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Stacks of books as end tables?

Nick Olsen's old place.

From the official Decorno mail bag:

Hi Decorno,

My husband and I just moved into a 50 square meter apartment. Our living/dining room is 3.85 x 3.95 meters (12.6 x 12.9 ft). Quite small for us. We have a love for books and have many books. But there is no wall space for storage, unless we use the one piece of wall for a book shelf, which I'd rather use for pictures. I had seen, some time ago, people using books as decoration or as end tables. Like THIS, only using real books and stacked neatly.

I'm wondering a couple people actually do this or is it just in magazines? If people actually do this, what do they do to keep the books from getting tipped over? We have a dog and I can just see having company over and they set down a nice glass of red wine and the dog tips the books over...books everywhere, wine everywhere, broken glass!

I should probably also say that we want to be able to access these books, so I am not down with gluing or drilling them together.

I'd send a pic of our place, but it looks like a box explosion right now.

Comments and ideas from your readers would be good too, I think.



Decorno says:

Hi Lisa - some people do this. Like Nick Olsen or kids on The Selby. But like you, I have dogs. And I am clumsy. I think a stack of books as a coffee table a fine idea for stylists and single, pet-less designers, but for you and me, the idea of setting our wine down on a giant Jenga is probably a bad idea.

That Amazon find is also a bad idea. Just for the record. As with things like Darfur, and gay marriage, it's necessary for me to take a stand on important issues, and on that particular table, I am saying no.

Now, here's the lame part of my advice giving. (I am no Ann Landers.) I don't really know how to solve your problem. But I bet readers of this blog will have a bunch of good ideas. We may need you to send in a photo, though. That's the best way for us to help. (We're such givers!)


Lisa sent in this photo:


Anonymous said...

Stacking books is not good for them. It breaks down their spines or something. Stacking books and putting weight on them is even worse. That is why bookshelves were invented. There is an old fashioned idea that might work. A bookshelf all around the room way up hight near the ceiling. I have seen it in a house when I was young and loved it. so cozy in a small room.

Anonymous said...

I love a bookcase. You can mount your pictures on top of them. I really really like that. Cluttered, bookie and awesome.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

Depending on the number of books you have, they could be stored (stacked or arranged properly, as Anonymous points out, with spines upright) beneath a long, low table or bench. That would avoid the dog-wine scenario and allow the volumes to be easily accessed. You could also line one wall, floor to ceiling, with a relatively shallow bookcase and, depending on the number of paintings you have, hang them on the bookcase in the manner of an English country house. Again that would provide proper storage, relatively decent access (you'd have to move a painting or two every so often to get to a particularly choice book though), and also would offer a decorative layered effect with paintings and books, which I find pleasing.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

What about a low bookcase wall to wall along so you can hang pictures above it?

honey living said...

i agree on the stacking books look only working if you're not planning on using them much.

have you considered the idea of attaching simple shelves to the wall with brackets and using those for your books? you can hang them somewhat high on the wall and they will take up less room and not have a footprint that way. i think that could be a great way to use space to suit your needs that wouldn't otherwise be used.

Anonymous said...

"Stacking books is not good for them. It breaks down their spines or something."

Has anyone ever actually demonstrated this to be true? It sounds like one of those things people fear will happen, but I'd like to know if it's ever been proved.

Stacking books vertically could also put pressure (from the sides) on the spines. said...

Well, first off the faux stacked book tables are hideous, always...period. I have recently taken a small condo and am a complete book whore as well so I completely relate to their situation. While I love the idea of building a book shelf across the entire wall and up to the ceiling (ideally with a little niche for the sofa), if you are renting, it is not always sensible or in many cases even feasible...nevermind that custom cabinetry easily runs into the thousands of dollars. However, an easy and often inexpensive solution is to flank the sofa with a pair of bookcases and float floor lamps in front of each bookcase or mount an art light (IKEA makes a great clip on shelf fixture) on each bookcase, not only does it provide storage but also creates architecture in a space which frequently lacks it innately...and you can take it with you or use elsewhere should you ever decide to relocate or redecorate. I have taken a snapshot of my own teeny tiny living room but not sure how to include it, so....

Anyway, hope that helps!


MoreSkinnyDays said...

I think what we all keep missing is 12 X 12. That's roughly two husbands by two husbands. This isn't just run-of-the-mill bookcase territory, we're talking room dividers made of books, the bookshelf stairs from apartment therapy, or the Viva La Bibliophile from designwonderland. You cannot IKEA your way out of this one!

