life in a tiny apartment.

January 8, 2014

Tip #87: Cover your ugliest books.

This is something I’ve been meaning to share forever and even though it’s a kind of ho-hum way to start the new year, I’d rather write about how to deal with ugly books in a tiny apartment than broach the subject of how a 240-square-foot apartment with a ship’s ladder leading to the “bedroom” is not probably a reasonable place to nurture a tiny mewling infant (not to mention a very pregnant mother). Let’s save that topic for next week.

Back to those books:

I’m aware that this advice is teetering awfully close to the edge of something that might be written on a very peppy blog offering all kinds of very peppy DIY advice. And while I do like to be peppy, I don’t like to propose projects that feel unrealistic, or contrived, or otherwise unnecessary. And I can see where you might think that covering books to fit into the décor is a little bit excessive. Or obsessive. Or both.

But maybe you have not also been stared down by Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Have you seen the book? Our edition is large and bright red and for two years its brashness beamed down on us from our one measly bookshelf.

Until, of course, I covered it. Middle school-style. With the same painstaking attention I gave to covering Life Science in the 7th grade, I tackled the most offending books on my shelf. I stopped myself from buying a Wite-Out pen so that I could write the titles in straight letters with little balls tacked onto their tops and bottoms, but otherwise the process was pure 1997.

Sigh. It’s a more harmonious bunch now, don’t you think?

Tiny apartment survival tips #1-86 right here.

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  • Reply Amanda January 8, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    ! Same solution in my tiny apartment for the same book. BITTMAN.

  • Reply Elizabeth January 8, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I like it. There are just some covers that shouldn't have been. Congratulations on the soon-to-be new addition, as well! We're expecting #2 this summer with no plans for leaving our not-quite 500 square foot house (125 square feet/ person is plenty, right? Please say yes), so I'll be watching your tiny apartment solutions with interest. Good luck to you!

  • Reply Rebecca January 8, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Ha! I definitely have done this before. I always get the nicest edition I can find when I want to read something… If the cover is really bad, it does take away from my joy of reading it. I like the kraft paper you used!

  • Reply J and H from Beyond The Stoop January 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    I feel ya! we started to get magazine build up, and I hated the way they looked on the bookshelf. so I bought brown paper magazine bins from ikea, one for me and one for my boyfriend, and decided that whatever didn't fit didn't get kept! now there are no more colorful, floppy, magazine ends filling our bookshelf, but instead 2 clean-looking brown magazine bins 🙂

  • Reply Liz Parsons January 8, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    One of my pups ate the cover off of that book. I think it may have deserved it.

  • Reply Heather January 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Great tip! Simple, but effective. I love it.

  • Reply pretty little things January 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    haha I kinda love this idea! I have plenty of books that ae not so cute (or maybe I'm embarrassed to admit I own) so perfect solution!! xo

  • Reply Becca - Rebecca Atwood Designs January 8, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Love this idea!

  • Reply picklesandchapstick January 8, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Haha! I love this idea! Kinda reminds me of the days of covering books for school!


  • Reply megan January 8, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Back in high school I used to cover my books with a fabric cover. They were super easy to make and then I got to have fun patterns (the real reason was that I could re-use them year over year and avoid the process). Might be something to consider 🙂

    My grandmother had a fabric cover for her paperbacks and all the grandchildren thought she was forever reading the same book until one day we saw her take the cover off…

  • Reply kristyn January 9, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Okay, my ugly books have been driving me nuts and I didn't know what to do. It's so obvious! Thank you. Ahh. Goodbye ugly red and orange spines.

  • Reply Kendall January 9, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    All books are beautiful, even the ugly ones.

  • Reply infusionfibers January 12, 2014 at 5:18 am

    I have totally done the same! And the funny thing is, it can actually tend to draw attention to it, making people so curious about what the book is… it must be a secret right? And you are hilarious…. I could have all but forgotten about letters with balls on the ends. I remember so well though. My mom actually worked at a stationary type shop for a while during that craze, and brought home lots of cool pens and pen cups and other writing related things for my sister and I to decorate. I was in white balled letter HEAVEN.

  • Reply Amy P January 15, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    That is an excellent idea. I have enough books that are coloured that I've arranged them in rainbow order (how very 1997 of me) and that gives it some sense. I also have just one (albeit longer) row of books so it works well.

  • Reply Boston Gemmie January 25, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Congratulations! 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 "dancing an Irish Jig over here"

  • Reply Kris February 4, 2014 at 3:47 pm


  • Reply Sara January 27, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    yes yes yes. So necessary! I also have shelves of gaudy-covered books where they are entirely turned spine-side in. Lovely faded papers, side by side. It's totally worth the extra 20 minutes it takes to find anything.
    As an aside, I recently got rid of about 70% of my book collection. Blogged about it, but I basically realised I was keeping most of them for all the wrong reasons, – like, I was hoping people would see them on my shelves and form wonderful, flattering opinions of me. Ha! x

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