Would you ever style your bookshelf like this?

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated November 01, 2017
Hannah Briggs

Books have the internet divided—and not for the reason you might think. On Instagram, the trend of storing books backwards, with the spines facing in, seems to be showing up more and more frequently on the accounts of interior decorators and design blogs, and it has some bibliophiles riled up. While designers tend to make this bold styling decision in order to create a cohesive color palette—this way, the whites of the pages show, rather than a rainbow of colorful spines—book lovers argue that there’s no way to find the book you’re looking for when the spines are facing in. If you reverse your books, does that mean you never actually pick them up?

On her Instagram account recently, designer Emily Henderson shared a photo of a bookshelf styled for Halloween. But on the bookshelf, all of the books were reversed, and controversy was sparked, garnering 359 opinionated comments. On the photo caption, Henderson explains: “I restyled my shelves for Halloween (as you do) and figured the reverse book thing worked with my spooky castle theme.” Okay, it’s for a holiday—that sounds reasonable as long as it’s temporary, right? She continues: “But the problem is that I love not having the busy-ness of the colorful spines. I love how much more calm and neutral it is.” And here lies the problem. What’s a literature-loving person who also appreciates a well-designed room to do? The designer admits that this way of storing books is a “styling gimmick,” and yet, she loves how it looks.

On the bookshelf of lifestyle blogger Hannah Briggs, only some of the books are turned backwards, while those with spines that match the neutral color scheme are not. And as one commenter points out, reversing the books could have an unexpected effect: It prevents the spines from fading, so the covers stay in pristine condition.

Kate Arends of Wit and Delight filled her glass-fronted cabinet with reversed books, then added photos for a few decorative touches. She notes that all of the books in the cabinet are ones she and her family have already read but can’t bear to part with, so they don’t often need to find one of the titles in the stack.