I love decorating with vintage books.  They add so much texture and character to built-ins, cupboards, mantels, kitchens, and more.  I have collected vintage books for years now and thought I would take this chance to share 20+ fresh ideas for decorating with vintage books. 

Where to Buy Vintage Books for Decorating

There are so many places to buy vintage books, whether you just love collecting them or you want to use them for decor.

One of the best ways to find them is by buying vintage books online. You can explore my full guide to online vintage decor shopping or explore some of these booksellers:

  • AbeBooks: This shop offers a wide selection of rare, collectible, and vintage books from various booksellers.
  • Pretty Old Books: Offers a curated selection of vintage first editions, rare books, slipcased sets, holiday books, and highly collectible editions. Even better? You can shop this site by color, so it’s perfect for getting vintage books for decor!
  • ThriftBooks: This platform has more than 19 million titles available second-hand on their website, including vintage, first-edition, and modern books. If you want vintage books that look for decor but you can also read, this site is a great place to look.
  • Goodwill Books: Shop Goodwill’s collection of thrifted books online and find some really unique (and beautiful) old books for your decor.

My favorite way to buy vintage books for decor, however, is by exploring thrift shops, flea markets, consignment shops, antique stores, and more. You can also often find old books on Facebook Marketplace or at yard sales in your area.

I’ve found that there are much more affordable options when you buy vintage books locally compared to online, plus it’s easier to plan your decor when you’re buying the books in person.

 Here are a few of my favorite vintage books for decorating:

This post may contain affiliate links, which won’t change your price but will share some commission.

How to Decorate with Books

Before we discuss specific ideas for decorating with vintage books, let’s review a few basics for creating your own old book displays.

Pay attention to the colors

I love to look for vintage books in a variety of colors so that I have lots of decor options. I like to stack a few books of the same color or color family all together or create a color-coordinated shelf of books and decor. I also like to switch up the colors of my vintage books for various holidays and other seasons throughout the year. Red and green or red and white books, for example, can make beautiful Christmas decorations.

Use the pages

Don’t be afraid to decorate with the inside pages of a vintage book, too! You can display books opened to expose their pages or tear pages out and use them for folded paper art, wall art, paper garlands, and even placemats. The possibilities are virtually endless!

Bundle together

Decorating with vintage books works especially well when you use multiple books together. You can easily create really beautiful displays by bundling books together and tying them up with twine, ribbon, or another decorative string.

Vintage Books wrapped in Twine on Bookshelf with shoe molds

Learn how to stack books

When I first started decorating with vintage books, I spent a lot of time researching how to stack books for decor. It’s one of those things that seems like it should be simple, but it’s definitely an art! I typically like to stack books from largest to smallest in a pyramid-like shape. But it can also be really beautiful to arrange books with mixed heights and widths for a more casual look.

20+ Ideas for Decorating with Vintage Books

Pair Vintage Books with Candles

I realize old books and candles don’t necessarily sound like a great (or safe) combination, but they really are! Whether you’re using a stack of books as a stand for a candlestick or simply displaying vintage books alongside a favorite candle like I did on the shelf picture below, it’s easy to create some beautiful combinations.

10 Fun Ideas for Decorating with Vintage Books!

I love the touch of blue in these books!  And paired with the blue glass candlesticks and neutral colors, it really adds to that soft vintage charm.

Arrange Vintage Books On a Step Stool

Step ladder with vintage books, candle and more.

If you like farmhouse style, a simple step stool with old books, candles, and spindles along with a drop cloth look so fun in a corner, sunroom, porch, etc…

Display Vintage Books with Photo Bookends

Vintage books with picture frames as bookends.

Here are a few books with framed pictures as bookends! (My parents) 🙂 This is a really simple way to add some interest to a shelf for displaying photos.

Create a Monochromatic Bookshelf

While I love to use color in my decorating, there’s just something so beautiful about an all-white palette. In this example of decorating with vintage books, white books are paired with a white shelf, organic accents, and even an antique violin in my small home library. Learn more about using musical instruments as part of your decor.

A vintage white bookcase adorns the living space, showcasing a delicate violin elegantly suspended from its shelves.

You may enjoy the Best Vintage Finds for Winter Collections post.

Pair Books with Vintage Busts

Vintage books with boy and girl bust and a neutral basket.

I found these vintage busts at a local consignment shop, and they are so fun with the vintage books and a neutral basket.  I used to think busts were really creepy, but not anymore!  Ha…

I love the way this unique display came together, featuring a vintage bust, some neutral vintage books, and a vintage toy train. This is a lovely vignette for any time of year, but works especially well as vintage Christmas or neutral winter decor.

Vintage bust with vintage books on a vintage wooden train

Try a Vintage Book Valentine’s Day Display

Vintage black books with dried pale pink roses and burlap bow.

I love these black vintage books where I simply added a burlap bow and dried pale pink roses and placed them on our mantel for Valentine’s Day.  It added such a romantic feel and quickly became one of my favorite vintage Valentine’s Day decor ideas.

Using Vintage Books as Christmas Decor

I love to incorporate vintage books into my Christmas decor. I made this book tree years ago and featured it in one of my very first blog posts ever! It’s still one of my favorite vintage book decor ideas.

A thrifty decor idea for decorating a table during Christmas, featuring a Christmas tree made out of books.

I’ve also paired neutral, vintage books with knit ornaments in a bowl to unique Christmas decor for shelves. These books are all part of the same series, and I love the way they have similar coloring and are all the same height. They really catch the eye when they’re arranged together on a bookshelf.

