Stack and Style: Decorating with Coffee Table Books


Do you own beautiful coffee table books but don’t know what to do with them? Coffee table books are more than just something to read – they’re a design powerhouse waiting to be unleashed.  Discover how to transform your living space from bland to grand with this ultimate guide to decorating with coffee table books!

A stack of three interior design coffee table books on a table.

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Confessions of a Coffee Table Book Hoarder

It’s confession time.

I am a coffee table book addict.

Specifically, interior design books. (Garden books run a close second!)

It wasn’t always this way.

I would pick up an occasional book on sale at the bookstore or get one as a gift from my sister.

Before I knew it, I realized that I have stacks of books that deserve to be seen and not forgotten on a shelf. Or worse…a box!

So I decided to embrace this addiction and count them as part of my yearly reading goal. I love to buy a new book and display it for all to see. I might even read more coffee table books than novels!

A woman sitting in a blue chair reading a coffee table book about decorating with blue and white.

As much as I love to read them, I also love to decorate with them!

These beauties are a great way to add personality, conversation starters, and a whole lot of visual interest to your living space. Plus, they’re functional – who doesn’t love curling up with a gorgeous book and a cup of coffee?

This comprehensive guide will turn you from a coffee table book novice to a full-blown book styling expert! 

We’ll cover everything from choosing the right books to stacking them like a pro (because there is an art to it!).  

So grab your favorite cup of coffee, settle in, and let’s get your living space rocking some serious book flair.

Finding Your Perfect Stack: Choosing the Right Coffee Table Books

First things first, you need some beautiful books! 

Now, this isn’t an excuse to raid your college textbooks (although a vintage anatomy book could be a quirky conversation starter!).  

Think about your home decor and your favorite things.  

Do you secretly dream of being a fashion icon? Dive into a retrospective on your favorite designer (bonus points if the cover is a showstopper!).

Decorating with Coffee Table Books with a Fashion book that has a pink and brown metal dress on the cover.

Are you a travel buff with a wanderlust-worthy Instagram? Snag a photography book showcasing stunning landscapes.  

Interior designers swear by the “mix and match” method.  Don’t be afraid to combine a beautiful coffee table book on architecture with a vintage travelogue –  eclectic books make great conversation starters! 

Colorful coffee table books about Paris and New York decorating a bookshelf.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Hardcover books are a must for me. You can use paperbacks but they just don’t have the same heft or visual impact.
  • Look for books with beautiful covers. Whether a dust cover or the actual book cover, if you are drawn to it, others will be too.
  • Consider “decorative books” – these are hardcover books specifically designed for looks, not reading (think gorgeous travel compilations or fashion photography collections).
  • Think outside the box (or bookshelf)!  Oversized books can make a real statement, while thrift stores are treasure troves for unique vintage finds.

Mastering the Stack: How to Arrange Coffee Table Books 

Now for the fun part: stacking your books!  

The key is to create visual interest, not a wobbly tower. Here are some helpful tips:

  • The Rule of Threes:  Odd numbers are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Group 3 books together in a horizontal stack of books, or use 3 separate horizontal stacks for a more spread-out look.
  • Size Matters: Think pyramid! Place larger books at the bottom and smaller books on top.
  • Play with Dimension: Don’t just stack books horizontally! Stand a couple of books vertically using bookends for a touch of variety.
Decorating with Coffee Table Books: vertical books sitting beside horizontal books.
  • Color Coordination: Match your books to your existing color palette for a cohesive look.
  • Top the stack with the unexpected: Give a lamp some additional height by placing it on top of a stack of larger books.
French decorating coffee table books.

Pro Tips & Tricks: Taking Your Coffee Table Book Decor to the Next Level

Here are some additional ideas to elevate your coffee table book game:

  • Trays are your friend: Placing your stack of books on a decorative tray adds another layer of texture and keeps things contained.
  • Mix it Up:  Intersperse your books with a decorative object like a bowl, a unique sculpture, or even a small plant.
A white sculpture and small plant decorating the top of a stack of three coffee table books.
  • Think Beyond the Coffee Table: Coffee table books aren’t limited to, well, coffee tables!  Use them to add personality to a console table, a living room end table, or even your bedside table.
A bedroom nightstand holding a lamp and a stack of blue coffee table books.
  • Rotate Your Collection: Nobody wants to see the same books all the time.  Swap out a few books every now and then to keep things fresh.
  • Give the Gift of Gorgeous Books:  Coffee table books make the perfect gift – thoughtful, stylish, and guaranteed to spark joy (and maybe a little envy of your impeccable taste).
  • For rectangular, square, or round coffee tables, use one central stack of books and radiate smaller stacks or decorative objects outwards.
Two stacks of decorating books sitting on top of a coffee table.

Turn the Page

Who says that your coffee table books need to stay closed?

Open them up to a favorite page and let it sit open.

Tomorrow you can choose a new favorite page!

Take a look at the difference in the look between a closed book and an open book.

Both are beautiful on my glass coffee table. But each tells a different design.

