Fashion is everywhere

Chez Larsson

Organizing books


Martin is a book worm. I like books too but he loves them. Keeps saying to me that a house it not a home without books and that kind of thing. I’ve grown to accept that there will always be books around our house but I do think they mess the place up quite a bit. The spines are all different and they just create a busy background. I’m not keen on busy.


There are some things that can be done to make filled to the brim bookcases appear less visually disturbing. I find the best way is to organize books by color. I know some of you out there agree, but I also know quite a few people who cringe at the idea. I personally would love to keep all my white spined books in one room, all the green in one etc, but I do realise it’s not very practical. You’d have to remember the color of the spine of the book you’re looking for. So that’s a no in our house. Unfortunately.


What we have done is a compromise. We’ve divided our books into subjects and instead of having a huge book case somewhere with all the books we have several smaller ones around the house.We keep all our novels in a book case in the downstairs hallway, all the interior design books are kept in the dining area, the gardening books are in the bedroom, books on history are in the livingroom, books on nautica in the boatroom etc. Within these bookcases I am then allowed to color coordinate the books. Yay!


I usually go from light at the top left hand side and venture downwards to black in the right hand bottom corner. Having the darker books towards the bottom is for the same reason you put the bigger heavier ornaments at the bottom of the Christmas tree and the smaller lighter ones towards the top. If it were the opposite way around it would feel like it would fall on top of you.


I like to break up a book case with a few objects. It helps in keeping it lighter and airier. I also line the books along the front of the shelf instead of pushing them againts the back of the book case. This straight line also make the look less busy.


Are you for or against color coordinating your books? Do you have other ideas to share on how too keep bookcases less busy? I’ve tried the "covering all books with paper" bit. Did not work. I did five books and realised it would be 2010 until I’d be finished. With the one book case.


  • limette says:

    I never thought to colour coordinate them. I have removed all the dust jackets which helps.
    All my novels are in the living room, everything else is in the rec room (soon to be homeschooling room).

  • Marie says:

    Mmmmm I tried something like that with my CDs once but it turned out to be insanely impractical….
    love the look, tho

  • subo says:

    rather than try to cover all your books, you may want to try removing all of the dust jackets. it’s hard for some people to do, (and of course only works with hard cover books), but the books themselves rarely have busy spines, and i find they just look nicer. you may already be doing this, i can’t quite tell from the photos.
    also, arranging the books by height, with the tallest on the outsides can create a cool visual effect too.
    i love your color-coordinated books, it looks like art, but then again, i’m a librarian, so i think all books look great!

  • Patia says:

    I feel the color coordination gets a bit silly-looking at some point. I prefer to organize by general category, like you, then by size. Either large to small or small to large, depending on whether I’m starting from the left or the right.
    I also push them all to the back and display small items in front. But then, I’m much more limited on space than you are. Yours do look nice all lined up against the edge.

  • Mia says:

    I’m a huge book worm like Martin but I also think they mess up a room. So my plan is to buy a (three actually) white blind (? – rullgardin) and cover my white Ikea Billy bookshelve.
    And no, I could never color coordinate. I want books from one author to stay together. So my style is the library style. 😉
    Not a blogger… yet. 🙂

  • Marianne says:

    I don’t have my books in the livingroom. There are a few under my coffeetable, but that is all. The rest is upstairs. I organize them by subject. I love books and I accept that it looks kind of busy.

  • Lindzi says:

    Nä nu måste jag allt fixa iordning alla röriga bokhyllor. Älskar böcker men det får inte se skräpigt ut. Precis vad jag behövde! Tack!

  • Johanna says:

    We also don’t keep books in the living room. We have one big book case in our guest room, there the books are organized by subject and size.

  • Lessie says:

    That’s so funny that you tried the covering bit. That’s how the books are in all the Martha Stewart photos. I personally couldn’t do it either. I just live with the busy. Love books too. 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    WOW, they look amazing! I really love the book and car vignette.

  • Karen says:

    A girl after my own heart. If I had the time I might consider covering all of my books with colored paper to coordinate with a room. However, like you I think it would take me until 2010.
    I love books. It’s hard for me to give up books but I have done it. We have books in one centrally located area. Two Expidit book cases (from IKEA) in the hallway of our condo (a 4×4 and a 2×4) that house all of our books. The very bottom six cubes have coordinating boxes that house most of my craft supplies.
    We organize ours by subject – travel, gardening, crafts, cookbooks, my mysteries, etc. Our hallway is pretty wide so this really doesn’t get in the way. Hubby has a collection of legos ( yes I know) that we house on top of this bookshelf.

  • Ksenia in Canada says:

    We have lots of books — probably enough to fill 6-7 Billys (but we don’t have Billys). I am torn as to whether to store the majority of our books in the living room. We have been, but it feels too busy. I like arranging by subject then by colour — a nice compromise in my opinion. I have also started removing dust jackets, as I don’t feel that they really are needed in our situation — it makes the books themselves look more quality.
    The fourth photo is great! The built-in (yours and Martin’s?), the colour arrangement, and the one shelf with the book and the car. It definitely looks *much* better than the average bookshelf, becoming a feature rather than just storage.

