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Designing with Books: When Did They Become Just Knick-Knacks?

Updated: Aug 4, 2021


“A room without books is like a body without soul,” declares Cicero, the ancient philosopher.


As a lifelong lover of books, I wholeheartedly agree with Cicero. Consequently, I have to question when it was that interior designers got the idea that displaying books in a way that shows only the pages provided any kind of personality to a room. Lately, I have seen designers use this technique in homes, in hotels, and in showcase rooms on HGTV.

In these places ,I have also seen books with the covers completely ripped off or painted over, then tied with raffia and used as decorative elements. Can these still be called books?

I can’t be the only one who worries about what this design style means to children who walk past shelves and end tables where books are positioned in this way. Stating the obvious, this does not set a good example. With parents and teachers lamenting that so many children “don’t like to read,” or are considered “struggling readers,” how can we accept the display of books as drab knick-knacks and considered fashionable?


Let’s turn this trend around, quite literally. Books whose covers and spines entice and invite, give character and spirit to a home, a remodel, and a hotel. In addition, there is elegance in watching a child curiously pick up a book and then ask, “Will you read to me?” Dare I say, this warms a room better than the smell of fresh baked, chocolate chip cookies, or the dull pages of an anonymous book.

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