Organizing Books by Color


image by Kate Ignatowski from my home tour

I’ve always loved the look of books organized by color. However, I know that this can be a very controversial topic (for those who actually think about these sorts of things), and for everyone who loves the look, there is another person with a laundry list of reasons for why it sucks. After reading this this Apartment Therapy article that addresses the topic, I felt compelled to add my two cents.

From what I can tell by reading the (often heated) comments on the AT article, it seems that people who hate the color coding system say you won’t be able to find your books, and that it makes more sense to organize them by subject. To me, that seems a little over the top for an at-home collection! I have a ton of books (clearly), but it’s never taken me more than approximately thirty seconds to find one that I was looking for. I feel like to justify organizing by subject or author’s last name, you would need to have a seriously huge amount of books (like, a library size collection).


image by Cindy Loughridge for SF Girl by Bay 

As the article mentions, a lot of people also say that only a person who doesn’t actually read would organize their books by color (because they’re treating them as decorative objects, rather than reading material). So not true! I love to read. I also love pretty decor. So it kind of works perfectly. Books are both things to read, and pretty objects. Why not treat them as such?

I organize my books this way because I’m a huge fan of color, and I love how it looks. I feel like it creates a bit of a rainbow on my bookshelf, and that makes my eyes happy. Again, I’ve never had trouble finding a book, but I actually think organizing by color is a useful system because when looking for a particular volume, I can pretty easily remember what it looks like or what color the spine is. As the writer of the AT article mentioned too, it’s a more cohesive and organized look, in contrast to the relatively eclectic look of unorganized books (although I totally like that look as well).


image via Little Green Notebook

Personally, I prefer when the books are just loosely organized by color, like the pictures I’ve featured in this post (in contrast to the pictures featured in the Apartment Therapy article). I like when the hues and tones are varying, rather than being uniform blocks of color…I think it looks a little less severe and a little less staged. I also vary the heights of the books so it looks kind of random (except for stacks, where I keep them in height order. It looks neater).


image by Jennifer Kathryn for The Everygirl

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who either A. cover their books with kraft paper so they’re all matching, or B. turn the books page side out so that their spines face backwards – both techniques used to achieve as neutral and unchaotic/uncolorful a bookshelf look as possible. I’ll be honest and admit that this is not my thing (though I LOVE the apartment pictured above!). It’s partly because I love color and I love the life and personality that book spines add to a room (whether organized by color or not), but it’s mainly because this, to me, is wholly impractical. Some say you won’t be able to find books if they’re organized by color, but that to me is nothing compared to books turned page side out! How would you ever find a book you were looking for? However, that’s just my opinion. To each his own, and I definitely get wanting the neutral look, even though it’s not my particular taste.

Since my books are organized by color, I have had someone ask me if I ever buy a book just because of the cover’s color. My answer to that is no, though I will admit there has been a time or two where a book had a gorgeously colored cover and I wished that I did want to read it! (Impact comes to mind).

What say you? Are you a fan of books organized by color or books turned page side out? Do you do either of these? Or do you think books should just be left to their own natural devices on the bookshelf?

Another article on the subject here!

Leave a Comment

  1. Elana wrote:

    Absolutely beautiful! I do the same thing!

    Published 4.3.15 · Reply
  2. Lucinda wrote:

    Love the organize by color look but just can’t get on board with the turning them where you can’t see the spine. Seems pointless.

    Published 4.3.15 · Reply
    • York Avenue wrote:

      I kind of agree…it’s impractical but I guess it’s done for aesthetic purposes.

      Published 4.6.15 · Reply
  3. Dale Angela wrote:

    I never would have thought of that! I love it! You can comfortable and more visual in your own home!

    Published 4.3.15 · Reply
  4. Ok so if the books are spines in… how do you find them at all?

    Published 4.3.15 · Reply
    • York Avenue wrote:

      I guess…you don’t! 🙂

      Published 4.3.15 · Reply
  5. Marine wrote:

    Tough question!! I have tons of books in French, Italian or English, and some in Spanish or Bulgarian (hail to cosmopolitan couples!). And I have also a lot of different kinds of books : novels, cooking books, travel guides, essays, graphic novels, travel, art books… It’s therefore very very hard to organise them!
    The ones in English and French are organised by authors. I only managed to organise by colours the sport-related books.
    For the rest, they are put in different libraries or shelves… but my walls are not extensible…
    And something that’s worth knowing : French editors don’t put that much attention on covers (don’t judge a book by its cover? Parisian minimalism?), so if you have only books in French, you can’t decorate with them as you wall would be completely white!!!

    Cheers from Belgium!!


    Published 4.4.15 · Reply
    • York Avenue wrote:

      I think a lot of people would probably love the all-white books – very neutral!

      Published 4.6.15 · Reply
      • Marine wrote:

        I’m not sure though, because we often get very poor quality covers… Too often it looks a bit shabby. Or bohemian maybe ?

        Published 4.8.15 · Reply
  6. Holly K wrote:

    I like to mix it up! I have a few bunches of black books, a few of blue, and a few of red. Other places, I’ve grouped authors together by literary movement (my modernists all hang out together) or subject (slavery was a focus for me in grad school, even though the books span a century). Truthfully, I don’t see what all the fuss is about- if they’re your books and YOU put them on the shelf, how on earth would you have trouble finding them again? The only thing that really throws me off is whenever I decide to rearrange things…then it takes a week or two to just know instinctively where something is. But, like you, it never takes more than a minute!

    Published 4.4.15 · Reply
    • York Avenue wrote:

      I agree, if you arrange them yourself probably won’t be hard to find!

      Published 4.6.15 · Reply
  7. Alex wrote:

    You make a good point about color-coordinating when the collection is small. I never considered it before, but I think that’s reasonable. However, I like the haphazard look and feel, so I’m still in the other camp. You almost got me!

    Published 4.6.15 · Reply
    • York Avenue wrote:

      I like the haphazard look too! See this is why I need multiple bookshelves 🙂

      Published 4.6.15 · Reply
  8. I’m not an avid reader and will admit I do buy books on occasion based on the color. I love the aesthetic of books by color. Although, I must admit it’s not an easy task sourcing books by color!

    Published 8.3.16 · Reply