I’ve been building up my collection of beautiful books to fill out the living room bookshelves we’ve been working on and the thrift store has been a great resource! Here are some ideas for decorating with thrift store books!
If you’ve been following along with our renovation projects, you may have noticed that it’s been several months since we’ve made any progress on our living room fireplace/built-in bookshelf that we started in the winter. I guess building a new business while homeschooling and trying to keep some kind of balance in your life during a pandemic will do that! Ha! All hope isn’t lost for that project though and I’ve still been slowly accumulating little treasures that I’d like to display on the shelves when everything is complete. In my world, books absolutely need to be included in those treasures. A bookshelf without any actual books can be a beautiful thing, but it just isn’t right for me. The thrift store has been a fun resource for me to use to find beautiful and interesting books at a great price so today I thought it would be fun to share a few ideas for purchasing great books at the thrift store, and for using them to decorate around the house. Here are my ideas for decorating with thrift store books!
Building a Book Collection Using Thrift Store Books
Since we haven’t actually had any proper bookshelves in our home for the past nine years, I’d gotten in the habit of doing all of my reading on the kindle app on my phone and I hadn’t actually been collecting physical books, as much as I love them. Now that we have some semi-finished shelf space available, I find myself wishing I had built up a bit more of a collection in past years. I am enjoying trying to play catch-up though! Here are some tips for building up a beautiful home library by visiting the thrift store!
Find Books You’re Actually Interested in
You may have dreams of shelves filled with beautiful books, and you may want to realize that dream right away, but really hold yourself to being disciplined and only buy books that you’re actually interested in, not just because you think they’re a nice color or they’re cheap and they’ll take up shelf space. A bookshelf is kind of alike a closet: You think you have lots of space until suddenly one day you don’t, then you have to deal with purging a whole bunch of junk that you don’t want because you bought it for cheap. And books are much heavier than clothes when you’re having to load them in and out of your trunk to re-donate them to the thrift store! You’ll appreciate your collection so much more when you look over to your shelf and realize you love each and everything on it. Plus who doesn’t love being surrounded by interesting books to flip through on a lazy Sunday afternoon?
Keep Colours in Mind
Obviously, I’m not going to be one to tell you to buy books just based on the colors of their spine, but keep cover colors in mind if you have a specific room that you’d like to use the books in. For my living room book shelves, I know I want the majority of the books to have blue spines, with a few differently-colored books thrown in here and there for interest and personality.
It can also be fun to do kind of a “Roy G Biv” rainbow thing with your books like I did on Jack’s bookshelves.
Buy Books With a Purpose in Mind for Them
I often find myself a little overwhelmed when I wander into the book section of the thrift store. A lot of that is because I find myself basically wanting everything. 🙂 If I go in looking for a book or two for a specific purpose, to live in a specific place in my house, I find it really helps me narrow it down and I’m able to walk out with a few books that I really love and can both read and display.
Ideas for Decorating with Thrift Store Books
Coffee Table Stacks
Display beautiful larger books by stacking them up on your coffee table. The more the merrier! Try to vary the heights of the stacks for visual interest, then add in some taller elements like flowers in a vase, and a few smaller decorative objects. If you’re having a hard time finding beautiful larger books at the thrift store, try looking in the cookbook section. I love to have a few favourite cookbooks displayed in the living room to flip through on a cozy Friday night.
Use as a Tray on a Table or Dresser
A larger book can make a great stand-in for a tray! This is a great trick for grouping smaller objects together and making them feel like a cohesive vignette instead of just clutter.
Use Them as Risers Under a Smaller Lamp or Vase
Great for adding height where needed!
Fill up a Bookshelf
Bookshelves without books are kind of a decorating pet peeve of mine. Don’t forget to add books there as well as your favourite decorative objects!
Mix Them in With Newer Books
Don’t feel like you have to be a purist and completely build your collection from thrift store books. I love to order the new and popular design books that catch my eye, but a collection of all the same books that everyone else has gets kind of boring. The unique thrift store finds are really the ones that make a collection interesting, but a collection of all thrift store books might not give you exactly the look that you’re going for when it comes to displaying them. A mix of both old and new always works best!
A Note on Turning Books Around
There’s a bit of a trend right now to fill up a shelf with books that are facing backwards, where the pages are showing on a shelf instead of the spines. It can be tempting to buy a whole bunch of random books for cheap at the thrift store and turn them around to get this look, but I urge you not to give in to the temptation! Give it a year or two and this look is going to be played out. You’ll be left with a whole stack of books on your hands that you don’t really love and you’ll have wasted your time and money. Turn your books around if you must, but make sure you love them enough to be able to read them and display them with their spines facing out when the backwards book trend is over.
How do you like to display your favourite thrift store book finds?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.