Experts reveal their best book storage ideas

book storage ideas
The best ideas for book storage at homeonurdongel - Getty Images

When it comes to planning and designing your home or decorating a new room, thinking about storage may not seem like the most glamorous aspect. When thinking about how to store the books in your home, you may just be tempted to buy a bookcase, put it in a corner and use it to store your favourite reads.

However, organising and displaying your books doesn't have to be uninspiring. There are ways to make looking after your books fun and exciting, be that through incorporating colour, adding decor or getting creative with storage solutions.

Here, we spoke to a range of experts – from a bookshop owner to interior design enthusiasts – to find the most exciting and inspiring ways to store your books at home…

Work with the space you have

Whether you store your books in your living room, bedroom or somewhere else – and regardless of whether you have a small or large area to work with – don’t be afraid to embrace all the space you have. “Don’t feel like you have to keep all your books in one area,” says Sarah Unsworth, a part-time primary school teacher, interior design enthusiast and content creator who is currently renovating a Victorian Grade II listed apartment. “In our home, we have a feature library wall, yet we still have books in other rooms. All my cookery books are in the kitchen on an open shelf as a practical and decorative way to display them and I put my kids’ books on picture shelves so they can look at covers rather than spines.”

Megan Warrington, owner of Denny’s Books, an independent bookshop in Thames Ditton, Surrey, agrees with this. “As well as keeping my books on bookshelves, I have stacks of them around my bedroom and in other places in my home that they traditionally wouldn’t be found in," she says. "This adds character and gets people interested when they come over – it’s a conversation starter."

book storage ideas
A bookcase displaying cookbooks, designed by Denny’s Books owner Megan WarringtonDenny's Books

Try different storage solutions

When you think about book storage, your mind probably automatically conjures up images of bookshelves and bookcases. However, there’s no reason why you can’t be inspirational with your storage solutions. “There are so many amazing ways you can store your books, so be creative,” encourages Megan Warrington. “Frame your doorway with books, utilise wall space if you have high ceilings and don’t be afraid to think outside the box – you can even make coffee tables out of books! If you don’t have room to display all your books, rolling trolleys are a great storage solution for the ones you read less often. I have one from IKEA that I use in my home.”

If you are going to opt for a more traditional method of storing your books, think about how you can add a twist to suit your personality. Colour, for example, is a great way to do this. “In our home, our bookshelves are a statement piece,” says Sarah Unsworth. “When designing our book storage, I started with a cooler colour for the shelves themselves, opting to paint them in a blue shade from Farrow & Ball. I then added hot colours to the handles and placed decorative items on the shelves in contrasting shades – as using a mixture of blues/greens and hot colours like pinks and oranges really does make for a statement look."

As a top tip, when organising large books like coffee table books, make sure you think about storing them in a way that will keep them in best condition. “Large and very heavy books benefit from being stored horizontally," explains Kate Grimwade, Production Director at The Folio Society. "Otherwise, however well a book is bound, the pull of gravity over time can create stress on the spine.”

book storage ideas
Sarah Unsworth’s bookshelves are painted blue with contrasting warm-coloured handles. Sarah Unsworth

Colour-code your collection

Once you’ve chosen where to store your books, it’s time to think about how to organise them.

Colour-coding has become a hugely popular method for ordering books over the last few years – with everywhere from social media to interiors magazines providing bright, rainbow-hued inspiration. Colour-coding is the chosen method of Natasha Poliszczuk, a writer and books editor who's currently working on a home renovation project. “I organise by colour and then by size within the colour,” she explains. “It's so very pleasing to the eye and imposes a sense of calm organisation upon my very-many-books.”

Of course, Natasha does find people asking ‘how do you find the book you want?’ – given she chooses to organise by colour rather than by genre or alphabetically. Her answer? “I have a peculiarly good memory for book jackets/spine colours, so it has never proved an issue. When I was younger and dreamt of being a librarian, I adhered to the system of organisation by author’s surname, but this works for now.”

book storage ideas
Natasha Poliszczuk organises her books by colour for a stunning effect. Natasha Poliszczuk

Arrange by genre

The result of colour-coding your bookshelves is certainly stunning, as can be seen by Natasha’s bookshelves and from the bookcases of countless other interior enthusiasts. However, if you’re unsure about arranging by colour but want to see if it could work for you, try making it more manageable by arranging by genre first and then by colour within this. “To bring order among my seven bookshelves I had to break it up into key sections first,” says Sarah Unsworth. “I then colour-code within each genre, making it easy to find my books.”

Of course, colour-coding isn’t for everyone. To find your books easily, ordering alphabetically certainly seems the most appealing. However, organising by genre can be a great way to keep your book storage looking aesthetic while still being practical, as Good Housekeeping’s Assistant Digital Editor, Bethan-Rose Jenkins, found out. Working with a large, cube-shaped bookcase, she decided to group her books into the following genres:

  • General fiction

  • Rom-coms

  • Factual

  • Feminist readings

  • Biographies

  • Plays and poetry

  • Children’s

  • Classics

  • Cookery

  • Education

  • Politics

The result of organising this way worked well for Bethan, who finds this both practical and eye-catching. “I can find all the books I need easily this way and it creates an ordered yet fun look,” she says. “Plus, for anyone who’s worried about their bookshelf looking unappealing if organised by genre, this just isn’t the case. What I found is that different genres tend to follow similar colour palettes for the covers, so there is a natural element of co-ordination on each shelf.

"For instance, the feminist readings cube is red and pinks while fiction books tend to be blue/greens or yellow/oranges. Additionally, biographies are generally black and white with red, the children’s books more primary colours and the rom-coms pastels. Classics, on the other hand, tend to have black spines or be designed in muted tones like olive green.

"The result is a bookcase that is ordered and easy to navigate while still looking like a statement piece.”

book storage ideas
Sarah Unsworth organises by genre and then colour-codes within this. Sarah Unsworth

Add personality

Your books have the ability to tell people a lot about you, conveying your interests, hobbies and passions. So, the way you organise and display them should reflect this, too.

Adding decorative items to your shelves or storage can add personality and depth to your book collection. “A bookcase should be a constantly evolving delight,” says Natasha Poliszczuk. “If a book has a particularly gorgeous cover, I’ll turn it to face outwards, bookshop-style. I also add bookends (I have a gorgeous pair of Art Deco clouds and some artichoke-shaped bookends I found in Homebase) and display fresh flowers to my shelves.”

Megan Warrington agrees facing books outwards can be a great way to display your favourite reads, opting to do this in her home and bookshop. She’s also opted for a pair of dinosaur-themed bookends from Typo, which make her smile and add personality. “Adding sentimental value to your bookshelves will make them even more unique,” she says. “For example, I keep photos on mine and even have a wine cork from a meaningful wedding I attended years ago.”

All in all, where you display your books should tell your guests as much about you as the titles on your shelves show about your interests. “No matter how you arrange your book storage, keep it unique and liveable,” says Bethan-Rose Jenkins. “Books are supposed to be lifted off shelves and read or flicked through. If you add candles, take them off your bookcase once in a while and light them and plants should be able to be moved throughout the year depending on the best light conditions. Avoid creating something too contrived as you want to enjoy using your space by making it as fun, practical and special as possible.”

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