Organize Books by Color

May 27, 2011 | By | Comments (9)

I want to share a cabinet of curiosities from my home because you may appreciate seeing how a visual person organizes design + decorating books. This isn’t anything new, I’ve seen others organize their books according to the spine color for ages, but because I never liked seeing rainbow-filled walls of books on multiple shelves, the idea of organizing books by color didn’t impress me. I guess because the last thing I want is for my book collection to become the focal point in my living room. So I found a way around it that is stylish, understated and functional.


Corners of my home


I recently bought this vintage French cabinet with glass doors and inside, I arranged all of the antiques and collectibles that my husband and I have amassed – I believe collections should be contained so our antique books and miscellaneous finds from flea markets, auctions and antique stores look nice in this cabinet. But as I was arranging everything, I felt as though it could use a bit of color to liven it up. I also wanted to add some modern pieces to the cabinet mixed in with the older things, so in went favorite pieces from my collection of white ceramics – the vintage ones from East Germany alongside the newer ones from Jonathan Adler.


Corners of my home


Then I stood back and felt that color was still missing. That’s when I grabbed my favorite decorating and design books and decided to add them in. I mixed neutral ones in on the 6th shelf along with more neutral tones on the bottom shelf in whites, browns and black along with a bright yellow and orange book. Yellow, brown and orange book covers didn’t feel fresh in this arrangement and were a bit too strong, so I took book jackets in those colors off to see what was beneath and often I found colors that I liked much better. For instance, many of my Pottery Barn books are orange so I took off their jackets to reveal a really great tan. I didn’t want to leave orange and yellow out completely, so I added two on the lower shelf just to be fair. I wanted my rainbow to me a bit more chilled out. :)


I found that in a “rainbow” collection of books, it’s a good idea to weed out colors that you really don’t like. If you feel red is too strong, or you can’t stand yellow, just pull them out and see if they have a different cover lurking beneath their jacket. Lots of books these days have dust jackets, I prefer them because a book feels more finished, but I also don’t mind removing them if the jacket isn’t my taste. Don’t apologize or feel bad for having preferences and sticking to them!


I like that the cabinet isn’t loaded with colorful books from top to bottom. The hint of color towards the bottom is fresh and clean but also understated — you notice them but the books aren’t the focal point in the room.


The result is a cabinet with some old things, some new things, and a stash of my favorite design and decorating titles that guests can enjoy while in my living room. I am visual so I remember the spine color better than the book title — however I was careful to not mix in craft books, novels, travel books, etc. because I know that this would complicate things and I could easily lose track of where my books are. By keeping the books to a smaller, more curated collection and sticking to one topic, color coding really works.


Do you organize your books by color? If so, does it work for you now that you’ve lived with it for awhile? Or do you have difficulty organizing them by color? Do you like this idea, would you try it at home?


(images: holly becker)