3 Things You Should Always Do to Your Bookshelves Before an Open House

published Aug 21, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Tessa Cooper

I feel sorry for the real estate agent who has to handle showing my apartment if we ever have an open house. Among my two big bookshelves and stacks of books around the house, I have more than a thousand books. Books can say a lot about the person who owns them, and when it comes to home showings, you generally want to get rid of identifying information about the people who live there. So, yeah — good luck, future stager. That being said, if you’re in the process of selling your home or moving, you’ve probably got most of your own books packed away.

Here’s what staging pros suggest you do with what’s left out.

Pare down your books.

First, reduce the amount of books on your shelves. Michelle Minch, a Los Angeles home stager at Moving Mountains Design, suggests limiting the books to five to 10 titles per three feet of shelving. “People often treat bookcases as exposed storage spaces,” Minch says. “There are way too many books and items stuffed into bookcases for them to look pretty when selling a home.”

So lighten the load on your shelves! You can stand the remaining books upright or lay them on their side in small piles — or do a combination of both depending on how it looks.

Rearrange the books.

Your next step is to move the books around on your shelf to look their best. Sabrina Cohen, a professional interior designer and stylist with HiiGuru, suggests organizing the books by color, “with the larger books below the resting eye and smaller books where the eye would naturally rest when looking at the bookshelf.” She’d then organize hers by theme as well, but that’s a matter of preference.

Minch takes a different route — she turns all the books so the spines aren’t showing. That allows the buyers to focus on the house and not the books in the bookshelf. If you want to leave the spines facing out, be mindful of which books you have on display.

“Remove all books with negative connotations like death, dying, murder, blood, illness, war, religion, and politics,” Minch says. “Any titles showing should be associated with love, success, positivity, or nostalgia.”

Dress up the shelves.

Once you’ve got all the books organized how you want them to be, add some flair to your shelves. “Focus on making a statement within the focal-point area so that it’s a nice talking point for an open house,” Cohen says. “Do this by incorporating decorative items such as potted plants to soften the look and stylish bookends if required, or add a creative vase or a unique sculpture.”

Remember to keep it simple, though. Use no more than three items — books, picture frames, plants, or objects — on the shelves.

“You always want to give buyers a sense that there is plenty of room for all their things,” Minch says.