We all know we should be spending more time reading books. But I’m here to advocate for something a little simpler: owning books, period. When it comes to home decor, nothing levels up a room quicker or easier than a well-placed design book. Less finicky than hanging up art, less expensive than investing in furniture, the right vintage book on your coffee table or shelf communicates to your guests that your interests are wide, your knowledge runs deep, and your great taste extends beyond the fly fits they’ve seen you in.
The trick is finding the best books for you. You should start, of course, with determining the topics that speak most to you (or, at least, to your most aspirational self): maybe it’s Japanese interior design, maybe it’s ‘70s black-and-white photography, maybe it’s a deep-dive on exotic plants. Whatever you’re into, there’s almost certainly a beautiful book out there on the subject. For the art lovers among us, the right book might be your ticket to owning a piece of history you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. A Warhol screenprint, for instance, might be out of reach. But a nice copy of his 1967 Index Book—which includes a folded geodesic dome, a pop-up tomato paste can, a 7” Lou Reed record, a balloon, a sheet of stamps that look suspiciously like LSD tabs, 3D glasses, and plenty of excellent photos of Warhol’s social circle—will only set you back a few hundred dollars, if you know where to look.
Then, it all comes down to the details. Early editions are scarcer and often have much cooler cover art. Hardcover versions are generally more desirable and will hold up better over time. And while wear-and-tear (like creased pages, torn dust jackets, or inscriptions in the opening pages) normally reduces the value of a book, that type of patina might actually make it all the more visually interesting in the context of your home—and help you land a great deal on a truly impressive book. (Speaking of prices: because the value of vintage titles tend to vary wildly, it’s best to do some light research before you take the plunge. It’s not an exact science, but comparing current and already-sold listings on platforms like Abebooks and eBay to determine a reasonable price range for a book will certainly help.)
Just like finding the perfect vintage T-shirt, finding the right book for your home requires time, patience, and a bit of luck. Your best bet is to begin with a reliable indie bookseller that specialties in art, design, fashion, or whatever you’re after. (Mast Books, Arcana, and IDEA are all great places to start.) Once you get a better idea of what you enjoy, you can dive into eBay and maybe even score some steals. To help you get started, we’ve curated a dozen books—new and vintage alike—that will instantly elevate the vibe in any room.