Styling bookshelves that achieve a laid-back yet learned look is nothing new – book lovers have been at the task for centuries. But lately, bookshelves that display more than simply design are gaining quite a bit of attention.
Coined ‘bookshelf wealth,’ the latest book styling interior design trend embraces eclectic selections of books and artwork, artfully messy shelves, and books that are actually read – or at least, will be soon. House of Hive Design Co., an interior design firm based in San Diego, put out a TikTok explaining what bookshelf wealth really is, and the term soon took off even further.
‘What separates this from other interior design styles is that these homes look cozy and lived in. So obviously, there are books, but the difference is that these aren’t display books, these are books that have actually been curated and read. Art is of the utmost importance, but it’s not displayed traditionally,’ Kailee Blalock, co-founder and principal designer of House of Hive, says in the TikTok.
As Kailee explains, the bookshelf wealth trend features art displayed in unexpected ways – stacked on the floor, hung over bookshelves, or asymmetrical. The result is a casual yet refined look that suggests it’s been collected over the years. And arguably, the most successful examples of this look have gained their class and character over time.
Elizabeth Krueger, principal designer of Elizabeth Krueger Design, says she loves to design personal bookshelves that spark conversation. This happens naturally when photos, books, and other decorative items are accumulated over time – and it’s nearly impossible to replicate with a quick trip to the home store.
‘You can always tell when the pieces have been discovered during the different seasons and moments of life. There is an inherent character and narrative that cannot be fabricated,’ says Elizabeth.
By holding on to the books and objects that mean the most to you, your bookshelf styling will transform alongside you. And the inherent clutter and imperfections that come with the passage of time will appear too, bringing hard-won character.
‘A well-curated bookshelf tells a story, just like a great piece of art. It’s because of this, that designing bookshelves is actually one of my favorite parts of an installation,’ says Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Krueger is the principal designer of Elizabeth Krueger Design, an award-winning firm based in Chicago and Cleveland.
Other key features of the bookshelf wealth look include eye-catching patterns, comfort-forward seating areas like armchair corners or reading nooks, and clever mixtures of moody light fixtures.
Kathy Kuo, interior designer and CEO of Kathy Kuo Home, says that she sees the look as a seamless blend between the recent quiet luxury aesthetic and the ‘#shelfie,’ or a snapshot of a shelf that represents someone’s character.
‘I love this trend because it involves a practical element as well as a personal one. Books and special objects like heirlooms, antiques, and art pieces are wonderful ways to add personality to your home and displaying these things in artful ways on your shelves makes for a really lovely layer to any interior design motif,’ she says.
To get the bookshelf wealth look down with items you already have, Kathy suggests showcasing two or three decorative items like picture frames, souvenirs or potted plants alongside a small stack of books. Then, simply repeat as space permits.
Kathy Kuo is a celebrated interior designer and international guru within the home and lifestyle space. She has 20+ years of experience in the design industry.
Despite staying true to its defining aspects, bookshelf wealth doesn’t stick to a rigid set of rules, meaning its style depends on you. It provides an opportunity to have fun with your interior design, and let go of classic conventions. Avery Cox, principal designer and founder of Texas-based Avery Cox Design, leans into this lesson when tasked with designing bookshelves.
‘I believe a bookshelf only comes alive when it tells the story of the home and the family within. I try to steer clear of pointless styling and move towards a place of authenticity. The items do not need to be of a certain aesthetic so long as they resonate with you,’ says Avery.
Her personal favorite shelving ideas incorporate a bit of whimsy, and she suggests displaying your quirkiest collections – ‘antique toys, vintage cameras, or all of your favorite books’ will do, she says. And if you’re at a loss for how to set your bookshelves’ foundation, Avery offers a bit of advice.
‘The success is far more about how they are grouped and styled together, rather than each individual piece on its own. To create a successfully styled bookshelf, consider grouping like items together to make an impact on scale, and don’t be afraid to incorporate art or natural objects to create a change in depth, scale, and texture,’ she says.
Avery Cox is the principal designer and founder of Avery Cox Design, a studio based in Austin, Texas that specializes in luxury residential and commercial projects.
Whether you’re channeling bookshelf wealth, or just want to refresh the way your books are displayed, there are a few points to keep in mind. Paul Corrie, principal designer of Washington, D.C.-based Paul Corrie Interiors, says that creating vignettes – on bookshelves or in other areas of the home – is ‘an absolute art form.’
‘It doesn’t matter how many pieces are involved, but the combination and relationship amongst pieces needs to be thoughtfully edited and executed,’ he says.
When working with clients that have prized collections, Paul says he tends to group similar items to create strength in numbers on the shelves. Aside from that, he stresses the importance of blending aesthetic appeal with function. A beautiful bookshelf is useless if you’re unable to find the book you’re searching for, after all.
‘We also like to be mindful of function and how the space is used, what will help utilize the space and its purpose better, and what marries with the overall aesthetic and design of the particular space involved,’ says Paul.
Paul Corrie is an interior designer and the founder of Paul Corrie Interiors, a boutique design firm based in Washington, D.C.
Bookshelf wealth may be taking over social media, but its general idea has been celebrated by designers for quite some time. The combination of artful details and well-loved possessions creates a comfortable, nostalgic and homey atmosphere that’s hard to beat. According to Paul, the desire for ‘a layered and collected look’ probably isn’t a fad at all.
‘Our designs are intended to be unique and personal to each client, effortlessly appearing timeless so that the look and feel isn’t “decorated.” Bookshelves, walls, and other groupings can tell the stories of our clients, and we love helping them do just that,’ he says.
Chances are, you’ve already got a bit of bookshelf wealth in your home – it’s just a matter of harnessing the aesthetic. Display – and read, of course – what you love, and you’ll be well on your way, crafting your own rendition of bookshelf wealth over the course of your life.