Mrs. Limestone said...

If you don't mind ruining the books, you could drill a bit hole in the center of each and stabilize them by inserting a metal rod in. That way you can't tip them over.

Anonymous said...

Use a glass top table with thin can get them inexpensively. Stack the books tall underneath. That way, you'll have the look WITH a barrier and actual table top.

sara said...

Go look at the inspiration photo attached to this post and picture those stacked books with a simple box built around them. Open front with books stacked in and closed on all other sides so the dog won't knock them over. Or guests drunk on red wine. That way you're still able to use the books as end tables.

katiedid said...

One more thought: using a lucite or wood waterfall end table and stacking books under that. There are also furniture peices that house books and swivel for book access if you are a traditionalist (like this:
Or tables like this:
There re lots of etageres out there as well.
OK, I'm done.

The Voices of Nerd Fancy: said...

glass top table link for CB2:

HOBAC said...

Why not have a wall of simple bookshelves and hang pictures in front of the books less likely to be used?

Iheartfashion said...

I do this. I have one obese cat and two regular size kids and we've never had a pile topple over yet. It's kind of a pain when you want to access a book, but really, how often do you read your coffee table books?

Iheartfashion said...

I also like these where space is a premium.

Lyndsey said...

Option: Get some acrylic glass (lucite) from your local Home Depot, Lowes, or hardware store and make an open-ended box that works as a side table.

It'll protect the books from frequent crashes, and you from having to pull your hair out after re-stacking books a million times. Plus, you can see the books easily, and can retrieve what you need quickly.

Dana said...

A stack of books like in the Nick Olsen example with a square of tempered glass as the table top would be very nice. The weight of the glass would hold the books down and the extra waterproof surface the glass would provide would be perfect for the glass of wine. This really only works with larger, hardcover books - romance novels would be just a mess in many ways.

LB said...

Thanks everyone for comments! I sent in a photo so it may give a better idea. It's a mess since we just moved in. The blue chair and workout bench are leaving soon as they are not ours. The alcove where the blue chair is now, will be for clothes since our bedroom is about 6x10, so it's no good for books.

Annie said...

I think a box around the books as an endtable - esp one of lucite would be fabulous! I also so a blog with one wall literally full of books by color in bookcases ceiling to floor - it was stunning & artwork on it's own.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say. I love the dog passed out in the picture. What a cutie.

Anonymous said...

My husband's study/manly-man room is roughly 12.5 ft by 14.5 ft. Lining one wall are three "dark walnut" Ikea bookcases (each 12.75" deep x 33.75" wide x 72.25" tall) There is still enough room for a queen sleeper sofa, coffee table, chair, end table and a stereo consle. You can always put the flat screen on the wall!

There are so many creative things you can do to "dress up" Ikea bookshelves (a designer in our area painted his a beautiful Chinese red), and your books will give the room such a warm feel.

I also feel it's my duty to vote "no" on the stacked book idea.

Best of luck!


Anonymous said...

I was reading recommendations from book conservationists when I ran across the material on the reason not to stack books. And I was talking about one book shelf running all the way around the room about 12 to 24 inches down from the ceiling. This would leave a full footprint for any furniture beneath. And it would be architectural and not terribly expensive. You guys must have big budgets to work with. I was a military wife and daughter.

Anonymous said...

You are bound to have doors and windows in your new little home so maybe you would like to create a dimensional look or an Alice in Wonderland feel with the following.

Organize your books by size and then use them to outline your door. Go up each side with them by framing the door with a thin piece of plyboard. The books become contained with in the boards as well as protected. Run a shelf on top of the door as well and fill it with books. The look will give you depth and a great focal point for all of your books. Repeat around your windows as well. Good luck from Texas

Penelope Bianchi said...

Oh dear lord! I am turning into a cranky Granny! the chicest house I have ever been in was in Newport RI !!!
I was in a library; (I was only 35) and I is lovely panelling! "Well,of course it is! It is by Grinling Gibbons" (just google that one!)

Mrs "Oatsie Charles" lived in that house....and there were stacks of books as end tables in her library by her husband's chair. She wouldn't put any new books he bought away; until he read the ones he hadn't. I took a picture. (old fashioned camera)

She said......"darling.....don't try to copy it. It won't work. It has to be real." What truth!

