From classics to coffee table books, books tell the story of your life as well as their own. So why not celebrate your collection and showcase it with style, says Damian Thompson
These beautifully proportioned planks in a 1960s bungalow are a perfect match for the Eames armchair from about the same era. The white space brings out everything from books to works of art. For a similar shelving system, try finnishdesignshop.com
Whether you’re an avid reader with a thirst for novels, a cookbook collector, or a magazine junkie, chances are you’ve collected a wide variety of publications over the years. Storing them can be a challenge, especially when space is at a premium at home. The trick is to incorporate them into your interior style, either by hiding them or by showing them boldly and boldly. Here are a few hints and tips to get you started.
Try freestanding shelves
While these are traditionally wooden, modern freestanding shelving is often made of metal, which has the advantage of being both strong and lightweight. This makes it ideal for smaller spaces where you don’t want the shelves to look too bulky. Designers keep coming up with more and more bizarre concepts for the basic bookshelf. A forest of branching trees, a yellow tower that zigzags towards the ceiling, or a cluster of floating ‘clouds’ each containing a few books. In a minimalist interior, a honeycomb of white hexagons, a scrolling plate of metal or a rolling shelf of pink polypropylene make a statement.
Corridors, stairs and landings are the intermediate zones in the house. Often overlooked, ingenious shelves and the creation of reading nooks can turn these dead spaces into places worth lingering.
Perfect the art of stacking
An artfully placed skyscraper of books in the corner of a room provides a powerful vertical accent between beds, low coffee tables and sofas. For stability, they should be stacked in order of size, starting with the largest book first. Ideally, books should be turned in and out of this arrangement regularly so bindings don’t get crushed over time.
Large books that you rarely need to consult can make an eye-catching base for a glass tabletop or coffee table – and also serve as pedestals for speakers or telephones.
And when creating your stack, don’t forget to keep technical equipment and Ming vases out of the tip-over radius. Pets and toddlers may also want to be kept away.
In this room, the vibrant patterns of the carpet and chairs are anchored by the structured grid of the built-in wall unit. In interiors with high ceilings, you need to think about how to get to the top shelves
Be smart with bookends
By using bookends, you can transform narrow surfaces such as console tables, mantelpieces, or moderately wide window sills. These simple devices work by a mixture of gravity and friction – the larger and heavier the bookend, and the rougher the contact between it and the surface below, the stronger the support. You can earn bonus style points by using other heavy objects like paperweights, doorstops, or even typewriters as bookends – they’re great conversation starters, too.
Placing books behind glass doors diverts attention to the furniture around them. That’s not bad in a dining room. Try neptune.com for a similar rack
Maximize your niches
People who live in a 19th-century home or older may have a fireplace and bosom in their living room. The niches formed on either side are in fact a box with an open front and therefore an open invitation to build in some shelves for books. When determining the thickness of the shelves, consider the weight of your books and the fact that thin shelves may need extra support to prevent sagging.
Simple shelves supported left and right with wooden blocks screwed into the walls and painted the same color to blend in are a great option, or you can have floating shelves made, which hide all the fixtures and create a series of recesses that seem to grow organically from the wall.
It is good practice to leave about two-thirds of the wall space, both above and below the shelves, so that not all the volume of the niches is lost.
If space is limited, stack your belongings and think about the shapes and patterns they form. Here, personal paraphernalia enhance a pleasantly furnished art library
Show your covers
What other techniques are there to showcase the purely aesthetic qualities of your books? In some units it is possible to display them with the cover, not with the back facing out. This can also be done on ordinary planks to cut through an endless sea of spines; every dozen or so books you just turn a handful to face forward.
Keep the most noticeable jackets in the front – you’ll find that the books on both sides will support them. Just like in an art gallery, you can regularly ‘rotate’ the exhibits. Organizing by color provides a hit of pure pop art fun and the rainbow effect provides a beautiful focal point.
- This is an edited extract from Books Make A Home by Damian Thompson, to be published April 12 by Ryland, Peters & Small, price £35. To pre-order a copy for £29.75 through April 18, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937. Free UK shipping on orders over £20.
SHOP THE LOOK
Give your home library a makeover with these new ideas
Curated by Charlotte Page
Shelving, £72.99, wayfair.co.uk. Bookcase, £950, laredoute.co.uk
Shelf, £152, amara.com. Storage System, £451, amara.com
Lamp, £179, endclothing.com. Floor lamp with shelves, £323, madeindesign.co.uk
Bookmark, £21, wolfandbadger.com. Bookends for vases, £34.50, oliverbonas.com
Stool, £108.40, connox.co.uk. Bookends, £18, habitat.co.uk