Books

Book lovers are furious about this controversial interiors trend

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Helen Booth
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The #backwardsbooks trend is growing in popularity on Instagram and Pinterest, and people really aren’t happy about it.

There are many things that make people angry on the internet – sexist advertising, Donald Trump, and pastry week on The Great British Bake Off, for example.

However, the latest controversy to incite a furious flurry of comments is perhaps a little more surprising. This time, the target of the internet’s collective ire is a shelf of books.

We’ll start at the beginning. 

Back in October, interiors website Apartment Therapy reposted an image from Dream Green DIY blogger Carrie Waller’s house tour to their Instagram feed.

In the caption, they added a ‘helpful’ tip: “Books don’t match your decor? Don’t fret. The incredibly easy solution? Flip them for a perfectly coordinated look.”

Within seconds, people were freaking out.

“This might actually be the dumbest decorating advice I’ve ever heard. Way to go AT,” wrote one commenter.

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything more impractical or ridiculous,” observed another.

“You monsters,” someone else chimed in.

When the popular design blog flagged up the fiery debate on their website, the heated conversation continued.

Many of the comments pointed out the impracticality of the suggestion. “How do you find your books?” Raged numerous readers. 

Others focused on why the books needed to be turned around in the first place: “Books always match the decor. Books ARE the decor.”

Apartment Therapy writer Tess Wilson observed: “our post garnered over 14,000 likes, it also received 49 how do you find your books, 41 dumbs, 38 thumbs-down emojis, 33 NOs, 29 stupids, 10 April Fool’s Day mentions, 7 is this a joke inquiries, 5 unfollows, 2 delete your accounts, 1 demand for a retraction (that one really made me laugh), 1 spot-on baleen whale comparison, and 1 absolutely perfect Kriss Kross reference.”

One reader summed up the general consensus by writing: “If the purpose of your books is to have matchy matchy decor, then you don’t deserve books.”

A post shared by Kate Arends (@witanddelight_) on

In December, Waller was drafted back in to defend her design choice and reveal all about the experience of having her home go viral ‘for the wrong reasons’.

“My place here today is to remind all of those outspoken, opinionated commenters that there are human beings […] behind those digital home photographs you might see while scrolling through Instagram or Facebook,” she wrote in the follow up article.

“Designers are people, too. Unconstructive criticism and harsh expletives are, quite simply, rude. Style is such a subjective thing, and, of course, we don’t need to agree on every particular execution of it, but let’s all try to rethink (and especially reword) our reactions to each person’s preference.”

A quick look at Pinterest is all it takes to see that this questionable advice is something of a wider trend. The offending images are listed under ‘tips for styling bookcases’ or ‘a smart idea that will eliminate the colourful mish-mash on your bookshelf’.

While Instagram has been slower to embrace the growing trend, there are still over 100 posts tagged #backwardsbooks.

In fairness, a few people have come up with vaguely practical reasons for displaying books this way. For example, Instagram user @frostbeardmpls suggests using the strategy for your TBR (to be read) shelf, picking your next book at random and only allowing yourself to return it to the shelf with spine facing out once you’ve finished it. If you intend to pass certain books on after you’ve read them, this could be done in reverse in order to help you quickly downsize your book collection at a later date.

Others have pointed out that storing books the wrong way round protects their spines from sun damage. We’re still not convinced.

However you feel about this trend, one thing is for sure – if you share your opinion on the internet, there’s sure to be someone who will argue with you about it. How’s that for a universal truth?

Main image: Christin Hume

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Helen Booth

Helen Booth is a London-based writer, digital editor and part-time maker who loves interiors, crafts and keeping tabs on trends. She also co-founded the weekly newsletter Lunch Hour Links.

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