Tip # 172 – Straighten your stacks (and hide them).
I’ve written before that my approach to making room for books in a small space is to not hang on to too many and to tuck away the ones I decide to keep. Shocking though it might be for bibliophiles, as much as I like to run my finger across a row of spines and pick out a favorite book, I don’t get the same joy from looking at the spines of books in my small space. Indeed, in an effort to achieve a bit of visual peace, I prefer to keep books more or less under wraps. I’ve covered books with brown paper bags and marbleized papers saved for the purpose. The crates I use as nightstands hide small stacks of books. More crates tucked under our couch cache still more.
Most recently, I made a curtain for a book shelf. In tiny apartments, or anywhere, you have to be willing to be a bit quirky to make your space right for you. I remain unapologetically myself, which is really the only advice I have to offer to any of you.
Until recently, the kids’ books in our house were something of a challenge. We have a lot of them. And on top of the books we own, we usually also have a large stack of choices from the library. To keep up with the growth, we’ve moved our kids’ book collection around a bit. What started out in a crate under our cot-turned-couch moved to a larger crate. What was in the larger crate got moved to a shelf that formerly held cookbooks. What was formerly in the living room was moved into the kids’ room, et cetera. We went through a few successful rounds of making seasonal edits—for instance, sending summery books into hibernation in the closet for the winter—but a few months ago, Faye decided she did not want to relegate the Tomten and fellow wintry company to storage, and shortly after that, I decided that this would absolutely not be the hill I die on. We cleared a shelf in the kids’ room formerly used to display a few toys and put the full picture book collection there instead. It’s a smarter use of the space, but it made for a bit of a jumble. To help control it, I kept my eyes peeled for a set of bookends, and eventually I found a slim steel set that’s been perfect. They don’t inspire my four-year-old to reshelve with her mother’s precision, but they do help keep things generally tidy.
A curtain to cover the whole thing made the move feel even better. I cut and hemmed a rectangle of fabric from an acorn-dyed swaddle we used for Silas, and strung it up over a bit of wire. For the kids, it makes the shelf of books feel extra dramatic—a secret spot for hiding bookish treasures. For me, it makes it so that when I sit at the kitchen table to work, my view is calm and uncluttered.
Who knows how long it will last there. No doubt our book collection will face another round of edits and new additions. We might need to find it a new home. Maybe I’ll eventually decide a curtained shelf looks too much like something a pair of puppets is going to pop out from behind. But for now, tucked behind a curtain, our favorite stories have a sweet spot to rest. (More updates to the kids’ room coming tomorrow.)
What about you? Quirky small space solutions of your own?