Organizing Books by Color AND by Genre

We love books and have a little bit of a book-buying problem in the Komenda family. It goes without saying that it doesn't cut it for us to organize our books only by color - that way it would be impossible to find a specific book! And anyway, I think it can look a little forced when huge amounts of books are strictly placed in severe blocks of graduated color. You know what I mean? So while I appreciated the strict by-genre organization in the bookshelf wall in our loft, with our new bookshelf wall in the brownstone, this time front and center in our living room, I decided to experiment with the organization a little.

I've decided I have found the perfect-for-me way to organize books - and it is so, so simple. Here are the steps:



1) Decide where you want the biggest, chunkiest books to sit on your shelves.

My biggest books are art and design books and a couple of atlases and an old family set of encyclopedias. I went with most of these flanking either side of the fireplace. The atlases and encyclopedias went up on the highest shelves, since they are rarely looked at. (Except for one giant atlas that we keep on the coffee table.)

2) Before shelving anything, make piles of your books by genre.

We wanted our genre sections to be pretty specific so we could easily locate a book. We had to go past the fiction/non-fiction route. Our genre piles went like this: Classic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Art/Design, Religion, Lifestyle (cooking, hobby, crafting, gardening), Economics, Philosophy, Politics, Law.
1 - Contemporary Fiction  //  2 - Art and Design  //  3 - Lifestyle  //  4 - Religion

3) Organize the individual genre piles by color and while shelving, pay attention to size.

When you're dealing with a large number of books in one place, you can give the eye a chance to rest when there are blocks of just a few colors.  So it became rare for a single shelf to see the full ROYGBIV spectrum - most of the time each shelf was only two or three main colors. And I tried to be loose about the colors. I cared a little more about matching sizes than color shades, and I think that helps the overall look feel a little less uptight. If I had been really strict about keeping the colors in the exact right spot, the spine lengths would have been all over the place, which looks sloppy to me. Also, by being a little flexible with color, I could easily alternate the piles between horizontal widths and vertical stacks.

5 - Classics Fiction  //  6 - Political  //  7 - Design and Travel  //  8 - Economics and Philosophy  //  9 - Law

And that's it! I am so sold on these simple steps to artfully and functionally organize bookshelves. I've tried the tricks on two more bookshelves since doing my own, and I've been just as satisfied with the results. Isn't it the best when form and function work together?

34 comments:

ashley rachelle said...

i love this! i used to arrange all of my books alphabetically by author. currently i have been grouping books based on color, but it's kind of getting old/everyone does it. so i love this method of yours! it gives me the best of both worlds. thanks for sharing!

Laurie said...

Great post! I am loving this method. Also nice to see someone else's family has the same "book buying" sickness as mine :)

April Sharman said...

I think this is a great idea, the placement of books doesn't look forced and you can find them easily - genius! Happy reading.

Sandra Carson said...

Brilliant post
petco

Elizabeth said...

Your bookshelves look amazing and I think the organization is really neat.
Have you ever cataloged your books to keep track of what you have in the library ? I found the most amazing app called book catalogue. you scan the upc codes on the books and it does the rest. Now, no more duplicate book purchases for me.
Love your blog and especially your color choices. So bold and no fear.
Betsy

Julie said...

Love this idea and post...looks beautiful!

Kylie said...

It looks fantastic! This may be a dumb question, but what about paperbacks? We have bookshelves in our living room but I keep most of our books in the basement office because I can't imagine pulling this off with paperbacks.

Jenny at LGN said...

Kylie - our paperbacks are mixed right in! Much of our paperbacks are fiction, so there are a couple shelves that are mostly paperback. It works great.

xx

Jesse {wefancythat.blogspot.com} said...

So beautiful and functional-bravo! Love that pillow peaking through in the last pic! Do you mind sharing what the fabric is?

Cam said...

Yay! I've been waiting for this post since you mentioned it.... So simple, really, but lovely & functional.

