Decorating with Books: A Peek into a Book Lover’s Apartment

My mission with this blog is to showcase homes that genuinely reflect how we live, including the unique and creative ways people express themselves in their decor, such as Sean and Charlie’s love of decorating with books.

In fact, earlier today, a friend was asking me what I looked for when I feature homes on Hyppiä.

“Do they need to be really ‘done’, if you know what I mean? Polished?” she asked.

“Honestly, the less ‘done’ they are, the better,” I replied. “That’s when you get to see someone’s personality and character.”

A picture of books and how a couple is decorating with books

The reality is, we pick up things along the design journey that aren’t going to fall into this trendy bucket or that design rule. I want to celebrate the homes that go wild with colour or vintage prints or memorabilia from their favourite trips.

When I first got a glimpse into Sean & Charlie’s home, I felt like I was seeing exactly the type of home I love celebrating.

Their home is teeming with character, thanks in part to their love of decorating with books. Books are not only confined to the shelves but are also used as a design element throughout the space, adding pops of color and texture to various surfaces. I’m so excited to share a few shots with you of their space!

Can you both share a bit about who you are?

Sean: I work in a variety of roles. My main role is working in technology for a startup in San Francisco which, before COVID, required a significant amount of travel. I love travelling and seeing new places, picking up inspiration wherever I go, and bringing it back to Vancouver with me. I’m also a freelance writer, running my own website, Avocado Diaries, and a writer for Daily Hive.

Charlie: I work on a Digital Marketing team and also spend a lot of my downtime redesigning our apartment. I’m constantly looking for inspiration through books, art exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery and Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver, and online. 

How long have the two of you lived together? What was it like combining tastes or visions for the space?  

Sean: We’ve shared a space together for more than three years. It’s quite funny actually since we both have opposite tastes for design, with me being more of a minimalist, and Charlie being more of a maximalist. 

Charlie: When I first moved in with Sean, he owned a dining table, two chairs, a mattress and one art print (which I carried from Vancouver Special to his apartment). All of which I helped him pick out when he was apartment hunting, since up until that point he had been living in furnished apartments. He also had a couch on order from EQ3 that arrived a few months later. I brought the rest of the furniture when I moved in, which included some storage units, additional seating options, and art prints that I had collected over the years.

(Psst… they also love decorating with books!)

When I first moved in with Sean, he owned a dining table, two chairs, a mattress and one art print (which I carried from Vancouver Special to his apartment).

Sean: It took some getting used to all the additional furniture that Charlie brought into what was originally my space, since I was used to having more of a blank canvas as a home—somewhere I could practice yoga and meditation, read, breathe, and have plenty of space to move around in. We’ve since become more collaborative in our design choices, and I think there’s more of a healthy balance and thoughtfulness put into the objects we bring into our space now.

What do you think your home says about you?

Despite living in a heritage building as old as ours, with its high ceilings, drafty windows, and echoing walls, we’ve done our best to make the environment warm, comfortable, and welcoming.

Sean: Our home says a lot about us. It says we like a mix of old and new, expensive and inexpensive. It’s a showcase of our travels, where we’ve been and where we’d like to go. We hope it shows that everyone is welcome. We love animals, and have a beautiful black cat named St Vincent and a little shih tzu poodle named Tanto, both of whom we love very much. Despite living in a heritage building as old as ours, with its high ceilings, drafty windows, and echoing walls, we’ve done our best to make the environment warm, comfortable, and welcoming.”

The couple has an impressive collection of books, and they’ve found creative ways of decorating with books as decorative elements throughout their home, such as stacking them on coffee tables and bookshelves.

What are some of your favourite parts about your home?

Sean: We have quite a large storage room that Charlie converted into a library for me while I was travelling once. It’s my favourite place in the apartment. I love to curl up in there on my armchair with a blanket and dive into a new book. It’s also the most quiet place in the apartment, so it’s perfect if I need some downtime to work on an article or blog post.

Charlie: My favourite part of the apartment is the hallway off the front door. It houses the majority of my art prints that I have collected, and is a great place to go for inspiration and introspection.

If you could offer a piece of design advice to those who are struggling to create a space that feels warm & fun, what would that be?

Charlie: A lot of people furnish their apartments quickly in the city, often purchasing all their furniture from one place like IKEA or Structube, which is understandable since the pricing is affordable, especially if it’s someone’s first apartment. However, this leads to everyone’s apartments looking the same which can be pretty dull. 

I recommend taking your time instead, maybe purchasing some pieces from places like IKEA, stealing furniture from your parents, and then taking a look on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and at some of the second hand furniture stores along Main Street like The Sellution and Refind Home Furnishings

We’ve also acquired some great pieces of furniture for free by walking around the alleyways in our neighbourhood, usually around the end of the month when people are moving out.  

We have a lot of art hanging in our apartment. It’s been collected over the years from various art exhibitions that Sean and I have been to together. We typically purchase the print, a larger fitting frame, and have a custom mat made at Michael’s so that it looks like it’s been professionally framed, for a fraction of the price. 

Where are some of your favourite places to pick up decor & furniture?

Sean: Some of our go-to stores are EQ3, Rove Concepts, IKEA, Attic Treasures on Commercial Drive, and Indigo, which just keeps getting better since Nathan Williams took over as Chief Creative Officer (he was previously at Kinfolk). And obviously Facebook Marketplace

Charlie: …and the alleyways around Vancouver!

Thank you, Sean & Charlie, for letting me share this beautiful glimpse into your sacred space and how you incorporate your love of books into your home decor through creative techniques of decorating with books.

For more home tours and design inspiration, check out this colorful apartment tour with Jen Cook, Co-Founder of Otto Studio.

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