How to Decorate Bookshelves for a Vintage Christmas

Use Vintage Books on Built-In Shelves

10 Fun Ideas for Decorating with Vintage Books!

I love the small vintage books, along with all my vintage flea market finds, decorated on the Built-Ins. Neutral colors with whites are so softening. Switching up the books I use is such an easy way to update these shelves with each season or holiday.

Pair Vintage Books with Printing Press Letters

Vintage books with basket on a shelf.

I found these printing press letters at an antique shop and love how they represent our state of Vermont (VT) and how the vintage books are green in color, also representing VT colors!

Use Vintage Books as Dining Room Decor

Vintage books in a hutch with all white pottery and vintage scale.

I love the idea of using vintage books in an old hutch in the dining room. These black and white book covers pair so beautifully with the simple white dishes and vintage scale already on these shelves.

Elevate Flowers with Vintage Books

Vintage books with tulips in a jar next to a chair.

Create height with stacks of vintage books. I got this little vintage stand while thrifting in Maine, and the vintage books look so cute with simple flowers on top!

Create Art with Old Books

10 Fun Ideas for Decorating with Vintage Books!

I recently discovered Allison Ginn on Instagram.  She folds and creates these amazing books.  She customizes the book the way you want it to!  You may check her work out at Fold Between the Lines.

Use Vintage Books to Bring Color to Your Home

While a lot of the ideas I’ve shared so far feature white or neutral vintage book covers, adding old books into your design plans is also a great way to easily add color (and make it easy to change with the season).

In the image below, I dressed up a bookcase for winter with a fun pop of bright blue books from The Hardy Boys series.

Vintage blue Hardy Boys books sit on a bookself

Using vintage magazines is another great way to add color to a table or shelf. In the image below, I bundled up stacks of old magazines (found during a thrifting trip in Maine) with twine for a colorful, rustic look. These particular colors would be a really beautiful combination for winter decor or even unique Christmas decor, but they can also work year-round!

Antiquing, 6 Thrifty Finds, and a Lobster Biscuit

One of my favorite ways to shop for vintage books online or in person is to look by color. If you shop online, many stores let you filter out results based on the color of the cover. If you’re shopping locally at a thrift store or second-hand sale, then look for bold colors that stand out.

This vintage copy of The Joy of Cooking is the perfect example! See more in the Country Estate Sale Near Me This Weekend post.

Vintage Joy of Cooking Book

See more of this vintage cookbook displayed in the How to Use Rolling Pins as Bakers Pantry Door Handles post.

Create Seasonal Decor with Old Books

Built-Ins styled with vintage books, baskets, candles and more.

I love switching up these builtins with the season.  I don’t think they remain the same for more than a couple of weeks at a time! Changing the colors of the books I’m displaying and stacking them in different ways is such a simple strategy to change up the look of my space for each season (or whenever I feel like it!).

Shelves styled with vintage books.

Decorate with Vintage Books That Have Meaning

Because vintage books are old, they can hold many wonderful memories. I love when I get the chance to decorate with books that don’t just look pretty but also represent a really special person, place, or time in my life.

Decorating with my mother’s vintage book about braided rugs, for example, lets me have a piece of her in my home every day. 

Vintage Braided Rug Book

Similarly, I love when I get to incorporate this page from a vintage copy of The Vermonter magazine into my bookshelf decor. A treasure I found at Vintage Market Days Vermont.

The Vermonter vintage magazine on a vintage wooden clipboard

The simple green and white color scheme makes this piece really versatile. I love to put it on a vintage clipboard and display the whole thing on our built-in shelves.

A vintage clipboard with The Vermonter vintage magazine sits on a bookshelf

Old and new books can be used in so many beautiful ways.

Built-Ins with vintage books, baskets, candles and more.

I’m so glad you dropped by, and if you are new to my blog, welcome! I hope you enjoyed your visit with us here today at our Home in Vermont.

Be sure to also check out our Home in Coastal Maine, where we spend summers and weekends when we are craving a walk on the beach or a visit with old friends.

Decorating with Vintage Books 20 Ideas to Try

I’ve created the above custom pin just for this post!  Hearing from you makes my day; your comments mean so much to me! Please join me over on Instagram & Pinterest to see more!

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  1. So many great ideas, Ann! You know I love decorating with books too! That book Christmas tree is so fun!

  2. One last thing…I highly recommend going to the local library and checking to see if they have a bookshop….an absolute treasure trove of books.

  3. I loved this post. I volunteer at the local library and they receive hundreds of books a week so I have my choice of the most gorgeous vintage volumes of all kinds. I just bought another cabinet so spent the week arranging china, vintage books, all kinds of things in my seven different curios/cabinets. What fun I’ve had!! Thank you for all the wonderful ideas and inspiration.

    1. Eileen, boy does that sound amazing! I bet it looks beautiful, all my favorites too. Thanks so much for your suggestions!

  4. Chloe Crabtree says:

    You have shared so many wonderful ideas for decorating with vintage books! I have brand new bookshelves being built and after looking at them and the books that I have, I realize I am going to have to pick up a few new books to add to the shelves. Thanks for the great ideas!

    1. Awww thank you Chloe, that’s so nice of you to say. I hit up my local thrift shop again today for some more books, LOL. Have a great weekend and good luck with your new shelving!

  5. My favorite is the photos of your folks ❤️

    1. That’s so sweet of you thank you Pamela!

  6. Kimberly Westby says:

    Great ideas, i like to stack black books, with framed pictures of Edgar A. Poe, my silver candelara with black candles, and doilies for Halloween. Like a haunted look for my front parlour. It helps that the sofa is a Chesterfield look, with large gold antique framed mirrors and ‘ grany’ crystal.


    1. Thank you Kimberly, your displays sound amazing. Perfect for Halloween, I can picture it all now! Thanks for your note!