  • Kathy says:

    My sister lived 1 year in a small crowded basement apartment and found the bookshelves overly stimulating, so she turned them all backwards you could only see the pages. It did calm the space down by turning it white, but made it hard to find anything. And looked rather disconcerting to guests!

  • anne says:

    I love books too, but since I’ve recently moved to compact living with my two children there just isn’t space for a library… If I had the space I would actually have a library room. I’m not a fan of having book shelves in the living room but for the moment I don’t have any choice. (moved from a 172 square meters house to an apartment of 76!) Before the changes I got rid of as many books as I possibly could, painful but necessary.
    Now I’m allowed to fill my Ikea Expedit book case, and that’s it! I don’t keep novels anymore. I buy them in paperback and pass them on to friends and family when they’re finished.
    I love to organize my books by colour, my daughter has done that in her room and it looks great. Sadly it doesn’t work for me. I have to place them within categories and I have too many small categories for it to work. Since I use the books a lot because of my profession (have to look up things all the time) I have to find the right category fast to find the book I need.
    Mia: have you seen that there are doors for the Billy book shelves? I love the glass ones where you can put fabric or wallpaper to change the look of them. I have been thinking of replacing my expedit with that, and build them in like Benita and Martin did in the Boat room.
    See you tomorrow, Benita!

  • Lesley says:

    I havent got enough books on show to do the colour co ordination think but would be tempted if I did have ! mine are very simply done by size – large down to small but I dont have that many on show really I left boxes and boxes behind when we moved and use a book swap website to change novels on a regular basis. I love the idea of lining them all up with the front edge and am looking at my billy bookcases in my family room right this minute with a plan to do that immediately!!! I would love a whole wall of bookcases though !! I cant do links unfortunately but if you get chance to go to my blog and go to the “worst house in london” blog link a friend of mine has just had loads of bookcases fitted and I want to move in and just spend my days reading…………
    Lesley x

  • Kajsa says:

    I have to say that I’m against. I have books in my house because I want to look in them, take them out and read them. And to be able to do that, I need to find the book I want. Therefore, I categorize my book in categories (novels/career related books/design books/parenting books etc) and then alphabetically. Thats a must for me, especially when it comes to the novels. I am a true book lover.
    And honestly, I think it looks a bit too much to colour coordinate your book selection. Makes me feel the books are not there for their content, but just to decorate the room.

  • mel says:

    I organised my novels by rainbow order and I love it. My how-to books are organised by width, this makes it so easy to dust as i just run the duster along the shelf. I would love to line everything up along the edge of the shelves but I have a little two year old that loves to push everything to the back 🙂

  • devil says:

    When I first saw this, I thought this was such a “Martha Stewart” thing to do. You know, looks good but doesn’t really work in real life.
    To me, the content of the books is more important than the appearance. As long as all the books are neatly arranged on a bookshelf (where they can be accessed quickly), then that’s good enough for me.
    Glad you’re back to posting about your own home again! 🙂

  • Benita says:

    Thank you all for your great comments. I got quite a few ideas to consider there! And I completetly understand those of you who don’t like the idea.
    Kajsa, “Makes me feel the books are not there for their content, but just to decorate the room”. That would be the case if both Martin and I didn’t care about the books. In our case it’s Martin loving them and my having to do the best of the situation 🙂 as with a lot of issues in a marriage 🙂

  • Mia says:

    Anne: “have you seen that there are doors for the Billy book shelves? I love the glass ones where you can put fabric or wallpaper to change the look of them.”
    Oh yes! I have and I can clearly see them in my room. But right now my wallet doesn’t improve. So the binder is the second next best. 😉

  • Gretchen says:

    I am like Martin: a house isn’t a house without books. But I have a lot in a small space, so I organized my bookcases (all of which are white, and about the same size) from tallest in the corner to shortest in the middle of the room. Then I organized by subject, because I have to keep track of them–I use most of them regularly in my work as a professor and have to be able to lay a hand on any one easily, whether for teaching or research. The left half of the bookcases is for fiction and poetry, while the right half is for non-fiction. The long bottom shelf all the way across is for tall books: art books, catalogs, etc, and it is organized by subject and period (art from ancient Greece to contemporary, for example). Everything else is organized by paperback or hardcover (paperbacks on top shelves) and then author’s last name. It is not the most eye-pleasing sight, but by lining them up against the outer edge and starting paperback A to hardcover Z, I can find everything. Recently, I made the radical step (for me) of deciding to eliminate overflow by giving away or selling enough books so that nothing is piled or doubled: this was HUGE! I am making good headway toward this goal, and when I am there the result will be shelves that appear lighter and more organized. Along the top of the bookshelves, I have framed photographs of my friends and family, keeping the frames in the same color family or wood to give a sense of coherence. That’s my strategy!