Which story do you want to tell today?

A book titled "An Affair with a House"
A coffee table decor book opened to a page that says "The Consevatory"

I don’t usually like to go “Full Theme.” But I couldn’t help myself!

A book titled "Photo Ark" sitting on top of a coffee table.
A book with open pages showing an photograph of two leopards.

Coffee Table Book Inspiration for Every Style

  • Feeling overwhelmed by choice?  What are your interests? What do you dream about? Pick a persona to spark your creativity in choosing a coffee table book stack:
  • The Interior Design Obsessive:  This is my territory! Chances are, if you have a favorite designer, he or she has a home design book. Stick with your own style or branch out and include other interior styles.
  • The Fashionista:  Try the infamous Tom Ford book, a retrospective on your favorite designer,  or streetwear photography collections.
  • The Wanderlust Traveler:  My husband loves this category! National Geographic photography books, nature books, and coffee table books showcasing specific countries or regions,
  • The Bibliophile: Shop for first-edition classics with beautiful dust jackets, signed copies of your favorite novels, and coffee table books celebrating the history of literature.
  • The Art Enthusiast: Seek art books featuring the works of your favorite artist, books on specific art movements (Impressionism, Pop Art, etc.), and photography books showcasing famous sculptures or museums.
  • The Minimalist: Look for black and white coffee table books, books with clean lines and simple typography, and stack neutral-colored books alongside a single pop of color.
A stack of three cream colored art books decorating the top of a piano.

Beyond the Basics: Coffee Table Books as Functional Decor

Coffee table books aren’t just pretty faces.  They can actually be quite functional!

  • Level Up Your Display: Use a large book as a riser on a flat surface to elevate smaller decorative objects or plants. This adds height and dimension to your display.
  • Hidden Treasures: Hollow-out a large book (carefully!) to create a secret storage compartment for odds and ends.
  • DIY Delight: Get crafty! Repurpose old books by covering them in wallpaper for a unique, personalized touch.

My Favorite Coffee Table Books

I told you that I have quite a collection. So here are some of my favorite books!

An Affair with a House by Bunny Williams: This book is my all-time fave! The title totally captures my love of everything that has to do with “home!” And it keeps alive my dream that someday I will someday have a conservatory on my “estate!”

The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits by Mihaela Noroc – I could not love this book more! These portraits of women from around the world is awe-inspiring!

Celebrating Home: A Time for Every Season by James T. Farmer: Every page of this book is gold!

Joie: A Parisian’s Guide to Celebrating the Good Life by Ajiri Aki  – This book reminds me to slow down and find the joy in life’s everyday pleasures.

Veranda A Room of One’s Own: Personal Retreats & Sanctuaries by Kathryn OShea-Evans – I need one of these retreats so I can dream of these retreats.

Wild Interiors: Beautiful plants in beautiful spaces by Hilton Carter – My pandemic plant guru.

The book titled "Joie"
The coffee table decorating book "A Room of One's Own"
The book titled "Wild Interiors"

National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals by Joel Sartore – This award-winning National Geographic photographer lives in my town! His photography and mission are both fascinating and inspirational!

Tom Ford by Tom Ford and Bridget Foley – Iconic.

1000 Record Covers by Michael Ochs – Great conversation starter!

The photography coffee table book titles "The Photo Ark"
The book "Tom Ford"
The coffee table book titled "1000 Record Covers"

Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute by Hamish Bowles and Chloe Malle – This cover grabbed my attention…and the rest of the book kept it captive!

Dolly Parton: Behind the Seams by Dolly Parton and Holly George-Warren Rebecca Seaver – Because we always want more Dolly!

Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon – I think Reese Witherspoon is my color palette spirit sister!

Hitting the Books: Your Coffee Table’s Grand Finale

Decorating with Coffee Table Books: A glass bust sitting atop a stack of books.

So there you have it! With a little creativity and these simple tips, you can transform your coffee table into a visual conversation starter overflowing with personality.  Remember, the key is to have fun and express your own design style.

Start a new decorating chapter by exploring those bookstores (or raid your own shelves!), and put your coffee table books to work in your home! Send me your book suggestions and share how you style them! 

Cheers!

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Decorating with Coffee Table Books at Home

More Fabulous Coffee Table Books

6 Comments

  1. I smiled when I saw you with the Living with Blue and White, as that is what is on my coffee table at the moment. I found the book in a thrift store for 2.99…which is even more delightful. Great post, but I certainly would give the local thrift store book racks a scan before ordering any of these. Other books I have found have been Monet’s Garden, History of Art (by Janson my updated textbook from college), Williamsburg, Washington Memorials, Chicago River (gorgeous book filled with history and new/old photos), and many more all purchased for under $3.00. Sandi

    1. Thank you for all of the great book recommendations! I’m very interested in the Williamsburg and Chicago River books. I’ve probably gotten about a third of my collection at thrift stores…such a great place to look. I LOVE that you have the Blue and White book! I could look at this one every day! (Oh yeah! I do!) Thanks for sharing, Sandra!

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