Décor by the Book: Five creative ways to put old books to good use

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Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges once said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” And if you are an avid book lover like I am, you might find this visual to be quite appealing. Meanwhile, you brood at the sight of the sky-high stack of old books sitting in the corner of your living room. Book clutter can be an eyesore, but there is hope for paradise after all.

Outside of shelving our most recent read, or picking up the occasional how-to decorating book, not many people would think of books as a form of decorating accessory itself. But as we acknowledge the passing of “National Book Month” (which happens to be October, in case you missed it!), let’s put our old books to good use year round. Here are five creative ways to do just that:

  • Recover hardcover books. Use leftover wallpaper you may have lying around the house to recover worn hardcover books. Use a ruler to measure out the dimensions of the book, cut, fold and voila! Here is a free way to liven up your space and create visual unity by matching books with your wall decor.
  • Recreate the story. Display the pages of your children’s books on the wall. Use an X-ACTO knife and cutting pad to remove the pages from its binding. Frame your favorite pages and align them on the wall in story fashion.
  • Replace dusty centerpieces. Switch out or accompany silk floral centerpieces with a nice neat stack of antique books tied up with a two-inch ribbon. Simple, yet sophisticated.
  • Rebuild furniture. Instead of using a book to level the corner of a side table, rebuild it! Build your own side table using a stack of large, volumed works (for example, encyclopedias or dictionaries). Stack them one on top of the other and be sure that you are using large enough books that the tower is sturdy. Crown the stack with a glass top. If you do not already have one, you can buy a glass top cheap at a yard sale or thrift store.
  • Rearrange book shelves. Color coordinate your bookshelves by sorting books by their cover or binding colors. Arrange them back into the bookcases by their appropriate hues, creating a rainbow effect. If you are short a few colors, you can always recover the books!

So, who says the stories have to end? With little effort, you can create new decorative uses for each and every read. These five starters give innovative hope and excitement to us bookworms, as we venture upon new reads at the bookstore — hoping that afterwards we won’t have to confine our books to another tortured stack of unused novels! But instead, renowned author Mark Twain likens it to this: “In a good bookroom, you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

Ashlie James supports nonprofit, education, and faith-based leaders in creating thriving communities with strategic grant writing, consulting, and communication services. She is also the founder of Atlanta GLOW, a mentoring program for low-income women and girls, ages 14-25. For more information, visit www.ashliekjames.org and www.atlantaglow.org.

1 Comment

  1. Leann

    November 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I love these ideas – I love the look of old books and was thinking about using them for decor on my fireplace mantle. However, the tips are above are ideas I never even thought of. I love the idea of framing the pages – even if they aren't for your children, it could be a very pretty and unique piece of art~

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