  • Amiechan says:

    I´m all in with Kajsa!
    Kajsa wrote: ”
    I have to say that I’m against. I have books in my house because I want to look in them, take them out and read them. And to be able to do that, I need to find the book I want. Therefore, I categorize my book in categories (novels/career related books/design books/parenting books etc) and then alphabetically. Thats a must for me, especially when it comes to the novels. I am a true book lover.
    And honestly, I think it looks a bit too much to colour coordinate your book selection. Makes me feel the books are not there for their content, but just to decorate the room.”

  • Anna says:

    With two historians living in one small house you can imagine the loads of books we have around. Plus there’s the fiction/fun reading, the CDs, and the magazines/journals. We’ve filled the equivalent of at least 6 Billy shelves and still have more books in the basement in boxes. At least my husband has an office where he teaches to that we can move many of his books there. And yes, the bookshelves are here and there in the house, based mainly on accessibility.
    I know my husband would like to keep bookshelves out of the public spaces of the house but after we both had extremely frustrating searches for books that were in boxes we’ve agreed that books need to be available.
    I’ve always dreamed of a room of book shelves. And–I’m such a nerd–I’ve always wanted to organize my books by the U.S. Library of Congress system. I’ve spent so much time in libraries that I don’t even need to look up the call number for certain subjects, I just can remember that religion is in the B’s and music biography is in the ML410’s. Maybe someday I’ll get my little personal library room!
    But until I get a house where I can make my own library, I’m interested in the idea posted above of Billy doors that can be covered and closed. The books are still available but the look can be more controlled.
    One more thing: even though it gets messy looking we have reserved two shelves of a bookcase: one is for library materials that come and go, and the other is for the books we’re selling on Amazon merchants. This at least helps keep the books that are in transition at our house from cluttering up desks, end tables, and the floor.

  • m says:

    jag har haft mina böcker i storleksordning, i bokstavsordning och nu som du i färg. Lite svårt att hitta rätt bok ibland, men det är snyggt! jag har skönlitterära böcker för sig och fakta böcker för sig.

  • Franziska says:

    Today I sorted a little quantity of books in our pc-room by colour. I thought I’d try it. I think sorting books by subject is more usefull. But as it’s a little quantity of books in the pc-room I just gave it a try. And I have to admit that the books being sorted by colour seem to calm down the bookshelf a bit.

  • Carmen says:

    This is SO GOOD to see! I always thought I was the only one being that crazy! I have to take a photo of my own bookshelf and send it to you soon. I also hate the fact that books are a very disturbing background, especially if you try to keep your place free from too much stuff. On the other hand, without books a room seems somehow “cold” and uncomfy. First I tried to put them in order of their size. Then by topic. Then by colour. At the end I started wrapping them with white paper. Everybody told me I was insane! Maybe I am… now all the books look the same, and it makes it hard to find one, cause you have to read all the spines before you know which is the right one. But I like it that way!

  • V says:

    Hi from Croatia!
    Just discovered this blog – love it! 🙂
    My books are sorted by subject in a Expedit-like 9 ft long x 6 ft high floor to ceiling shelves, with a opening for TV in the middle.
    Works great, because cubes are helpful when it comes to organizing and separating.
    I find it useful sorting the books first by subject, then size. And keep them in a straight line at the front of the shelf, too. But don’t want to subdue color-chaos in any way – since all walls, shelves and coffee tables are white and there’s enough open space, this actually works great. Makes the place look less austere. And I don’t have to use any vases, paintings, decorations and details other than plants to achieve this humane atmosphere. No excessive dusting 🙂
    Also, several green boxes for magazines, and smaller beech-wood boxes for pens, pencils, change, letters&bills placed into the cubes work quite well with plants and floor.
    But that’s all thanks to sufficient space. I used to live in a narrow, long room crammed by books. Such busy image didn’t work well there at all. Tried to cover them all in white too, but gave up for the same reason; takes enormous amounts of time. Fortunately, I have since moved to a bigger place ^^

  • Florian says:

    Strangely I don’t find to look at books such a trouble. I find looking at stuff, or rather junk, that for obscure reasons unclear to myself I just can’t throw away much more troubling. I also sort the books by type and then by height. Were they sorted by colour I could never find anything. I like to have them neatly to front, it looks the most ordered.

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  • Janine says:

    I found this blog a few weeks ago. I went back to the beginning and every evening I read a few more posts. The organizing and decluttering tips are excellent; I have learned a lot. However, I totally disagree with comments on books making a room look busy/cluttered. In my opinion, books are the perfect finish to a room. They are the eyelashes to your eyes. In our home, we have a number of books and bookcases. Benita, your comment about lining up the books at the edge of the shelf is a valid point for several reasons: as you said, they look neater. Your books will also last longer with airspace behind them; it is hard on the books to have the pages jammed against the back of a shelf. Lastly, if you plan to sell your books, or have rare ones, it is important to preserve the dust jackets. While they do tear easily, they also add value to the books. The dust jackets can be placed in the airspace between the books and the shelves.