Designer sees opportunities to grab attention with bookcase arrangement

Now that the holidays are over, it’s a great time to do some of those household chores we have been needing to do, like cleaning out our bookcases.

Bookcases are one of the most important, but often most neglected, elements in a home.

“Larger room sizes and higher ceilings in the newer homes leave most of us struggling to fill the bookcases,” said Joel Fazende, an interior designer with Dixon Smith Interiors.

Because they can be among the largest items in a room, bookcases attract a great deal of attention.

Fazende sees bookcases as a place for book storage as well as a way to display decorative items or collections, not a place to cram in anything that doesn’t go somewhere else.

In his almost 20 years as a designer, Fazende has done projects for serious readers with huge numbers of books as well as those with a more decorative approach to their bookcases.

“It depends on the person,” he said.

For the book lovers whose bookcases are filled to overflowing, Fazende says it is important to break things up with interesting, well-placed objects, art and collections.

“Books can be grouped by category and have some order for easy retrieval,” he said, “but you need to find a balance between decorative items and books.”

For those who don’t have enough books to fill their shelves, Fazende recommends the LSU Book Bazaar or used book sales.

“Old sets of encyclopedias are nice because they are leather-bound and pretty,” he said. “But you need to break up the set. Don’t put the whole set in a row.”

Fazende enjoys collecting beautiful books, especially when he travels.

“It’s wonderful for young families to start collecting the classics to create their own library,” he said.

When working with clients who prefer more decorative items than books, Fazende likes to use a color theme, like blue and white, or he groups together a collection of items.

“With dark-stained bookcases, it’s important to have some lighter pieces so the look is not so heavy,” he said.

As with any decorating project, Fazende says the first thing to do when beginning a bookcase project is to get rid of anything extraneous.

“I would rather have more space, more breathing room,” he said. “I like to use fewer pieces but larger pieces, but you still have to have a variety. You don’t want all large or all small.”

Fazende builds a framework with the books, positioning some upright and some on their sides. Then he adds the objects and art.

“The appropriate books should be chosen for the room they will be going in,” Fazende said. “A collection of harlequin romance novels or National Geographics does not go in the formal living room.”

He would place books that are not so pretty in a bedroom or stair-landing bookcase.

One way Fazende has found to show off items in a bookcase is to paint the back with an accent color like a pale blue or to paper it with something like grass cloth. “I have a client who has mat board (from a frame shop) in accent colors cut to fit in shelf openings,” he said. “That way she can change the background of her bookcases every so often.”

If there is an electrical outlet in a bookcase, a small lamp can work especially well. “You can also incorporate small paintings or prints, but stay away from fake greenery,” he said.