Designing by the book

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press •August 6, 2016

There was a time when my Southwest Florida decorating clients wanted to know what to do with all of their books. Donate them? Sort through them and keep a few? Or for those who were downsizing, how to go about the painful task of deciding what to keep.

But these days, decorating with books is a huge trend. So much so that I find myself actually ordering books in specific colors to accessorize client’s homes. If they are running short.

And maybe it’s a trend because in a time when technology has taken control of our lives every minute of each day, we simply find comfort in the feel and touch of a book. As much as taking the time to relax and get lost in a story that takes us someplace away from all of the day-to-day stress. I don’t think there’s anything better than escaping in a good book.

Tuscan flush bookcases with heavy crown molding, allow the look of custom built-ins at a fraction of the cost. And offer plenty of space to arrange books as well as accessories. Photo courtesy of Ballard Designs.

In my own home, I love to incorporate books into my décor. I find that my own books fall into three categories: decorating and design, travel and those favorite books that have been signed by the authors.  I keep most of them in a large antique armoire that allows me to open the doors when I want to look at them.  My decorating books, I keep in a nook on a printer’s desk at a height where I can see them when I need to refer to them (daily).

And my special, most treasured design books, I use on coffee tables, as lamp bases and on nightstands.  I like to see them and each one is a memory. Of meeting the author, usually a well-known designer or from a trip to High Point Market, always a good place to collect books. And of course, I am always searching through bookstores. I can’t imagine a room without the inspiration of books.

Grayson coffee table with modern lines fits narrow spaces while giving a nice surface for a pretty display of vases, flowers, books and a lamp. Photo courtesy of Ballard Designs.

If you need help styling your books and working them into your design plan, a few of my favorite tips that I use with my clients include:

Bookcase as an accent wall.

Paint the wall a pretty color and place a bookcase on the wall so that they color shows through as a backdrop for your books and accessories. I like to use a mixture of arranging books vertically and horizontally with accessories.

Not enough books?

Photo courtesy of Books by the Foot.

No problem! Shhhh. This is a great designer secret. For my clients who do not have enough books for a shelf or if they want a specific color combination to match their décor, Books by the Foot (see above photo) is my answer. You can order real or faux books in more than 30 types of books. They are shelf-ready and make curating your selves a lot of fin. And pretty. Visit

Curate a coffee table.

This is where you get to have a lot of fun and let your personality, hobbies and interests show. If you have souvenirs from a trip, arrange them with a book from your trip. Or select any theme and arrange the table around that theme.  Also: stack a collection of books with the same theme in the center of the table and arrange accessories that complement the books.

Use a library cart for display and storage.

This is one of my favorites if space is short and you have a collections of books. The cart (see photo with this article) allows for an interesting display with the spines angled so you can see the titles. And I love this one because it’s based on a traditional bookseller’s cart/shelf in London.  Takes you back to a time when books were considered treasures (and still are). 

The library bookshelf is based on a traditional bookseller’s shelf in London’s Portobello market. It holds books at an angle so the spines are easy to read. Photo courtesy of Ballard Designs.


Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator, A.S.I.D. associate and certified gold member of the Interior Redecorators Network. She has helped homeowners throughout Southwest Florida with timeless, affordable ways to create beautiful spaces and to solve decorating problems. Her column appears the first Saturday of each month. For more information visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips, articles and photos, visit