Now that our beautiful and long awaited book shelf is complete, we can start creating our children’s book haven.  I collected all of our children’s books, picture books, and educational books – like an encyclopedia of animals, for instance.  Anything that may be appropriate for my son’s age was put in the pile beside our new Book Nook.  If you missed the building our Book Nook, you can find the step by step here.

Step#1: Book Sets

When you have so many books and so many piles it’s difficult to know where to begin.  Since I already had my books in piles of like-size, and the shelves created in their heights, I had a little bit of a head start.  If you haven’t done this already, it will definitely help when arranging.  I’m not an interior designer, but I have an eye for composition and space as a professional artist and these are the steps that work for me.

So what goes on the shelf first?  I like to start with my ‘sets’ of books.  Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I had to give that set a prominent place on the shelf. I actually have two sets of Harry Potter books and have had my eye on the newer Illustrated Collection!! Love!!  But, back to the shelves…I also have a collection of 10 books that I’ve had since I was a child.  They contain children’s poems, art projects, mythical stories, and advice on child rearing.  They are lovely books that are numbered and titled in gold embossing on their brightly colored spines.  The shelves I place these sets on were created just for them in height so they fit perfectly.  I wanted to make sure they could be within reach and easily visible.  When placing them in their designated shelves, I place one on the left side and one on the right.  I do this to start a visual rhythm within the entire shelf.  If you just stuff them all on the shelf vertically, it will loose it’s visual impact.  You want to compose this almost as you would a drawing or painting.


Step#2: Verticals

Now that my sets are in place.  I start with the books, of similar size, that I will place vertically.  Again, I alternate one group to the left, and one group to the right.  Now I have a pattern down the bookshelf of left, right, left, right. *notice I’ve skipped a few shelves.  That’s good.  You want to stagger the pattern within the shelves you have so it doesn’t look forced.

You’ll also see that the heights of these books are not exactly the same.  That would be impossible with so many varying shapes and sizes but they are close.  the bottom shelf contains the taller books that are a little more on the educational side.  These are for my son to access as needed for school reading, Aesop’s fables, and some of the more playful children’s books he likes.

Step#3: Front Face

Now the fun part.  As a huge fan of children’s books (and a trained illustrator), I have my favorites.  These are the really beautifully illustrated books, Caldocott winners, and books illustrated and/or written by friends or former teachers.  These books are put into small groups, 3-6 books of similar size, or by the same author/illustrator and placed face forward so you can appreciate the illustrated covers.  Again, thinking about the rhythm, I place them within the shelves. A few here, a few there.  These are the books that I will alternate now and then – so pulling the one in the back to the front, for instance, or, adding seasonal books.



Step#4: Base Books

I use base books a lot when decorating.  Basically, it’s my term for a larger or taller book that may or may not fit on the shelf vertically and is visually pleasing.  It may be another favorite, or match the color scheme of the room, or just a cool subject.  I use these as base books because I will set a select few objects on top of them. Think of them as you would a tray on an ottoman – It’s a pretty and useful surface to support other items you may use more often.

Onto of my base is a group of 5 books included a signed ‘Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos’ book from the illustrator, John Parra, who is a good friend from College.  He just sent it as a gift so I found it a perfect place at the front of the arrangement.


Step#5: Final Books

Now we can put the remaining books up on the shelves.  A few here, a few there.  Some vertical, some front facing, and a few bases staggered throughout.  Move things around and stand back.  See if you like it so far.  I sometimes move things around 3 or 4 times, then back again until I like the composition of the entire book shelf.  What I also keep in mind is the negative space.  I like to give my books, knick knacks, etc, space to breath.  Overfilling will hide all your patterned wall and just look messy. The largest shelf in the center has two front facing groups and the top shelf only has a small group of vertical books.  Right now it looks a little odd, but I have a plan with accessories and final details.



 Step#6: The Details

We could definitely finish off with more books – there’s still a small stack on the floor.  But, I don’t want to overstuff with books and hide all that fun moroccan pattern.  So instead, I collect a few things from around the house that would work in this children’s space and were special to us.  My son’s stuffed Totoro, which we bought in an airport on the way home from Thailand, gets tucked right into the large shelf with my front facing books.  A snow globe from Grandma and a Moon light (remote operated) fit nicely up top to balance out that shelf.  ‘The Three Pigs’  book is framed by two of my mini piggy banks.  I also placed a third pig (wink, wink) on the bottom shelf.  This is my son’s favorite mini piggy bank so it’s with his favorite books.  Last touches are Harry and Voldemort’s wands with the book set, a gold picture frame (that I still have to add a photo to), and a gift my dad had made for my son – an engraved compass, so he can always find his way.

So that’s it.  6 steps may seem like a lot but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy and fun!!  Just remember the rhythm and little surprises here and there.  And, the same steps can be applied to any sort of collection, really.  Do you have an arrangement you’d like to share?  I’d love to see it!