The Night Circus Inspired Book Nook

A book nook designed to represent a ship made out of book pages floating on a sea of ink

I stumbled on the concept of book nooks about a year ago and I was smitten. They’re tiny scenes, about the size of a book, that are meant to nestle within your bookshelves. Sometimes people recreate scenes from their favorite books. There are a TON of Harry Potter book nooks out there. Sometime people just create little scenes-restaurants, bookshops, alleys. I always want to find ways to build out scenes from my favorite books to make them feel more real, so I decided my own book nook would be a recreation, not just an alley.

My favorite book of all time is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. It’s about two dueling magicians. The Circus, which is only open at night, is the arena for the duel. The competition is a show of skill, and the magicians continually try to one-up each other by creating different tent attractions. Each tent has a different theme and magical setting. One is a tree where people can leave wishes. One is a cloud jungle gym situation. One holds a table with lots of bottles on it, and each bottle contains a perfectly rendered scent memory. My favorite tent leads the visitor through the opening onto a ship made out of books. The ship is floating on a sea of ink. I think that is such a beautiful image, and I knew I wanted to use my book nook to memorialize it.

I started by making a box out of wood. I used 1″ thick boards, and cut them to roughly the dimensions of a hardcover book. The two sides of my book nook are 9″ x 6″. The opening is 4 1/2″ wide. It’s kind of wide for a book nook, but I wanted to make sure to have space for the ship and the waves.

Once I had my pieces cut, I spray painted them black, then used wood glue and clamps to attach one piece at a time. Once it was all glued together, I gave it another pass with the spray paint to cover any visible glue. This left me with a black box with an opening on the front.

A wood box with one side open is spray painted black to form the foundation of the book nook

Next I made my “ink” waves. I cut strips of a cereal box that were 5″ wide. My original thought was I would create little tabs on either side of each wave to help them fit into the box. I used an X-Acto knife to cut six wave pieces (they started as rectangles), ranging from 3 1/2″ tall down to 1″ tall. Then I cut waves and cutout shapes freehand to get them to look like waves.

Wave shapes cut out of cardboard for Erica's book nook

I used two different shades of black acrylic paint to make the waves look like ink. One was a higher quality, more saturated black. The second was a cheap craft paint that ended up looking like a very dark gray. I mixed some sparkly silver paint into it to try to get more shine. I alternated which paint I used for each layer of the waves.

Wave cutouts painted black for Erica's book nook

When you put all the layers in order with the shortest in front and the tallest in back, you get a cool ocean effect.

All the wave pieces of the book nook are assembled

Next I needed to make my ship. I tore a page out of a book I was planning on getting rid of and followed this tutorial for an origami boat. I used small rectangular and triangular bits of the book page, toothpicks, and thread to add sails. It’s mostly held together with clear tape.

A tiny ship made out of book pages

Lastly, I added a galaxy paint job across the top of the inside of the box. I used tiny pieces of aluminum foil for stars, and applied them with dots of Elmer’s glue and a toothpick.

A galaxy painting with shades of blue and red lines the ceiling of the book nook.  bits of aluminum foil make stars

Then I just needed to add the ship and the waves! I glued the ship to the tallest wave layer, then added the waves in front of it. I ended up not needing to create tabs on the waves because they stayed in place if I curved them to fit in the nook. That ended up creating a really cool effect that made it look like moonlight was hitting the waves.

The completed book nook rests amongst books on a white bookshelf

And that’s it! Thanks for following along with my little project. I’m so happy with how it turned out, and I’m happy to have a piece of The Night Circus on my shelf. Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet in book nook creation, I’m itching to make more. I think my next one is going to be a scene from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. There’s one part where the characters swim in a pool of starlight, and it sounds breathtaking. Stay tuned!

What scene would you create if you made your own book nook? I think they’re so magical-I’d love to see if you’ve made any of your own! Please tag us on social media, or drop us a comment below. Also, check out our email newsletters to get updates about new posts, and find out what I’ve been reading lately here.

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