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How to Create a Rainbow Bookshelf

Our rainbow bookshelf is literally (get it? Lol!) one of the first things you see when you enter our house. Since we moved in 2 years ago, and hubs unpacked the books, I had turned the other cheek to the bookcase’s sad lack of organization. It just wasn’t as visually appealing as I would have liked. It’s so on-trend now to color-organize your books so I’ve been a little obsessed lately with color-blocking our rainbow bookshelf. It can be really beautiful.

Find more ideas and inspiration for creating your own rainbow bookcase on my Pinterest board. Our books aren’t nearly as vibrant as in these photos, but I was on board with the concept with our leather-bound collections and more.

However, I suspected the color ordering might be a bit unnerving if you don’t see it coming. The better half was golfing, so I seized the opportunity to get far enough along on “operation bookshelf” that he couldn’t object by the time he got home. Once I had removed ALL of the books, however, I realized I was at an impasse. These books were largely his and his mother’s collections and I KNEW they needed pruning – but I certainly wasn’t the one to do it. So… I waited patiently for his return and heard as I expected,

“How am I supposed to FIND anything?”

Well, there was no organization before, so at least now it would easier on the eye to skim through the titles. And it would be pretty. So we are doing it. Deal.

“Obviously you’ve never had a LIBRARIAN in your family.”

Um… I’ve met most of your family and never have I been told any of them are librarians…

Once the heckling and painful purge was complete and I successfully shooed him out of the room, I was able to start the reorganization with renewed vigor. Here are my tips I learned along the way to color blocking our shelves:

1. Start by removing ALL the books. As you remove them, stack them in like-color piles. Note that the book spine is not necessarily the same as its cover. You want to group by the color of the spine as that’s what will show. (Excuse the post-holiday background mess.)

preparing to color order books for a rainbow book shelf

2. Separate out obvious collections. If you have a boxed set of books, you want those to stay together. We have a set of old encyclopedias – those stayed together as one unit. We also had two vintage collections: Raggedy Ann and Andy and all the Albert Peyson Turhune books. Those stay together too. We also have a healthy collection of leather-bound books. Those are in a group as well.

3. Evaluate how many of each color or collection you have. You don’t need an exact count, but visually take note of how big each stack is. You’ll be making shelf decisions in a second so it’s good to have a feel for what you’re working with.

4. Decide how you’d like your colors to flow. Is it ROYGBIV? That was a little too cute for me. Since I was working with 2 bookcases that faced each other, I split mine up with cool colors and warm colors. One bookcase has black, red, orange, brown and yellow. The other bookcase has white, blue and green.

5. Next, stack in your collections. For us, it was the Raggedy Ann, Turhune, Harry Potter and Tolkien collections. Those treasures got priority placement. I followed it up by the beautiful leather books and started the process of grouping by color.

6. As you begin putting your books on the shelf examine their height. Place books of similar height next to each other. Do this for two reasons: one, it looks neater, and two, it will allow you to stack a stray book or collectible on top of them.

7. If you have a book (or books) that are too large to sit on the shelf upright, lay it on its side and stack it vertically with other similarly large volumes.

8. Use bookends to create separation from color to color.

9. Continue placing books on the shelf until you have everything in an order that makes you smile. Don’t be afraid to remove a whole chunk of color and switch it with another.

10. Fill in the empty areas. I was surprised to see that we had empty shelves when all the books were placed – which I quickly filled with crystal that was homeless and floating about our rooms. Then I added a few paddy-whacks that accented the spines nicely.

rainbow bookshelf

I was so happy with this when it was done, that I made myself a coffee and just sat in front of my rainbow of books for 30 minutes admiring the harmony of our (new) bookcases. It’s such a happy and thoughtful welcome into our home now. Try it at your house!

UPDATE: We moved into a new home since this was written, and I tackled my office bookshelf with the same fervor. The image you see above is the background you see in my videos shot from my desk. It makes me happy to see my color-blocked world behind me in Zoom calls!

Organizing can be fun but have you ever thought about building your own home? If yes, then you’ll love the New Build Checklist.


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