What do you get when you cross grandmillennial with dark academia and add a hint of quiet luxury? The answer is bookshelf wealth, and if that all made sense to you, congrats—you’re fluent in TikTok trends! Yes, “bookshelf wealth” is the latest design buzzword to take over our FYPs, and we’re here for it. Think Nancy Meyers-esque maximalism, all the antiques and built-ins filled to the brim with hardcover classics. But this style, as trendy as it is, is anything but new. Keep reading to learn where bookshelf wealth came from and how to embrace the aesthetic in your own home.
What Is Bookshelf Wealth?
“The bookshelf wealth aesthetic has been around for ages,” said interior designer Kailee Blalock, whose TikTok on the topic recently went viral (as in, 1.4 million views viral). So why the sudden craze to collect a lifetime’s worth of books? “People want to be able to articulate their unique design taste, and these microtrends provide a convenient label,” she explained. The comments section on Blalock’s post quickly blew up with TikTokers (including BookTokers, of course) who now had a way to describe their dream home. “It wasn’t until our video went viral that they had a definitive term for it,” she said.
What differentiates bookshelf wealth from other popular decor trends is that it’s arguably an anti-trend. It’s a lifestyle choice, not just a shopping haul. Brooklyn-based interior designer Taylor Migliazzo Simon explained that at its core, bookshelf wealth is about organically building a collection of books, art, and other meaningful belongings—emphasis on organically. “If you rush to buy a bunch of books or try to achieve an ‘aesthetic’ for the sake of a trend, it will come off as inauthentic,” she said. “What draws so many to this look is the natural charm of a home that’s cozy and lived-in, rather than cold and unused.”
How to Embrace the Bookshelf Wealth Aesthetic
You may be thinking, “I already have an inventory of books that could rival my local library’s.” But if you want to create the ultimate shelfie, study these tips from the experts. Let’s build your bookshelf wealth.
1. Mix, match, and make it a (little) messy
Life isn’t perfect, and our living spaces shouldn’t be either. In other words, your shelves should be just slightly disheveled. “What I love about this trend is that it’s all about steering away from those super neat and overly-polished interiors and embracing thoughtful, lived-in spaces,” said María Valdez, a Barcelona-based interior designer. She suggested playing with proportions and crafting vignettes with stacks of books. You don’t need a color-coordinated bookshelf straight out of a Pinterest board. A love and appreciation for literature, when it’s authentic, will do almost all of the work for you.
“The essence of bookshelf wealth lies in the beauty of imbalance and imperfection,” Blalock told The Everygirl. “Rather than keeping only one blanket out, layer the ones you have for a more eclectic feel. Hang your hats or purses up on the wall instead of tucking them in a closet. Shop for an assortment of frames in various sizes, finishes, and styles.” You get the idea. Mix and match your decor, play with patterns, and imbue signs of life into your living space.
2. Play up the cozy charm
Perhaps the biggest appeal of the bookshelf wealth aesthetic is its indisputable coziness—the kind of cozy that has you canceling any plans that require leaving the living room. Blalock explained one way to achieve this vibe is to maintain the character of your home and preserve its historic elements.
“Find the charm, and if you can’t find any, create your own,” advised New York City-based content creator Anna Page. If you live in an older home, Page recommended checking under the carpet or behind the drywall for any beautiful features like parquet floors or vintage wallpaper. But if you aren’t currently in a pre-war apartment or a century-old house, a little creativity goes a long way. “You’d be shocked at the difference walls make in a space,” Page said. “Add picture frame molding, paint a corner a sage green, or even try your hand at peel-and-stick wallpaper.”
The next step? Setting the mood with lighting. Migliazzo Simon recommended mounting picture lights above a built-in bookshelf “to give it that library look and feel.” And remember, there’s no such thing as too many floor and table lamps.
3. Decorate with meaningful items
Anyone can copy the latest social media trend. But cultivating your personal style takes time and a sense of individuality, which is what bookshelf wealth is all about. Each design expert we spoke with shared the same advice: Don’t buy something just to buy it. Be intentional and showcase the decor that’s sentimental to you, including items other than reading material. “Instead of only displaying books, consider adding unique pieces that hold a story, like a vintage vase or candle holders passed down by your grandma,” Valdez suggested. Inherited furniture or artwork you thrifted while traveling can also help complete the look throughout the room.
“With trends coming and going in interiors faster than anyone can keep up with, I hope that this ‘trend’ motivates people to slow down and build a home they love that is unique to them,” Migliazzo Simon said. We couldn’t agree more.