Jess said...

Can we talk about the little glass bubble thingies--I never know what to call them--on your side table? Those are adorable!

What else do you collect?

FROM THE RIGHT BANK said...

This is exactly how my living room shelves are organized. After trying a few different ways, it was the one that both made sense and looked pleasing. Your shelves look great!

Jenny at LGN said...

Hi Jesse - it's a vintage cotton I found in Philadelphia. I wish I knew the maker. I would order (or hunt down) all that I could find. It's great!

xo

Shavonda said...

Hi Jenny! Awesome post. I love the way you've arranged your books. I just posted about how I'm drawn to casual spaces where books seem to be placed on shelves without a specific plan as to where they are going to go. It's just more visually pleasing to me. Plus books that are arranged perfectly by color and are perfectly in line make it hard for me to actually want to read the books!

sturdydesign said...

That makes much more sense than organizing by color! I have always organized by genre until we decided to sell our house. When staging the house I sorted them by color just for fun. It looked cool but I could never find anything. This is a good compromise between the two. I'll have to give it a try in my new house.

Maddy from MPDaily said...

love this. going to try to apply it to our house (on a slightly smaller scale) thanks jenny!

kstyle said...

Really good and well thought out idea. I think its so important in decorating to "keep it real" while never letting go of the overall aesthtetic you are creating in the space.I recently read Daryl Carter's book "The New Traditionalist" and he devotes an enitre section to the importance of "self reflection" in design. How does your family really live and this case how does your family actually engage with your books. I think this is such an important concept in design and easy at least for me to gloss over. Really great post. k

jennyl said...

Hey guys! Please help me out and do this quick student survey on consumer behavior!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dENKbmpMZzBCZjNHeEUzd3dQTzdQTHc6MQ

Surabhi Muncie said...

This is obviously a bit of crazy amazingness! I don't have as many books as you as I avoid buying them because of what they end up looking like on shelves! who would have thought that all this time I could have had beautiful shelves full of books!

No more book fear for me!

Kim Martin said...

These are great tips! The shelves actually look artfully styled and not stuffy at all.

www.thekimcollective.com

Chrissy said...

i've been waiting for this post!! thanks for sharing your happy home & helping me make mine beautiful, too!

{Hi Sugarplum!} said...

Gorgeous books and shelves!

dreamsinhd said...

this is genius! i constantly rearrange the books on my bookshelf {granted, i don't have as many as your family -- yet} and i really love this idea.

Molly {Dreams in HD}
http://dreamsinhd.blogspot.com/

rachelmaydesigns.com said...

I like a little breathing room on shelves, too - it doesn't have to be PACKED with books. Just like you did with the vases - perfect!

Elisa of Fancy Free Me said...

Beautiful and brilliant! I follow the same shelving system for my bookcases as well!

Anna Williams said...

This is exactly how I have always arranged books for clients and it works beautifully. You can find everything you need but they still look beautiful, yet not contrived. I love the way you've explained this - creating a method for my madness :) xx

Anna Villena said...

I've seen similar concept in a cafe in Brisbane. They are giving free books from one giant shelf. I really enjoyed staying at that coffee shop. I'm currently checking if this shop fitters could help me with that for my room.

dervla kelly said...

oh my gosh, so so pretty! And helpful. I could find all of my books and love the arrangement of topics too.

Marianne Brown said...

Super smart way to organize + style the bookshelf. You never cease to impress me!

nikilaptop said...

nice info... thanks for share

ikilaptop

thefolia said...

So focused on the books--love it! I have a lot more chutzkis and board games on mine since I don't have quite the collection. Enjoy the books in your nest!

andrea.d said...

Ah, this looks so much better than the rainbow effect, which is a little too juvenile-looking for my personal tastes. Nice work!

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Mimi Palmer said...

Looks great! I couldn't help but notice our copy of "the Brazilians". I have held on to that book since college and always love how bright it is in my book shelf!

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