Curate a home library that’s both useful and beautiful

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Ever since the Beast wooed Belle with his epic home library, it’s been clear that a few well-placed books can have a major aesthetic impact. Not to mention, they’re fun to read. “Creating a library can be really a focal point for a home and special to the homeowner,” says Victoria Tik, the Las Vegas-based principal designer and founder of Aesthetik Design.

The presence of books can make a house a home. They project a sense of warmth and coziness, and they reflect their owner’s personality: aspirations (those classics you hope to one day read); interests (say, those gardening how-tos); and cherished memories (that story you’ve read a thousand times).

Lockdown Library

The pandemic has increased the importance of the home office, Tik says. And whether you have a full wall of tomes or just a single shelf, the office is a great place to store your books. Additionally, they make for a great Zoom background. “It’s something nice to look at,” Tik says. “It’s not too busy, and it’s always a good conversation starter.”

Still, it’s been a weird time for physical books. The internet and smart devices have shrunk most everybody’s collections. “Bookshelves are getting smaller and smaller nowadays,” says Elise Kotelnikova, the Las Vegas-based interior designer and founder of the Luxe Interior. While she still holds a special place in her heart for those fairy-tale libraries with floor-to-ceiling shelves, Kotelnikova says smaller libraries allow for fun design innovations. She suggests floating bookshelves; custom bookshelves with glass doors; shelves made from nontraditional materials such as European-style lockers; and the addition of LED lighting that’s placed under shelves.

How to display your books

Start with a purge. There’s no need to go all Marie Kondo and eliminate everything you own, but it couldn’t hurt to donate a few books you no longer want. “Narrow it down to a smaller selection,” Tik advises. “Unless you want to keep all of them, and that’s fine, too.”

Separate by type. Cookbooks go in the kitchen, Tik says. Similarly, children’s books go in kids’ rooms. Divide out any specialty books—woodworking manuals, for example, might go in the garage. Everything else will constitute your library.

Consider hardbacks versus paperbacks. For the optimum in elegance, Tik likes to display only hardback books. She even removes the dust jackets for a cleaner look. She stores paperbacks in “nice decorative boxes.”

Add missing pieces. Now that you know what you’ve got, you can better see what’s not there. While book collections are exceedingly elastic—they look great no matter how many or how few books you own—take this as a fun opportunity to buy the books you’ve been coveting.

Choose your shelves. Bookshelves are highly versatile. No matter your style—traditional, contemporary, industrial-chic—you can find shelves to match your home’s aesthetic. According to the designers we interviewed, floating shelves are very popular. Tik says built-in shelving is also surging in popularity, after going out of style for a long time.

Pick an organizational principle. If aesthetics are your priority, display your books by color and group by size. If you care more about practicality, sort your books by topic, author, genre and/or alphabetical order. Kotelnikova, who admits to being a little OCD when it comes to organization, suggests organizing your bookshelf the same way that you would your clothes closet: “They have to be organized by color and by size.”

Add decorative items. There’s no law requiring a bookshelf to house only books. Create visual interest by mixing in tchotchkes, like souvenirs from past trips, little sculptures and small framed photos. Tik says bookends are nice if you just want to display a few books in a prominent place, such as on a desk or a credenza.

Make it your own. Here’s your chance to be creative. Play with the way you display your books. “I don’t mind having my books a little bit messy—some stacked, some laying flat,” Tik says.

Don’t worry too much. Since it’s just items sitting on a shelf, there’s no huge commitment required. Change it all up again in six months, or sooner if the pandemic has you bored.

Where to buy books

The Writer’s Block bookshop Downtown is a great all-around, indie-owned shop. The knowledgeable staff will help you find whatever you’re looking for. (519 S. 6th St. #100, thewritersblock.org)

If you’re just looking to bulk up your collection cheaply—say you want to focus on acquiring a rainbow of books for aesthetic purposes—Tik suggests hitting up neighborhood thrift stores.

Locally owned Amber Unicorn used bookstore is going out of business and selling its enormous collection at a discount, so that could be a great spot from which to build a collection fast. (2101 S. Decatur Blvd. #14, 702-648-9303)

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