Are Fake Books a Home Decor Faux Pas, or Are They Here to Stay?

When it comes to home decorating, maybe it's okay to judge a book by its cover.

Decor trends come and go, but some things—like a shelf brimming with books—will never go out of style: Books are behind the entire bibliophile aesthetic, why cozy reading nooks are continuously trending on #BookTok, and what gives life and personality to an otherwise boring shelf.

Over the past few years, a rise in work-from-home setups and Zoom meetings introduced a new interest in staging beautiful backgrounds—with colorfully curated bookshelves topping the list of simple makeovers anyone could do. Surprisingly, these trends also revealed some strong opinions that bookshelves should represent who we are, not the people we wish we could be. Truth be told, most of us have books on our shelves that we’ve never read. In fact, the phenomenon of owning unread books is so common, there’s even a term for it: the antilibrary.

3 wooden bookshelves art
David Tsay

Last year, actress Ashley Tisdale sparked debate when she admitted in an Architectural Digest home tour that prior to the tour, she’d sent her husband out to purchase approximately 400 books to fill their empty shelves. While naysayers on Twitter criticized her for being a “faux academic,” Tisdale argued that any interior designer would do the same.

And she's not wrong—in fact, many home stagers and interior designers won’t even bother with the real books and instead gravitate toward fake books when setting a scene.

It makes sense when you consider how costly decorating with real books can be, not to mention how easily they can be ruined. Lately, fashion-minded designers are using faux books to create sophisticated displays in high-traffic areas without fear of their expensive (or sentimental) books being ruined. For example, TikTok creator @ItsNazsare posted a video about relying on faux coffee table books branded with labels from designers like Prada, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Celine as a decor budgeting hack that still looks high end.

blue backsplash bookcase
David Land

Hidden Mysteries

If you've ever seen any sort of treasure hunting movie or show, you probably think of decorative books as a way to hide important belongings (or clues). It's not usually practical to reveal a hidden room with the pull of a faux tome, but you can keep your routers and cable modems hidden from sight with the careful placement of some hollowed-out book spines. You can find faux book boxes ($28, Amazon) to buy online and keep your jewelry, valuables, and cords out of sight.

A Lovable Library

If you don’t love the idea of using empty spines on your bookshelf, there are other charming ways to fill your space with books. Savvy thrift shoppers are always on the lookout for hardcover books to decorate their shelves and coffee tables (because if you don't plan to read them, it doesn't matter what's inside). Tiktoker @hello_haley_, for example, removes the book jackets from traditional hardcover books and color coordinates the books in stacks or groups.

sitting area with red upholstered chairs and glass table
Kim Cornelison

You can also makeover thrifted or dollar store books to suit your style—and it's affordable enough that you can do it whenever you want a change in aesthetic. Remove the jackets and paint the books, cover them in designer labels, wrap them in fabric, or adorn them with leftover scraps of wallpaper.

If you're not the DIY type, there are companies, like Juniper Books, that turn stacks of books into works of art. Founder Thatcher Wine creates custom books, ready-to-ship books, and empty book jackets—some classic and some modern—that are pretty enough to deserve their own display.

Wine also offers “Books by the Foot”, which are curated by subject, color, or cover material: from as simple as 3 feet of dark blue books to 5 feet of antique leather books with publication dates ranging from 1800 to 1920. Whatever feel you're going for, from dark academia to romcom core, books have the power to transform your space—whether you've flipped through the pages or not.

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