Gwyneth Paltrow did it. Shonda Rhimes too. Nah, we’re not talking about their latest home purchases or beauty routines. We’re talking about books. These Hollywood celebs (and a few others in the top 1%) are actually hiring curators for their tomes.
The idea behind this recent trend? Declutter, or expand, organize, and all in all improve how your books look. So do you want to curate your books just like fancy, famous people do? Here are five questions to consider before getting lost in the pages.
What does a book curator do?
“Book curators can help you achieve a uniform look to your shelves,” explains Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP. This might entail purchasing books to fill gaps in your collection or obtaining custom jackets that work with your decor.
However, “if you’re looking for someone to help you make all of your books fit on your available shelves, you might do better with the services of a professional organizer who can expertly tell you what goes where,” says Darla DeMorrow of HeartWork Organizing.
A book curator is far more specialized than someone who merely declutters and organizes what you have.
Who should hire a book curator?
Got money to burn? Hire a book curator to tackle your tomes while you hit the spa. But seriously, there are some regular folks for whom this idea might make good sense.
“If you’re accustomed to having professional services like dog walking and dry-cleaning delivery, then there’s no shame in asking for help to maximize the space and visual appeal of your library shelves,” says DeMorrow.
And if your place is overrun with tomes, you might actually need some professional advice.
“People who love being surrounded by books and are avid readers may have piles of books already but no order or focus,” notes Basher. And then there are those who want to read more but aren’t sure to where to start.
What if you need more books?
Too many books is a nice problem to have, but not owning enough means your shelves will look skimpy and bare—and a book curator can load you up. But you can do the same for a lot less: flea markets, thrift stores, and estate and garage sales are great book sources, say the pros.
DeMorrow reports that some Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations stock books, and most libraries have an annual sale where you can pick up novels for pennies.
Basher suggests visiting the half-priced section in some bookstores, where new and used books are reduced in price, and shopping eBay and Amazon for other used tomes. You’ll easily have a shelf filled in no time.
How should you arrange the books?
Why let book curators have all the fun? Arranging your favorite books is the best part of this deal. You might go the old-school route and set up your shelves like a library, categorizing books by classification first (fiction, nonfiction, biographies, cookbooks, art books, and self-help).
“Once you’ve got the categories, fill them alphabetically by genre—fiction could be broken down by rom-com, mystery, and so forth,” says Basher.
Pyramid displays are visually fun, as are arrangements by color (red spines, blue spines). An all-cream or white design brightens a space, while all-black books are classic, adds DeMorrow.
“Take off your books’ dust covers and group the solid hardback bindings for a more polished look,” she says.
What if my books are ugly?
Save some dough and go DIY with your book curating.
“If you’re on a tight budget, use gift wrap, foil, or brown grocery bags to streamline your books’ looks,” offers Gray-Plaisted.
Or splurge a little bit and create custom jackets. “All you need is craft paper in your choice of colors and maybe a printer to retain the topic or title on the spine,” says DeMorrow.
Honestly now, is book curating all that necessary?
Decor experts and organizing pros are on board with the idea of book curation, at least to a point.
“It’s fine to aim for a mindful curation and a collection that serves you and reflects your taste,” explains Basher. “But don’t hold on to books because you think you should, as it creates a feeling of ‘too many books, nothing to read’ mentality.”
That said, most people own books they’ll never read, in part because having them is aspirational.
“Even if you never crack a book about learning to speak French, you keep it because you want to be the kind of person who does learn it someday,” notes DeMorrow.
So, hey, if this sounds like you, just know there’s no shame in it and you’ve got company!
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