How to Achieve the Bookshelf Wealth Aesthetic


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The design trend of 2024 is “bookshelf wealth,” and everyone is talking about it, from trending TikTok creators to Martha Stewart, The New York Times, Homes and Gardens, and Architectural Digest. The good news is, if you’re a Book Riot reader, you’ve probably already got a head start on creating this look. Here’s a quick introduction to what bookshelf wealth means, from a TikTok that went viral:

As the name suggests, the key thing about this design trend is the books. This should be a curated collection, not a set of books bought by the yard to fill the shelves. If you’re a book collector, you’ve already got this covered. These books should also be shelved functionally, such as by topic or author — not by size or color. The curated look comes from variety, including a mix of new and used books, leather bindings, and new paperbacks, all nestled together on your shelves. You can also vary your shelving, including face-outs and horizontal stacks.

Of course, for readers, that’s the easy part. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you already have a healthy book collection and don’t need a lot of encouragement to expand it. Instead, I’m going to guide you through the other aspects of bookshelf wealth. Overall, it should give off a cozy, lived-in look, like you’ve been slowly building this collection of art, books, and decor over many years.

Bookshelves

After the book collection, the bookshelves are, of course, the most important element of bookshelf wealth. Ideally, you’ll have built-in bookshelves — here’s how to build them yourself. Otherwise, antique bookshelves are a great option. I’d recommend checking out thrift stores, estate sales, Facebook Marketplace, and antique shops, but here are some examples of what to look for.

antique oak bookcase with glass doorsantique oak bookcase with glass doors

The glass fronts on this Antique Oak Triple Glass Door Bookcase really elevate the look. Plus, they mean you don’t have to dust the books! $2,500 before shipping.

a set of step ladder shelvesa set of step ladder shelves

Think about incorporating non-traditional shelving as well, to add to the cozy and slightly haphazard look. You could get one of these stepladder shelves ($328+), but you could also make your own with boards and a wooden stepladder. You can also display books in stacks on an antique wooden chair, or even on the edges of stairs.

Furniture

Another essential element of bookshelf wealth is comfortable seating. You want to be able to curl up with a book at a moment’s notice. This aesthetic also favors patterns and colors, especially mismatched ones.

a black and white checkered armchaira black and white checkered armchair

I think this black-and-white checkered armchair ($247) is a great way to add pattern to a space without being too overwhelming.

a bench with a cushion by a window, with bookshelves behinda bench with a cushion by a window, with bookshelves behind

Another great addition to a bookshelf wealth home is a reading nook — or several. This photo is from a listing for the cushion ($176), but a reading nook is necessarily something you’ll have to put together yourself, with a well-placed cushioned bench near a window, perhaps with a bookshelf beside it. If you have a bay window, you’re at a huge advantage for creating a reading nook. Here is some inspiration for your own reading nook.

Artwork

Bookshelf wealth is also displayed in a curated art collection. The trick to displaying these is to make this look like a growing collection, which means displaying art outside of a carefully arranged gallery wall. You can even layer artwork and hang paintings in front of the shelves.

a set of ornate framesa set of ornate frames

Frames are a must for bookshelf wealth, to elevate your displayed artwork. You can buy sets like these ornate picture frames ($49), or you can find some at thrift stores and antique shops, swapping out the artwork for something in your own style.

a print of The Readers by Jacques-Emile Blanche a print of The Readers by Jacques-Emile Blanche

I hesitate to recommend any specific artwork because bookshelf wealth is about leaning into your own collections and aesthetics. This should be art you truly love! Scour local markets, thrift shops, and Etsy for art you want to look at every day. Of course, reading-themed artwork, like this print of The Readers by Jacques-Emile Blanche ($25), is a good match.

Library Ladder

Admittedly, you don’t need a bookshelf ladder to achieve the bookshelf wealth look, but it doesn’t hurt. And who among us hasn’t wanted to have our Beauty and the Beast sliding ladder moment?

a wooden ladder on a rail across a bookcasea wooden ladder on a rail across a bookcase

Here’s one option for a sliding ladder, on a black metal rail ($98+).

Wallpaper

If you’re looking to incorporate more patterns and colors into your space, consider wallpaper! Some people even put it on the back of bookcases, so the pattern is visible where there are gaps on the shelf.

botanical wallpaperbotanical wallpaper

This botanical wallpaper ($7+) is absolutely gorgeous! It’s also removable and renter-friendly.

Decor

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s look at some complementary decor that will really drive home the bookshelf wealth style.

a blanket with vintage Pride and Prejudice coversa blanket with vintage Pride and Prejudice covers

A blanket thrown over the arm of an overstuffed armchair goes a long way to make a space feel more cozy. This Pride & Prejudice blanket ($94) keeps it bookish.

stained glass lampstained glass lamp

If you’re going to have a cozy space to read, you’re going to need some lamps. They don’t have to be Tiffany-style stained glass lamps like this one ($150), but they can be statement pieces.

bronze bookends of cats with their paws upbronze bookends of cats with their paws up

There are so many options for cute bookends that both add variety to your shelves and let you display books on every surface available. These bronze cat bookends ($165) are cute and classy. Other options for decorating your shelves are planters and vases with fresh flowers.


These are just a few options for cultivating your bookshelf wealth aesthetic. The important thing is to prioritize your books, artwork, and coziness. This should be about celebrating your own style, both in books and decor. If it takes you years to build up the kind of Pinterest-perfect bookshelf wealth collection, well, that’s exactly what the look is trying to emulate.

And, according to Architectural Digest, bookshelf wealth can’t go out of style: “While it may take some time to transform your space with copious bookshelf wealth, you can feel confident that the style is fairly immune to the ebb and flow of decor trends.” Readers will instantly recognize the vibe of bookshelf wealth because, for most of us, it’s what we’ve been aspiring to all along.



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