Creative Ways to Stow Books

Projects & Tips / September 29th, 2011
An antique stepladder
An antique stepladder provides a pretty perch for a few of Megan’s books.

Before you part with a collection of favorite books, consider these creative ways to stow them offered by writer Megan Fulweiler. She and her husband began what she calls “a new chapter” in their life-long love affair with books:

We’ve come to the conclusion our books are a lot like our relatives. There are those we love, those we like, and a good many we, well, tolerate. Still, we could no more sever relations with the last group than we can—it’s obvious—winnow down our books. Both the relatives and good-but-not-favorite reads are family. Someday we might have better communication—more time, more understanding. It’s a loyalty issue.

The problem is storage. Having filled the shelves, we’ve begun—like New York designer David Netto does in his Greenwich Village apartment—to stack books in front of the cases so they’ll look like they’re waiting to be shelved. Books are slyly moving into corners, climbing on bureaus and even hiding under our bed, which according to the art of feng shui could be hindering our sleep.

In his Brussels apartment designer Bruno de Caumont utilizes the floor, too. But his approach—arranging leather-bound books beneath an Empire console parked on a wall painted Farrow & Ball’s Pitch Blue—is stylish (check it out in the October 2011 issue of Elle Décor). The console’s pedigreed legs serve as bookends keeping the parade upright and tidy. Our higgledy-piggledy piles slumbering under a pine table don’t deliver the same visual punch.

Nor do our home-made bookcases hold a candle to the built-ins Portsmouth, Rhode Island, designer Michele Foster of Foster Associates included in the elegant house she created for a couple of Rhode Island booklovers. These lucky owners have living room, bedroom, office, and study shelves!

Never mind, recently we’ve found relief utilizing some worthwhile solutions that don’t require carpentry. A small folding ladder—who knew?—nabbed at a local auction accommodates a whole set of  19th-century historical romances (not yet tackled) and is easy to move around. The same can be said for a recycled garden bench. We slid ours against a wall and loaded it up. Baskets—old and new—are heaven-sent and provide a tidy look no matter where we park then. An antique basket, for example, now gives home to a dozen oversize coffee-table tomes. And the books beneath our bed have been moved to a sturdy new basket. Bookends? Absolutely, our new love. Fun to collect, they give us another reason to break for tag sales.

Maintaining harmony needn’t be a struggle any longer, we now assure ourselves. We simply have to remember what authors Dominique Dupuich and Roland Beaufre wrote in Living With Books (Thames & Hudson, 2010):  “All long-term love affairs require a little organization, and relationships between people and books are no different.”—Megan Fulweiler

book basket
Need a way to keep favorite books at the ready near a reading chair, yet neatly stowed? Easy. Stash them in a book basket like Megan does.
These built-in bookshelves created by Rhode Island designer Michele Foster of Foster & Associates add character to the living room of a couple of Rhode Island book lovers.
These built-in bookshelves created by Rhode Island designer Michele Foster of Foster & Associates add character to the living room of a couple of Rhode Island book lovers.
bedroom bookshelves
Foster introduced beautiful built-in shelves to the couple’s bedroom, too.
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