The Best Place to Store Your Books Might Actually Be Your Fireplace

published Jun 28, 2021
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Credit: Annabel Joy

It was the 2005 film “Little Manhattan” that first made me consider the desirability of fireplaces in New York City apartments. In one scene, pre-teen city kids Rosemary and Gabe go on an apartment showing that boasts a WBF (a wood-burning fireplace), as a precocious Rosemary calls it. Ever since, I’ve dreamed of the day my own New York apartment might also have a fireplace — although, in my case, I’d prefer one that’s out of commission. 

In most apartments, space is everything, so it’s no surprise that clever city dwellers have turned non-working fireplaces into storage spaces. The beautiful architectural details draw the eye in, making a fireplace the perfect place to store items you wish to display. And given the shape and typically shallow space provided, fireplaces have become an ideal — and popular — place to store books.

While exploring Instagram recently, I found an impressive variety of ways people have arranged their books in fireplaces, offering plenty of design inspiration for those of us searching for non-traditional storage solutions. So if you happen to have a fireplace you don’t plan to use and also happen to be in the market for unique book storage, the photos below might be just the inspiration you’re looking for.

Create actual bookshelves… inside the fireplace

If you can find a bookshelf that fits within the confines of your fireplace or have the means to build a custom one, this is probably the most organized approach. This way, you can arrange your books just like you would with any bookshelf, and fetching your next read will be easy.

Employ stacks on stacks

Take advantage of the fireplace’s role as the focal point of a room by filling it with stacks of books. Then add more around the edges, giving the illusion of a bigger space. Since this fireplace is completely white, the colorful book covers and spines are particularly eye-catching, although you’d be able to achieve the same bold look with black, brick or stone.

Turn your pages out

Bibliophiles might find this technique controversial, and I get that. Stacking book pages out takes the functionality out of the bookshelf entirely, so if you’re an avid reader looking to store books you want regular access to, this might not be for you. But if the varied shades of neutral book pages strikes your fancy, this more abstract approach is one worth considering.