Bookshelves – Telling Your Story

I’ve been thinking about bookshelves lately and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. Entering a home, it is amazing how much we can ‘read’ about who lives there by the book titles on their shelves. We identify places they have travelled, or want to travel. Their current or past hobbies or occupations may be represented. Books about photography, the environment, boating, hiking, art, cooking, music, transportation, etc. tell much. Other books reveal particular areas of spiritual interest. Novels show themes of enjoyment: mystery, romance or history.

Canadian Interior Designer, Brian Gluckstein, says "Books give a room soul.” I couldn’t agree more. The bookshelves in our homes are wonderful opportunities to create focal points which share our story with others. By arranging our shelves it is also a great reminder to those of us living in our homes about many of the things we hold dear to our hearts. Here are some suggestions to help you highlight your story and make the most impact with the precious space that your shelving provides. In my previous Synergy article "Three Exercises to Cut Clutter”, I encouraged you to sort through the books on your shelves and cull down to your favourites. Esthetically, hard cover books look the best, but mixing leatherbound and soft covers is fine too as long as you have shelf space and it helps to tell your story.

If a book looks good except for a tattered dust cover then I encourage you to remove the dust cover and recycle it. Do not cram the shelves from one end to the other. Your books need room to breathe too. When you look at your newly emptied and dusted shelves it is helpful to keep the complete visual impact in mind. The largest books go near the bottom otherwise the arrangment will appear top-heavy. After organizing the books by size, try to loosely keep similar topics together. It adds interest to intersperse groups of books (uneven numbers please) turned horizontally. The overall placement of these side-ways books should create a meandering pattern from top to bottom of your shelving unit. These are rough guidelines because when I finetune the overall affect, I will often move books around because of the colour of the cover.

Now the fun begins. Some of the small stacks of books that you have turned horizontally can double as pedestals to hold a treasured sculpture, a turned wooden or pottery bowl, hand woven basket or beautiful lacquered box. If you don’t have quite enough space above the stack of books for your treasure then simply remove one or two books until you’ve regained the height you need. If you are lucky enough to still have some gaps on the shelves then consider small pieces of art or favourite framed family photos. Try carefully grouping together small items with a similar theme, (keeping in mind the fine line between cluster and clutter).

When you step back to view what you have done, you will probably continue shuffling and tweaking parts until it feels balanced. Remember that a good house is never complete. There is always room and time for changes in your bookshelf arrangement, not unlike what happens in our lives throughout our growing and changing lives.

The idea of intentionally redesigning your bookshelves is creating an interesting focal point while telling your story. Who are you? What is important in your life journey? We want to know, so share it beautifully and proudly.

Jan Laurie lives in Nanaimo. She is a hand drummer and percussionist as well as does interior home staging.