What Is Bookshelf Wealth? (& How To Get The Look)

By Olivia Emily

4 months ago

Bookworms, you're right on trend


This year’s first big interior design trend is one for the book lovers out there: bookshelf wealth. The bookish cousin to stealth wealth, bookshelf wealth is all about the money-can’t-buy intellectual side of chicness. Here’s how to get the look.

Bookshelf Wealth: Inside TikTok’s Bookish Design Trend

A cosy room with a sofa, lampshade and large bookshelf

What Is Bookshelf Wealth?

‘Bookshelf wealth is the latest home décor trend celebrating curated cosiness, particularly on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves,’ say the experts at Scandi design company, String Furniture. ‘This trend became popular on TikTok in December 2023 amassing over 1.7 million views on San Diego-based interior designer Kailee Blalock’s video which defined the term “bookshelf wealth”. Displaying an array of books that have been collected over time, the idea is to pair this with carefully chosen classic furniture and art pieces. The look is cluttered but not messy with personal mementos interspersed throughout the books.’

Bookshelf wealth is all about a cosy yet eccentric aesthetic featuring, of course, lots of books. Imagine your house has been decorated by a whimsical, scatterbrained university arts or humanities professor, and you get the idea.

Books are a core feature of the aesthetic, and the idea is that the books are both highly curated (meaning you’ve read and loved all of them) and displayed in unique ways. Because books are naturally colourful, this isn’t a trend for the minimalists in the room – but that’s not to say it’s a maximalist trend, either. Instead, the focus is on the house’s period features combined with neutral and natural tones for the walls and furniture like sofas, shelving, tables and chests of draws. The colour and whimsy comes in with the accessories: patterned rugs, curtains, cushions and throws, an eclectic collection of art and photography, and an overwhelming excess of stuff (‘stuff’ being the all important books as well as plant pots, vases, trinkets, jugs, candlesticks, lamps, and so on). The ideal period features for the bookshelf wealth aesthetic include fireplaces with a mantlepiece, traditional wood moulding, stained glass windows and original wood flooring.

Bookshelf wealth encourages us to ‘celebrate individual journeys and take pride in the objects we have collected throughout our lives, whether it’s a collection of specific objects like crockery or crystal ware, or just sentimental bits and pieces, give your clutter a new lease of life,’ says Peter Erlandsson at String Furniture. ‘Every ornament, shell, fridge magnet and dog-eared book can make up a mosaic of colourful references to your life.’

The idea behind bookshelf wealth is that your home looks lived in – in contrast to the minimalist aesthetic that has been popular in recent years. The plethora of items are not curated specifically to look good, but collected over many years, often signifying memorable life moments. In short, it’s not just about your bookshelf…

Features Of The Bookshelf Wealth Aesthetic

‘Bookshelf wealth is a whole home vibe,’ says Kailee Blalock of House of Hive Design Co on TikTok. Her video introducing her followers to this design trend has millions of views and is thought to have turned the quiet, age-old interior trend into a viral TikTok hit. ‘What separates it from other design styles is that these homes look cosy and lived in. So, obviously there’s books, but the difference is that these aren’t display books, these are books that have actually been curated and read.’ What else?

@houseofhive Bookshelf Wealth, what it is and how to achieve it #greenscreen #bookshelfwealth #interiordesign #designtok #2024designtrends ♬ original sound – House of Hive Design Co

Art

‘Art is of the utmost importance,’ Kailee adds. ‘But it’s not displayed traditionally. It’s hung in front of bookcases, displayed on the floor, literally overlapping each other, definitely not hung in a straight line, and is fully disregarding the bounds of the wall moulding.’

Period Features

‘In these homes, historic elements are preserved,’ says Kailee. ‘Whether that means keeping your stained glass windows, embracing traditional wood moulding, and of course just keeping the character of the home.’

Book Nooks

‘Bookshelf wealth has a major emphasis on cosy seating areas, especially niches below a window,’ says Kailee.

Pattern Clashing

The mixing of patterns and colours is not only accepted, but it’s a must,’ says Kailee. ‘There should be patterns in the form of wallpaper, pattern and colour incorporated into stair runners, and of course in furniture.’

What’s The Controversy?

A few snide articles and TikTok videos are circling, questioning why we need to name and promote an age-old trend: a lovely, lived-in looking home. As Times Property writes on Instagram, ‘The newfangled way to describe the comfortable, lived-in appearance of a book lover’s home is “bookshelf wealth”. Who knew we needed a neologism for somewhat cluttered cosiness and tips on how to get the look? A Californian zillennial, that’s who,’ referring to Kailee Blalock.

‘Bookshelf wealth is maybe the saddest, most pathetic trend I have ever heard,’ says Marissa at The Home Narrative on TikTok. ‘This is crazy to me – that we have to create a trend in order to make people do this. To actually read a book, to actually go places and purchase things as a memory of travelling, exploring, fulfilling your life? It’s just baffling to me that we actually need that. We need a name for something to encourage people to live a fulfilled life. It’s just a bit mind-boggling to me.’

But is it so mind-boggling when minimalism has ruled the day for so long? Granted, bookshelf wealth is another example of TikTok giving a quirky name to something many people already do without thinking about it – think rat snacking, bed rotting and girl mossing. But why does that have to be a problem? All trends are made up anyway, so why not let people enjoy nice things?

That said, there is a valid criticism that, in being a ‘trend’, bookshelf wealth contradicts itself. It’s an aesthetic that takes years to develop through slowly acquired and deeply beloved trinkets, but the danger of a viral craze is that people will go out and buy lots of new items in an attempt to emulate the trend. ‘Homestyle and home decor is something that happens over time,’ reassures Keila on TikTok. ‘This is a style with books that you actually read and art that you actually hang, so it’s basically just saying that over time, you collect these pieces that mean something to you that you love and care about, and you put it in the spaces in your home and over time it becomes this style. But I think what’s important to understand is that bookshelf wealth, or any other kind of aesthetic on here that people share, is basically just cosplaying the lived-in experience of people over time.

‘It takes time to make a space your own,’ Keila says. ‘Just forget about the whole trying to name what the style and aesthetic is. It’ll come together as you grow into your spaces, and as you grow into yourself, too.’

Get The Look

Every house is different, as is every life – so you can’t collect a list of certain objects to achieve the bookshelf wealth aesthetic. However, here are some items we covet encapsulating the idea…

A leather rug

Bookshelf Wealth Inspiration

 

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