Gently Used, Vintage, and Antique Books


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Everyone knows a stack of books adds color, dimension and personality to almost any room. Used decor books are perfect for piling on the coffee table, vintage photography books provide an at-the-ready conversation starter, and vintage novels, with their gorgeous, fabric-bound covers bring character and texture to your library. You can never have too many books! Match them with the perfect bookends to keep them steady.


In a famed quote that dates back to the era of Julius Caesar, Roman orator, Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” To which we say, we couldn’t agree more.

No matter if you’re an avid reader or you count yourself more of an audio book devotee (It’s okay! We completely agree that story time shouldn’t have ended in preschool), vintage books are a must-have in any home. So much more than shelf filler, vintage books can be used for a wide variety of purposes. We explore the best options for displaying vintage books—be it a stack of luxurious coffee table books or a box full of attic-exiled paperbacks—below.


Mind your pinks and your blues when it comes to vintage books and you can create a show-stopping book wall that’s akin to gallery art. To get the look, collect books based on what they’re wearing under their jackets. This means vintage books with ripped covers are fair game, so be sure not to pass on a book that's cover might be showing its age. Limit your color choices to a wedge of the color wheel (like blues and aquas), or make the commitment to go full-spectrum. FYI: If you opt for the latter, the effect tends to go over best if you factor both white and black books into your design. If you omit, the look can stray into juvenile territory quickly, making even the most sophisticated living rooms feel like a playroom in disguise. Our other tips for keeping rooms with color-coded book walls in check? Keep the pattern in the rest of the room to a minimum, as your walls will literally be doing the talking.


Moving into a new place and learning that your fireplace is permanently on the fritz can be a bummer—until you realize you can stuff the hearth full of vintage books! For the best results, collect enough vintage books to fill your hearth from top to bottom. Pro tip: Books that are relatively similar in size work best. Up next, create stacks of 5 to 10 books. Once you have your stacks, alternate between placing those books into the hearth vertically and horizontally. In a fairly minimalist room—and especially one in which the fireplace is painted white—feel free to leave your vintage book spines turned out. The colorful, graphic appeal will be next to none. But for rooms in which there’s more pattern, or the vibe is more traditional, consider turning your books so that the pages face outwards. While you’ll still get some variation in color thanks to the book’s differing shades of paper, the overall effect will be much more muted, perfect for raw brick fireplaces that might be showcasing more than enough character on their own.


Twice as revealing as any dating profile, your coffee table book collection is a window into your interests and passions—not to mention, they’re stunners. So why are they stacked in impenetrable towers on your coffee table? To get those page-turners really turning heads, take a cue from your local library and display your vintage books face-out on picture ledge shelving. By out-facing your books you’ll be able to show off all of that beautiful cover work, essentially rendering it artwork, However, unlike artwork, you can put your vintage books on a sliding rotation, making it easy to switch up your view. For even more impact, try hanging three or four shelves on a single wall. The effect will be a floating bookshelf that’s also a gallery wall. Install one in a playroom for inexpensive, kid-friendly art that you don’t have to worry about your kiddo outgrowing, or set one up in a kitchen that’s being overrun by your cookbook obsession.


If you’ve stumbled across a pretty, vintage book but its subject matter is less than enticing, don’t pass it over! Rather, consider fashioning it into a secret hiding spot. There’s a number of ways to do this, but the most common form is taking an Exacto knife and carving a center compartment. Online tutorials offer handy tips, so if you feel nervous about taking the plunge, take a few minutes to run down the basics in one. A small compartment will be perfect for hiding everything from spare cash to sentimental tokens, but if you have something bigger to hide, (like say, that blink-y Wi-Fi router in the corner of your living room) a vintage book is also up to the challenge. To begin, take your vintage book and carefully cut away the pages from the spine. One you have an empty book shell, it’ll be perfect for wrapping around a router or modem.


Sometimes—be it damage or tragically outdated subject matter—a book is simply (to put it in library terms) on its way to being checked out permanently. Yet even these vintage books maintain a stylistic function when pulled from their covers and bound with twine. To get the look, gather several paperbacks or hardcovers in varying sizes. Tear the pages from their spine, attempting to keep as many pages together as possible. Once removed, bound with twine if necessary. These pages can then be used to fill a glass cabinet or stacked and used as a pedestal on a nightstand or side table.