What is bookshelf wealth? Everything you need to know about the cozy design trend

We've got the lowdown from interior designers about what bookshelf wealth is and how you can get the look

Bookshelf wealth is one of our favorite design trends. Here is a living room with a wooden bookshelf with books on it and plants
(Image credit: Desser & Co)

If you're wondering what bookshelf wealth is, you're not alone. This style has seemed to come out of nowhere, but is one of the biggest design trends to come out of 2024 so far.

We've spoken with interior designers who have seen it emerging and clients clamoring to find out what exactly it is, where it's come from, and how you can get the look at how. Spoiler alert — it's actually easy and inexpensive to do, despite the name.

When it comes to interior design trends, it can be hard to tell which ones are here to stay and which ones will fade away. We're certain bookshelf wealth is here to stay though, as it's seriously timeless.

Bookshelf wealth

This style is primarily a living room trend, but it can work in other areas of the home. We've broken everything down into common questions, as well as putting together a gorgeous shopping edit at the end.

What is bookshelf wealth?

A living room with a wooden bookshelf with books on it and plants

(Image credit: Desser & Co)

First off, what exactly does this phrase mean when it comes to design?

“Bookshelf wealth is a metaphor for the idea books can be a source of wealth,” says Nancy Parrish, interior designer and founder of Nancy Parrish Interiors.

A picture of Nancy Parrish, a blonde woman in a black jumper in front of a living room with dark shelves and a blue wall
Nancy Parrish

Nancy Parrish Interiors is the brainchild of interior designer Nancy Parrish. She has a keen eye for detail and a commitment to creating spaces that exude both beauty and functionality, which includes using the bookshelf wealth trend.

She continues, “Books can provide knowledge, which can be used to improve one's life in other ways or as a means to escape.”

It’s not what the books are but what they represent which makes the shelves of worth.

“The trend is more about the meaning and value these books have for you,” says Kanika Khurana, principal interior designer and founder of Kanika Design.

A picture of Kanika Khurana, a woman wearing a black shirt in front of a wooden background
Kanika Khurana

Kanika Khurana is the principal interior designer and founder of Kanika Design, a full-service interior design firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She styles many different rooms, including living rooms which benefit from the bookshelf wealth trend.

She explains, “It’s a way of displaying your life story and interests through the books and other items you’ve collected over time, such as wall art prints, photos, souvenirs, and knick-knacks.”

One easy way to display these is with a versatile photo frame, such as this Unsimples Picture Frame on Amazon. Kanika adds it's also about showing your unique style and taste, as no two bookshelf wealth spaces will look alike.

Where did bookshelf wealth come from?

A wooden bookshelf with colorful books and a hanging plant next to it

(Image credit: @readswithrosie)

While displaying books on shelves obviously isn’t a new concept (after all, bookshelves are one of the things all small living rooms need), the design term ‘bookshelf wealth’ is now an official thing.

“Bookshelf wealth trend started as a TikTok trend, where users shared videos of their bookshelf wealth spaces, showing how they arranged their books and other objects in a creative and stylish way,” says Kanika.


♬ moments - Teesa

The trend soon became popular on other platforms, as more people became inspired to create their own bookshelf wealth spaces. This being said, it actually just hasn’t come out of nowhere.

Nancy explains, “Book clubs and travel clubs have brought more awareness especially in the past years, as reading has become the ‘wealth’ of learning.”

She adds travel has also become more precious, so displaying those curated items brings the remembrance of those special times.

Why interior designers love bookshelf wealth

A white living room with bookshelves with books, a coffee table, and an armchair

(Image credit: @thistle.harvest)

While TikTok has brought this trend to the forefront, it’s now a design choice many designers are working into their transformations.

“What I love about the bookshelf wealth trend is it's much more of a timeless decor investment than a fleeting viral trend, says Kathy Kuo, interior design expert and CEO of Kathy Kuo Home.

A picture of Kathy Kuo in a kitchen with a blue top on
Kathy Kuo

Kathy Kuo is an interior design expert and founder of Kathy Kuo Home, which is a premiere e-destination with a beautifully curated collection of luxury furniture and decor, which are perfect for getting the bookshelf wealth look.

She adds, “Artfully arranging and displaying your books on your shelves alongside keepsakes and meaningful decorative accents is a lovely way to infuse your style into a space, as well as simply storing your book collection on a practical level.”

When it comes to small space interior design trends for 2024, bringing personality in a big way is a key element we’re seeing everywhere.

How to decorate with bookshelf wealth

A living room with a wall of bookshelves, a couch and a coffee table

(Image credit: @gillian_roe_)

Fallen in love with bookshelf wealth? Same. Luckily, it’s super easy to do and is a brilliant way to make your small living room cozy.

“Start with the books you already have and if you're interested in expanding the aesthetic, use it as an opportunity to ask your friends what books they love — then gradually add to your shelf design as you expand your personal library,” Kathy suggests.

If your shelves are looking a little bare, you could always head to a thrift or second-hand furniture store like Goodwill and pick up some new books. Or, you could grab an aesthetic book collection, such as these JRR Tolkien Hardcovers on Amazon.

Along with books, you can also bring in beautiful finishing touches. Kanika explains, “Add artistic features such as paintings, prints, posters, sculptures, as well as indoor plants, candles, and clocks,” she says.

For those looking to bring a pop of color onto their shelves, we love this Katharina Puritscher Print from Desenio, which is seriously Parisian. 

One of our favorite cozy candles is this Paddywick John Steinbeck Candle, which our content editor Danielle Valente tried and fell in love with.

If you want to go down the greenery route, choosing an air-purifying plant like Walmart's Costa Farms Devil's Ivy will freshen up the space.

Nancy adds, “Both books and decor add an opportunity to bring color and vibrancy if you're hesitant to saturate the walls in color.”

This is especially useful for those who are renting and can’t add the best paint colors for small living rooms onto their walls.

Once you’ve fixed up your shelves, Nancy says to style around it cozy seating, such as a couch (we have this Mercer41 Loveseat from Wayfair on our wish list), where you can curl up with a book and a cup of tea.

Shop the bookshelf wealth edit

Want to get the look yourself? We've picked out some gorgeous buys to help you bring the bookshelf wealth trend into your home.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

Overall, bookshelf wealth is all about showcasing your own tastes in a big way. “The main goal is to create a visually appealing and harmonious arrangement showcasing your books and other items in a way you love,” Kanika finishes by saying.

If you’re looking for more bookish trends, dark academia is a chic choice for those who love a little bit of gothic style.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.