Arranging Books by Color

by Katy on August 26, 2014 · 22 comments

Remember when I spent all that time styling my living room shelves? Yeah . . . it wasn’t for me. Not only did it get gross and dusty pretty quickly, but it simply looked fussy. And truth be told, I like books more than I like knick-knacks.

I’m a doctor reader Jim, not a bricklayer clichéd old lady! 

Shelf - before

So I took every last book and knick-knack off the shelf last night and started from scratch. Mind you, this is my idea of fun, so that is by no means a complaint.

Book pile

I decided to piss off my English department professor of a father and arrange everything by color. Because, you know . . . you’re never too old to rebel against your parents. (Sorry, dad.)

Shelf - after

I am so much happier with the look of shelves now. The previous knick-knacks > books arrangement had required an extra bookshelf in our bedroom, which can now be used to store/organize the kids’ video games. Not in our bedroom.

Look how pretty the colors look in this Instagram photo! The colors in my chair bring out the colors in the books and visa-versa.

Book nook

And those extra knick-knacks? They got put away until my inner old lady rears her white permed head again.

Note that I was able to achieve a completely new look without buying a single new (or used) item. By simply rearranging what I already owned, I could scratch that new stuff itch without even leaving the house. 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristy August 26, 2014 at 11:21 am

I work at a library. I love books. I love to read them, look at them on the shelves, share them with people. But, I too have a couple of shelves at home that are arranged by color. And one dedicated to vampires, which conveniently are mostly black covers. I know my books and where to find what, which is important to me. If I were trying to help patrons find something, obviously this would not work. Enjoy your books as you like!


Katy August 26, 2014 at 11:24 am

If you look closely, I have a shelf that’s just books illustrated by my sister and books by Judy Blume.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary August 26, 2014 at 11:32 am

You had me at: I’m a reader Jim, not a clichéd old lady! It’s so fun to rearrange sometimes. And I’m sure with all that decluttering you are doing, you have loads of opportunities to rearrange. Love the new look.


Katy August 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

Thanks, Barb. It’s so much much more restful to the eye. The other way was too chaotic.


Susan August 26, 2014 at 11:49 am

I love books. I get ornaments from my mum on their many holidays they have yearly. I would love to put those ornaments away and just stick with bookshelves. I only 3 bookcases in the house at this point. All of them overflowing with books…sigh.


Deanna August 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I would just send the extra knick knacks to Goodwill. Fewer to dust.


Jane F August 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

I love the books > knickknacks!

According to instagram you are also decluttering. I’d be curious what books you decided to let go and what didn’t meet the yard sale cut but is on the chopping block now.


patti August 26, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I like the new look so much better. I read somewhere that you are supposed to make a “z” on the shelves so the eyes flow from one to the next. I really don’t do that, but I did try to rearrange my books so that now I have a “to be read” shelf so I am not looking all over the place for the next book to read.


Joanne August 26, 2014 at 1:14 pm

A few of my shelves are organized by color too. There’s not one organizing scheme throughout the apartment–when we got our china cabinet we went through all our books and pulled out antiquarian, signed and red books. On the china cabinet we have at least two shelves of antiquarian books, two of red books, and one of my very favorite series of books ever. Oh yeah, and there’s a shelf of books where I have a connection to the author (know them, they are a friend’s grandmother, etc.) Other shelves around the place are organized by size and/or theme (all the art books, except the ones that are red, are on one shelf, for example). Every week to a month we run around the apartment and pull out books we don’t really need anymore to donate to the Friends of the Library store.

Works for us!


Kristen August 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

I’ve never tried having arranged bookshelves before (like your first attempt) because I feel like it would be so hard to dust! It looks so beautiful in the magazine shoots and such, but I know myself well enough to admit that I wouldn’t be at all prone to actually dusting shelves with a bunch of knick-knacks on them.

Books are so much more low-maintenance!


Gladys (The Pinay Mom) August 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm

It looks much better. I’m thinking donating few books to Goodwill but will keep some that I know I’ll be reading over and over again.


Happy Mum August 26, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Ha ha, Katie — I do indeed remember when you “styled” the bookshelf — and I think I remember at the time you got some comments along the lines of “liked it better the other way — don’t like the knick-knacks” etc. Now, I must side with your dad — colour-coding your books?!?! Dammit, Jim — I’m a reader, not a unicorn!! (Or something else funny that’s into color-coordinating. A fairy…?) Aw, heck — you go ahead and organize your books however you like! xo.


Katy August 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm

The thing is that even though I’m a big reader, I don’t hold onto that many books. I mostly read library books, and those I hold onto are now in plain sight in a single area.


cathy August 26, 2014 at 3:18 pm

I like the look of books arranged by color, but I’m not sure I know the colors of my books well enough to be able to find what I want. I tend to organize by genre. Often though, books in the same genre have similar colors. I’m another one of those with an inner librarian. When I was about 10 I made paper check-out labels and glued them in the backs of all my books so I’d have my own library. Can you say bookworm?!

I LOVE your botanical chair. Any idea what the fabric is? Also, I’m with Jane F–I’d love to hear about your decluttering project. I find it really motivating to read about other people’s progress.


Lisa August 26, 2014 at 3:25 pm

A friend of mine had a husband who was in the diplomatic corp probably 40 or 50 years ago in South America. That country’s national library, at that time, shelved books by size. Can you imagine how hard it was to find anything? Boggles the mind.


Katy August 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Ok, THAT is crazy!


Auntie Karen August 26, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Reminds me a bit of the marketing techniques in the clothing section of one of my favorite department stores. Whatever the motivation, I do enjoy seeing bookshelves filled with books rather than displaying various collectibles. Your shelves are lovely and restful, and worth trying sometime. My sole organizing principal is keeping sets of books together, like Narnia, Potter, Pooh, etc. That’s sort of by author, but my other C.S. Lewis books are scattered among various other groupings.


Carla August 26, 2014 at 5:43 pm

This would have worked well for the times when someone would come into the library and ask me to help them find “that one book that looked interesting with the blue cover.”

*this is not a lie*


Jean August 26, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Like your new look–but I am much more interested in the books people have in their houses than in their “décor items” unless it is one of the rare people with a really interesting, well curated collection of something they love .I remember when you styled your shelves, because I realized that I could never do that unless I found a way to put a lot more bookcases in or parted with a lot of books! But my book lust isn’t going to go away, and I am one of those uber organizers whose nonfiction is arranged by subject, and fiction by author. The color arrangement looks great, but I fear I would never be able to find a book I was looking for!


Karen August 26, 2014 at 8:37 pm

This is so timely, since over the summer, I began going thru one bookcase at a time and culling my overgrown library. I have gotten rid of 300 books in the last 2 months, taking it shelf by shelf. The funniest moments were finding not just duplicate but triplicate copies of the play Waiting for Godot. I do love plays but 3 copies, really?

I sold a few books, gave some to teachers and donated the rest. I now feel like I am actually getting a handle on what I have on the shelves. I organize by genre, as I use a lot of books for work and need to find them quickly. But I love the idea of organizing by color, and admire how your shelves look now, Katy. The composition is great!


PoppyEcho August 26, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Omg I love playing with my bookshelves too. I try to arrange by colour, but I have to keep books by the same author together. And I also arrange by size, not all books from highest to lowest but I do try, after grouping by author, to line them up by size as well as colour. I find it restful for the eyes. Isn’t it awful when the new book by your favourite author is a different height and or colour than the others in your collection?


Ashley August 27, 2014 at 5:41 am

This is great! My husband did the same thing with the books in one of our rooms, and at first I wasn’t convinced, but now I really enjoy looking at that one bookshelf.


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