It’s not always necessary to scour stores looking for that perfect accessory to finish your design project. All too often, we have just what we need within our homes.

Books are an excellent resource for decorating. Not only because it’s free, but because most homeowners have more than enough to spare. I make it a habit to use well-preserved books from my clients stash to complete a design.

There is an art to placing books for aesthetic appeal. Here are six tips to incorporate books, beautifully, in your next design project:

1. Use creative positioning. Stack three to six books flat and in the same direction when decorating in a modern style. For shelves approximately twenty-four inches wide, center one stack per shelf. For shelves that are wider, center two stacks per shelf. Repeat this on every shelf. Randomly place small decorative items on every fourth or fifth stack or to the left or right of a stack. This item should not over power the books but accentuate it just enough to fill the negative space above or beside it.

2. Use proper proportions. Always stack books of similar size. To maintain proper proportions, stack the largest on the bottom and the smallest on the top. And remember; when possible, use hard covers.

3. Use color as your guide. For monochromatic colors schemes, be adventurous and loosely cover all the book covers in one color of construction. Depending on your décor, white, taupe or gray color tones work ideally for this technique. A tranquil atmosphere is created when all the book covers are the same color. Paint the walls behind the bookshelf in a contrasting color to punctuate the lines of the books. If its excitement and energy you want to convey use the books natural color tones, or you can cover unsightly and less read books in one style of wallpaper or use newspaper. Bold colors and patterns would be eye catching for this application.

4. Location, location, location. For many larger coffee tables, ottomans, side tables and consoles, stacked books are a natural place to show off your collection. Coffee tables are a great place for large-scale books to be displayed. Very large, very sturdy hard cover books make great side tables themselves. Occasional side chairs, footstools and dining room tables are an unexpected resting spot for stacked books. If you enjoy collecting chairs, stacking one to four books on top will provide a great function for the chair and it will serve double duty as an artful statement.

5. Stagger accessories cleverly. Stack three to four books on a side table, then place a candlestick or another accessory on top to accentuate the height. To the left of the books place a medium height accessory and to the right place a smaller height accessory. This staggered since of rhythm that guides your eyes across the design, creates interest and continuous movement.

6. Use affordable options. If you don’t have extra books that can be used for decorating, stack thicker magazines for the same effect. Make sure the edges are uniform for a straight clean look. Another option is to purchase slightly used books from a consignment or thrift store for pennies on the dollar.

Hands down, decorating with books is the most affordable way to add character, effectively to your design project.

Penny Law is owner of PCL Interiors, a studio specializing in residential design. Visit her Web site at

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