See Keith Irvine's (best book to me ever for my decorating) "A life in Decoration" amazing. same thing with his pile of books as end table.......great idea......go for it! just don't try to match!

best ever example of books as an end table......nothing at all like those stacked up and perfect ones..........

books are meant to be read and used and learned from from my view.......the spines ...huh?

you would have a heart attack....I write in them.....I put stickies and fold pages down.........make comments in ink in the margins....(anonymous now has an ambulance coming)!

I LOVE BOOKS! AND I USE THEM! (was that the anonymous who told me it was rude to use all caps?)I believe that is why they are written! and my grandchildren (if they want) can look at my books and read my comments! ( lots of "WOW"s and "EEEEK"s and so on. Just a different approach!


Penelope Bianchi said...

one more thing!
I can't tell the diff with all these anyonymouses....anonymice?

can't you just make up names? Miles Standish.....John Alden.......John Hancock.....whatever! it is just so weak and pathetic to be "anonymous" just seems cowardly, and no one can tell you apart! Number yourselves?

the funniest post is Mrs. Limestone!

And do sound a bit arch! I am; as you know , a HUGE FAN!!!

just a bit "arch"?

ps books are to serve YOU.....all this preservation stuff is completely irrelevant unless you are book "collector" which is a whole different scene! Different blog?

ps love sketch 42 !

"cluttered ,bookie and awesome!"!! applause!


Anonymous said...

Lisa, your dog is adorable, but the piles of bags & boxes is frightening. Other readers have made great suggestions, but most require some to a lot of money - especially that infamous black hole: off-site storage. It looks like you're overwhelmed by your possessions and spending money to move things you can't accommodate in in the house that you can afford.

Iheartfashion raises an important point: how often do you use the books you have? Bet many go unread for longer than you care to admit - like a lot of us.

Reviewing and culling your library seems a prudent first step. Selling used books is time consuming, but potentially lucrative. Donating books to a library or charity will help others enjoy reading.

You'll feel better with less and happier with what remains - and you can walk that cute dog when you return the books you've BORROWED to the public library.

A less encumbered life can be deliciously rich.

design citation said...

Anon. 12/11 7;18- genius idea - it does sound like an Alice In Wonderland solution.
Personally, and I fully understand this is a very unpopular view, I hate looking at books in a living room. I go to the library, and only buy coffee table books, or rare/first edition books I love. I realized after 25 years, that I rarely reread a book, unless its a reference one related to design.
However, I have a friend who had a low cabinet/bookcase built, only about 24" high. It was painted the same color as his bedroom, went all around the room, and it looked fantastic. He used the top to hold objects, and photos as well. Since your room is small, you might not want a massive bookshelf dominating one wall.

smc said...

I like the idea of turning a tall bookcase on it's side and using it behind the sofa as a sofa table. In addition to the books inside the unit, you could either arrange more stacked books on top, arrange some of your framed pictures or leave it open for setting down the tv remote, keys, mail ect. You could even make something that would fit your desired dimensions. It would certainly add more interest to the back of the sofa.

Anonymous said...

It cracks me up when people declare "I love books!" Like they're taking a bold stand.

Design Citation: Why do you "hate looking at books in a living room"? Now that IS a bold stand. Explain the hate.

Laurie said...

The acrylic CB2 peakaboo nesting tables or console would corral the books and prevent tip-overs, while still allowing the books to be visable and accessible.

pegr said...

two thick pieces of acrylic drill holes in four corners. buy threaded rod and bolts. then make a book sandwich. the rod cand be cut to the height you need. the acrylic can be cut to any dimemnsion as well.

Anonymous said...

i suwannee has some great book inspiration

most specifically this on the wall below your pictures

or this surrounding your pictures

I don't think you're making the best use of that wall

maison21 said...

stack away! i do it all the time.

Christina said...

I installed a bookshelf over my bedroom door. I also used 1x4 and some brackets to make shelves for my collection of paperbacks. I installed the shelves next to my sofa and above my mantle, but if you have tall ceilings, you could do a picture rail sort of thing and have a ring of books round your ceiling. Also, consider the back of your doors as extra space. Paperbacks fit nicely in those over the door shoe rack things. Maybe you've guessed that my collection of books outstrips my tiny apartment by several orders of magnitude.

Anonymous said...

I kept saying to myself, "I'v seen a bookshelf somewhere that might work. I think it was in O magazine...." so I googled it.

I had to giggle, because I definitely saw it in the Skymall magazine, and not O like I orginially thought. I spend too much time in an airplane...

It is not the most attractive, but a decent price. And with a little "DIY" work, it might not be so bad.... it's defnitely practical for what you are looking for.

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