too tattered to read or one that you may end up tossing!
Warning: It’s Addictive!!!
Use Books to Tell a Story in Your Décor
I did this with my vintage coastal books last year. ( And yes, I even have seasonal books for décor!). With only about 5 or 6 well-chosen old books, I helped set the tone for a casual, vintage coastal look in our family room. In this case, I left the neutral and light blue spines facing out so that the titles could be easily seen…and help tell the story of a little seaside cottage. Now we aren’t in an actual cottage and the beach is a couple miles away, but these books helped create that look and tell that story.
I also use old music books to decorate in this way. At Christmas, for example, I put a couple of vintage copies of Handel’s Messiah on the top of the stack. Subtle, but I loved that it helped create that look of a vintage Christmas.
I am currently on the hunt for some vintage, neutral-ish books for spring, like a great set of Beatrix Potter books! We have the children’s ones, but they are more new looking. (Hint: if anyone comes across a great vintage set, message me!!!)
Use Books to Give Dimension to Your Vignette
Lean them, stack them, open them, close them, stand them up, lay them down!
You get the idea!!!
Anytime I am creating a vignette, I am looking for a variety of height and texture. A pair of matching lanterns, sitting next to one another, doesn’t really work. They are the same height, same color, same everything. BUT, add a few vintage books with great character and patina underneath the lanterns? All of a sudden, you have an instant vignette that looks like you spent a ton of time on it!
I also like to lean a few books against a pot or cloche to add a little extra texture. Like we talked about in the cloche styling post, you can even rest a cloche on top of a larger book as a base!
Do your candlesticks look too short next to your artwork? Add a book stack underneath!
Does your plant/planter not fill the space adequately? Lean some books to the side to fill the horizontal space!
Have a console table that is lacking character? Add some large, vintage books and a set of corbels. Incredible character and I promise you’ll use them forever!
Use Books in Your Tablescapes
Who said books are only for shelves and coffee tables? I styled this entire tablescape around a book theme! I used books to add height and texture to my simple centerpieces. And I used old pages to create a special look for each place setting. It was a simple craft to do with an old book, but made a nice statement!
Another time, I used some old music book pages as my placemats. I think I paid $2 at the flea market for that old music book, and I’ll have placemats for years to come out of that book! For $2, I was pretty happy for these disposable placemats and a fun table theme!
Use Books to Camouflage An Undesired View or Fill a Desired Space
Well, supposed you have a TV cord or entertainment center wires that are hanging down. A well-positioned stack of books could be the perfect trick to hide those cords! We have our entertainment cords hidden in the wall in our current home; that was a huge must-do when we were renovating. But at our old house, I had book stacks everywhere to hid those cords!
Decorating with books is also a great way to fill a desired spot in your home. A favorite basket, dough bowl, or tray could be on display but need a little filler. Old books are a perfect way to visually fill your piece without taking away from its charm or “stealing the spotlight”, so to speak!
Basically, you can see that I use books…old, new, tired, tattered, vintage, and antique…everywhere! While you can spend thousands on a rare antique book, you don’t need to spend more than a dollar at the thrift store to get you started on adding books to your décor. Or take a look around your home…you might be surprised what books you have around that you could actually use, rather than collecting dust on a top shelf!
I hope this inspires you to try something different in your décor this week. The exciting thing is that there is no right or wrong. You aren’t going to waste money or resources to play around with these décor ideas! Let me know what you decide to do with old books in your décor!