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Photos: James River Media


Coffee table books are an excellent addition to your home décor. They provide knowledge and inspiration and enhance the overall aesthetic of your living space. These oversized, hard-covered books are designed for display and usually feature captivating photographs or illustrations accompanied by captions and small blocks of informational text. 

“Books are not made to furnish, but there’s nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.”
— Henry Ward Beecher, American clergyman

The popularity of coffee table books dates back to the late 1940s when the Sierra Club started publishing books to advocate for wilderness preservation. These books were large and heavy, showcasing environmental photographs by renowned artists such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter, complemented by writings from Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and other nature writers. So, you see, a longstanding relationship exists between appreciating nature and beautiful display books. 

Choosing books for display 
When selecting decorative books, you can infuse your personality into your home décor in a foolproof and enjoyable way. These books serve as chic objets d’art alongside your other living room furniture, and they also become treasured keepsakes you can share with friends and family. Choose books that align with your passions, whether you seek floral arrangement inspiration or dream of visiting Monet’s garden at Giverny. Consider your living space’s theme and color palette, and select books that complement your décor. Pay attention to the size and shape of the books to ensure they fit nicely on your coffee table without overwhelming the space. 

Displaying your collection 
Once you’ve curated your collection of coffee table books, it’s time to unleash your creativity and find unique ways to showcase them. Here are a few ideas to inspire you: 

  • Stacked and layered: Arrange books in a stack, placing larger ones at the bottom and gradually decreasing the size as you go up. Top the stack with an eye-catching decorative object like a small sculpture or a potted plant.
  • Color coordination: Create a visually striking arrangement by curating your books based on their color palette. Opt for monochromatic or complementary color schemes to achieve a cohesive and harmonious look.
  • Theme-based arrangements: Group books with similar themes together. For example, if you have a collection of books on summer gardens, place them alongside an arrangement of fresh hydrangeas or summery trinkets.
  • Artful piles: Create a dynamic display by stacking books or tilting them at different angles. This arrangement adds movement and visual interest.
  • Open and inviting: Select a few artful books with beautiful covers or stunning photographs and open them to a favorite page to showcase their beauty. This encourages guests to explore and engage with the books.

Recommendations for the garden-lover’s coffee table 
Here are a few perennial (pun intended) favorites:

  • Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations by Kenneth Druse
  • A Four-Season Southern Garden by Betty Montgomery and photographer Dick Carr 
  • The Art of Outdoor Living: Gardens for Entertaining Family and Friends by Scott Shrader
  • Inside Outside — A Sourcebook of Inspired Garden Rooms by Linda O’Keefe
  • Floret Farm’s A Year in Flowers: Designing Gorgeous Arrangements for Every Season by Erin Benzakein and photographer Chris Benzakein
  • The Flower Hunter: Seasonal Flowers Inspired by Nature and Gathered from the Garden by Lucy Hunter
  • The Layered Garden — Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage by David L. Culp
  • The Gardener’s Garden edited by Toby Musgrave, Andrea Jones and Madison Cox
  • The Private Gardens of England by Tania Compton and Claire Masset
  • The Flower Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo

No time or patience for shopping? Online sellers like Arjé Home, Booth & Williams and Juniper Books will curate a stack of color-coordinated books to suit your desired aesthetic. 

Maintaining and refreshing your collection 
To preserve the pristine look of your coffee table books, regularly dust them and carefully handle them. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or excessive humidity, as these can cause damage over time. Whether or not to remove a book’s dust jacket is a personal preference, with some choosing to protect them and others keeping them on for aesthetic or sentimental reasons.

Consider refreshing your collection periodically by swapping out a few books or adding new ones that reflect your evolving interests. This practice keeps your living space visually attractive, allows you to showcase different topics or artists and helps create an ambiance that changes with the seasons. For example, introduce vibrant florals, woven baskets and bright colors during spring and summer to evoke energy and freshness. As autumn approaches, opt for warm earth tones that complement cozy blankets and pillows on your sofa. Add holiday cheer during winter, incorporating festive ornaments, evergreen branches and candles. You can create an atmosphere that aligns with the year’s rhythms by accentuating your home with touches that resonate with each season.

Coffee table books offer a delightful blend of art, culture and personal expression, making them an excellent choice for elevating your home décor. With careful selection and creative display techniques, you can transform your coffee table into a captivating focal point that reflects your style and interests.

Experiment with different arrangements until you find the one most appealing to you!


Arranging stacks of oversized books on different coffee tables can be done in various ways to create an aesthetically pleasing display.


  • Place a single large book or a stack of related books in the center of the table and showcase a decorative object on top as a focal point.
  • Surround the central book with smaller stacks of books radiating outwards. 



  • Position a stack of books at one end of the table, leaving space for other decorative items.
  • Create smaller stacks of books along the curved edges of the table.
  • Add a decorative object or a small flower vase to balance the arrangement. 


  • Divide the table into quadrants by placing a larger stack of books at each corner.
  • Place a floral arrangement or an interesting vessel in the center of the table.
  • If you have more books, distribute them evenly between the quadrants.


  • Align a row of books along the longer side of the table, leaving space for other items.
  • Place a smaller stack of books or a decorative object at each end of the table.
  • If the table is wide enough, consider adding a second row of books behind the first row.

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