used books

Warning to bibliophiles and the literary purists: We are about to destroy a few books in the name of home decor. Woe unto us! But it is all for the greater good, and we have some projects that will knock your spectacles off.

You must admit that, no matter how much reading is a part of your life, there are probably a few titles sitting in the closet that haven’t seen the light of day in years.

While book donation is always an excellent option for helping those old tomes find a new home (there’s probably a local charity, library, shelter, or school that could use them), the cold winter months might give you an itch to craft while you’re stuck inside.

Sit back, grab a cup of tea, and check out our top five favorite ideas for repurposing both hardcover and paperback books.

1. Vintage Paper Vases

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but words can create a pretty picture, too,” writes Bethany Lyttle for Country Living, where we find our first project. “That’s what stylist Paul Lowe set out to celebrate when he determined to make artful use of books and letters that, too often, end up in the trash.”

While you can’t put water or flowers in these vases, they are lovely enough to hold their own in any stylish home. This simple Paper Vase craft by Country Living (it starts at slide 8) requires a book, a pencil, scissors, cardboard, hot glue, and some mad skills with a craft knife.

Start by creating an outline of a typical vase shape, then cut it into a book with the covers removed. You will finish with an “accordion” of paper that forms the rounded shape. It is a simple four-step process that might even have this novice crafter getting out the hot glue gun.

Following Country Living‘s example, try varying the size and shape of the vases you create for exciting arrangements and versatility.

2. Whimsical Wreath

Image courtesy of Lindsay /
Image courtesy of Lindsay /

Don’t panic: Yes, the holidays are over, and no, this wreath isn’t wintry in the slightest.

This beautiful project comes from the creative pages of the DIY home decor blog, Makely. The author was inspired to make her own, thrifty wreath design after seeing similar wreaths priced at $40 a pop at a city-wide garage sale.

“The vendor told me that she made them sitting in front of the television,” she writes. “That’s my kind of crafting.” That’s our kind of crafting, too!

For a change on the project, Lindsay recommends trying magazines or sheet music as well, which would look equally enchanting. Like the project above, simple items like a glue gun, foam wreath ring, and a bit of a craft paint make this project a snap.

Check out Lindsay’s Book Page Wreath tutorial, where you’ll find both written and video instructions.

3. Pretty Purse

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Because many of the projects in this article deal with the actual pages of a book, we thought it best to toss in an idea about how to reuse the covers as well. Brought to us again by the creative minds at Country Living, this book-cover purse tutorial is one of the best out there.

Ranking at more of an intermediate skill level, this craft will help you create a cute clutch in 11 steps or fewer (or more, if you’re this writer), according to writer Barbara McNamara, whose easy guide will have you carrying a new bag in no time.

We recommend having a specific book in mind before you purchase the handle kit and liner fabric. You want these items to coordinate through patterns or colors. Don’t forget to have your iron handy as well, to help the fabric lay straight as you cut and measure.

Also, larger, hardcover books will work better to provide space for all the various and sundries you’re bound to toss into this purse.

4. Literary Table Legs

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

Yes, you will need a tabletop for these legs. You need to find that separately; have fun picking the tabletop that accents your style. If that sounds daunting, before you dismiss the project, just consider how cool, cultured, and enlightened you will feel having a table built out of the written word.

This Make Table Legs Out of Books project requires the heavy machinery: drills, goggles, and steel rods are a few of the items you will need to build the foundation for your new table. The steel reinforces the pile of books that make each leg.

Instructables pro Jessyratfink writes that the number of hardcover books you need will be determined by how tall you want the table, and it’s best to have similar sizes throughout. This design will work for a coffee table, a desk, or a dining table.

“Once you know how tall you want them to be, try to get an average thickness on the books you’re considering and buy just a few more books than you’ll need,” she says. “Once they’re compressed you might find you need an extra book to help them line up!”

5. Super Secret Hideout

Image courtesy of How To Do Stuff/Aud1073cH
Image courtesy of How To Do Stuff/Aud1073cH

We saved the best for last. No matter if you are eight years old or 80, everyone needs a secret place to stash valuables, candy, data, childhood objects, and the like. The book hideout turns your library into a secret stash for valuables.

Hardback books work best in this scenario to provide support for your belongings and a rigid cutting surface.

Also, if you have in mind what you’d like to stash in the new hideout, take a moment to select a book that will fully accommodate these valuables. You won’t cut out all the pages in the book, so keep that in mind as well as you select books based on their thickness.

The How To Do Stuff tutorial gives step-by-step instructions that look relatively easy to follow — just make sure to allow time for various drying cycles throughout the project.

Editor’s note: Originally published on January 17, 2011, this article was updated in January 2019. Featured image courtesy of Pexels on Pixabay.