"Bookshelf Wealth" is the New Trend Designers Love As It Makes Homes Instantly Cozy — Here's How

Bookshelf Wealth is the latest design trend to explode onto the scene, but what exactly is it and how do you get the look?

A living room bookshelf
(Image credit: Mariell Lind Hansen. Design: Emil Eve Architects)

Bookworms rejoice! There is an aesthetic trend dedicated to you and your brimming book collection - "Bookshelf Wealth". It's more than just a catchy name, bookshelf wealth is a 'whole home vibe', says the San Diego-based designer, Kailee Blalock of House of Hive, who last month posted about the look to an audience of 1.3 million viewers.

The aesthetic has exploded onto the interior design scene, but what exactly is it? We asked some of our favorite designers for five key indicators of bookshelf wealth, so you can diagnose your own bookshelf's wealth, and work on improving it. The designers suggest focusing on the intention of your bookshelf, stacking it with your favorite reads, keeping things ordered and curated, but also convinced us that bookshelf wealth is about creating a destination in your home. It's about carving out a space for cozying up with your favorite read.

We love the idea, and best of all, it's doable in every home - whether you have a whole library to play with or a pair of floating living room shelves. So, without further ado, here are five key elements to help improve your bookshelf wealth at home.

1. The books

A well-organized floor-to-ceiling bookshelf with ladder

(Image credit: Sean Kernan. Design: Naomi Darling Architecture LLC)

It's stating the obvious to say that books are a key part of the aesthetic, but it's more about the intention behind the books. 'These aren't display books,' says Kailee in her viral TikTok, 'These are books that have actually been curated and read.' In this way, the trend is the antithesis of the 'shelfie' trend, which was more focused on the look than the shelf's actual content. This trend is about celebrating academia and bookishness, using books as a reference or inspiration for how you live your life. 'I think to really achieve the look and the lifestyle, someone has to be an avid reader and has to appreciate the act of collecting things,' says Kailee.

'A book collection is about the books that you love, that inspired you when you first encountered them, and books that you want to go back to over time to reference for a quote, a story, or to look at the pictures,' says Naomi Darling of Naomi Darling Architecture. 'Books in one's collection are a reminder of the journey of one's growth in ideas and the collection reflects one's varied interests over time.'

What's more, your bookshelf wealth is improved if you've categorized them. Last weekend, I spent the entire day tackling my bookshelves. It was a satisfying process, removing everything from the shelves, dusting and even giving the bookshelf a new lick of paint (I went for Farrow & Ball's Stone Blue).

When it came to book organization, I ordered my books into categories and alphabetized them. Taking it to another level, you can also coordinate using the pattern and color of your books' spines. Remove the jacket to reveal a simple block color that could work for your shelf. 'When curating your books think about activities associated with them such as cooking or travel,' adds Sandra Wolf of Office of Ordinary Architecture.

In terms of stacking, keep things mixed, with plants used to display them at different heights, and stacking some facing out and some on top of each other vertically, creating breathing room and using space to your advantage.

2. Art and decor

A well-decorated bookshelf

(Image credit: Marian Riabic. Design: Utz-Sanby Architects)

Living room wall art is a huge factor in your bookshelf's wealth. and your bookshelves provide the perfect place to display your curated collection, incorporating it in a jumbled and deliberately messy way to bring it to life.

As Kailee states, wall art is hung in front of bookcases, hanging from picture rails, or artfully displayed on the floor. 'It's literally overlapping each other, definitely not hung straight lines and disregarding the boundary of molding,' she says.

Go for a mismatched style, mixing chunky gold frames with minimalist frames. A range of subject matter looks great too, from traditional paintings mixed with portraits and still lifes - feeding into this carefully curated look.

Art isn't restricted to picture frames either. 'It is always fun to add other objects to your bookshelves,' says Anna Popov of the eponymous Seattle-based interior design firm. 'We are big believers that what you add should be carefully considered and either be of true sentimental value or serve a purpose. 

'Vases, picture frames, storage boxes, souvenirs from a favorite trip or an item passed down from Grandma are all good candidates. Be creative, there's no need to strive for perfection as we believe bookshelves reflect your life experiences and memories that take the term 'bookshelf wealth' to a whole other level.'

3. Cozy seating

A window seat book nook

(Image credit: Lisa Cohen. Design: Kim Kneipp)

Bookshelf wealth has an emphasis on comfortable seating or cozy reading corners. We're not just talking about sticking a small loveseat in front of your bookshelf either. We want to see our alcoves built into the architecture of the room where possible, like this cozy window seat from Kim Kneipp, perfectly within arm's distance for plucking your favorite book from the shelf.

An upholstered ottoman fit snugly into a gap would also work here. Go one step further with some curtains to add texture and corner off your book nook from the world.

4. Bookshelf furniture

A bookshelf with ladder and lighting

(Image credit: Sean Kernan. Design: Naomi Darling Architecture LLC)

Keep your bookshelf easy to navigate by incorporating bookshelf furniture. 'If you have room for one, we consider a library ladder the ultimate in book-lover decor,' says Sandra. Library ladders that are aesthetically hung on a rail are easy to navigate as you can clamber up them and grab those hard-to-reach books, while also giving the space a luxe library feel.

Think about statement lighting too. Wall sconces definitely have a place in your home library, shining a light on your seating area. I also like strip lighting in this scenario or even picture lights directed downward. If you have a more modern bookshelf, you might even want to line your shelf with LED lighting to brighten up each shelf. 

If you don't want to invest too heavily, enlist the help of a spare table lamp. However you incorporate it, lighting is a huge part of bringing ambiance to your bookshelf.

5. Embrace pattern and upholstery

A dark blue room with an armchair and bookshelves.

(Image credit: Lindsay Brown / Avery Cox Design)

Lastly, bookshelf wealth is all about mixing colors, textures, and patterns, playing into the Urban Aunt trend (another look we're currently loving). Patterned material drives the idea of a homeowner who takes inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. 

Mix things up when it comes to color and texture so that there is a variation for the eye. Play with layered throws on your seating area, add a well-upholstered ottoman or storage bench, or a high pile rug underfoot that ups the coziness. Don't be afraid of clashing your fabrics, with deckchair stripes mixed with boho florals creating a collected look and feeding into the jumbled aesthetic.

Enhance your bookshelf's wealth with these three stylish accessories

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.