Friday, June 1, 2012

Decorating With Books (Economically)

"Who Read All Those Books?" 

That's what people say when they enter our library. There's a fireplace and lots of other great furniture and features in that room, but they always comment on the books. The answer is: no one in this family! Yes, we are avid readers, but most of these books were obtained from other sources, and they've been great fun to collect. And, although we haven't read them all, we have enjoyed many of them over the years! And a few are books we have purchased, but we primarily use the public library for our reading.

How to Furnish Your Bookshelves 

  • Local thrift shops: My favorite source for hardback books. I usually try to pay less than one dollar each unless they're especially attractive (or I really want to read them...)
  • Junk shops: A junk-dealer friend once sold me every book (paperbacks included) in his shop for one lump sum. When his wife found out, she said, "Honey, there's a lotta good readin' on those shelves." I felt bad for her and let her keep quite a few for herself.
  • Book sales: Check one out sometime. The YMCA Thrift Shop has a huge one every October. We buy books there that we actually use, too- especially reference books.
  • Dumpsters and giveaway bins: This is where I've found some of our very most impressive looking books. No kidding! Take a look at this bookshelf. Nice arrangement of books, right?
I brought home the green 1950s encyclopedia set from the "free" shelf at my favorite thrift shop a few years ago. The beautiful burgundy leather book just to the right and a few of the others were fished out of a dumpster out back!
Here's a picture of that book set up with a couple of its friends (leather as well) from the same dumpster so you can get a good look at the beautiful spine and front cover.  Inside, the pages are printed in German with letterpress printing. 

If someone takes it off the shelf, they'll notice the extremely damaged corner, but it was FREE! And check this one out (a Dutch dictionary)- it's practically perfect, By the way, did I mention these books are over one hundred years old?

What to Look For When Buying Used Books for Decorating

When I buy (or scrounge up) books for our collection, I always look under the dust covers for colorful bindings in good shape. Then I look inside to make sure the pages aren't deteriorated, terribly damaged or sticky. I also check for silverfish, because you don't want to introduce them into your home to eat all your paper! All these rules, of course, go right out the window if the book is incredibly beautiful in some way, or leather! My friend Randy who, like me, often brings home paper items of questionable origin, puts them in the freezer for a few days to kill any silverfish that might be hiding in the pages. Isn't that clever? I don't do that, but I do inspect very carefully and have never had a problem. If they smell musty, leave them out in the fresh air and sunshine for a while until they smell fresher (but watch for fading).

Books by the Foot

If you have extra money, and you don't feel like rummaging for inexpensive books, there are services which will do it  for you. You can even choose the subject matter. My husband furnished some larger bookshelves in our former home with law books purchased this way.

Or, I guess you could pay in the neighborhood of $25 per book at the bookstore, but at least you'd be able to say you read them all.   

Thanks for reading such a long post! 

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