If you’ve ever prepped a home for sale, you’ve probably been advised to declutter and depersonalize so that prospective buyers can envision themselves living in your home. And while this advice continues to ring true, there is one caveat: your personal book collection. 

“A stack of books on a coffee table or bedside table adds just the right amount of warmth and comfort to the space,” says Kerry Whippee, owner of Shamrock Hill Design. “During a house showing, books can add personality and character.”

To find out what the experts recommend for curating and styling book displays ahead of an open house, I asked three professional home stagers for their go-to tips.

Avoid anything controversial or irreplaceable.

“One thing to keep in mind is that it’s important to keep the subject matter of the books relatively neutral in terms of taste and style,” says Whippee.

Similarly, Yvonne Laanstra, founder of Staging Calgary, cautions against displaying political, religious, and medical books, which can be polarizing amongst buyers, as well as anything that has sentimental value. “I once displayed a beautiful design book that was a personal gift to me in a show home. After I took the staging down, I realized that the book had disappeared,” she says. “Make sure, when you have a book collection out in the open, you are okay with people touching them, reading them, and moving them around.”

Scale down a large collection.

“Keep in mind that you are selling your home, not the books,” says Laanstra. Your book collection should complement the rest of the room, without stealing attention from the home itself and becoming a focal point.

In that same vein, Mei-Lin Young of Designs by Mei Selene recommends paring an extensive book collection down. “Always remember that less is more when staging your home,” she says. “Collections relating to photography, travel, and decor are ideal to display, but it must look organized and appealing to the eye.”

Create vignettes in your home office or library.

Young suggests stacking two to three books on a coffee table or bookshelf, topped with a candle, small plant, or another decorative object. 

Whippee adds that it’s a good idea to coordinate books by color and size. She also stresses the importance of placement. “Display books where they would naturally be. Put them in the home library or office, not the bathroom,” she says. “And when in doubt, reach out to your local home stager for expert advice.”