Seeing some of my lovely books so beautifully displayed at the De La Warr pavilion recently really made me think about my collection in a new way.

These books had been sitting in boxes in my shed for years, if not unloved (never that!) maybe rather unappreciated.  They had arrived at Bexhill in odd boxes, much as they had been stored for years (although carefully filed according to age and series) – looking something like the jumble you might see on the car-boot field(though frankly, that would be a pretty cool car-boot find)

Plastic stacking drawers – efficient but meh

The curators at Bexhill are good at what they do.  Placing them into this white, custom-made shelving – covers facing outwards – is transforming. It’s as if the self-esteem of these same books suddenly receives an enormous boost.  Suddenly they face the world with quiet confidence, enjoying the unexpected, unaccustomed attention.  I watch the visitors walking up and down the long corridor of the book-lined gallery, drinking in the details and the memories, pointing and reminiscing. Suddenly, just as a result of artful display, my everyday boxes of books were cultural artifacts!

It has made me realise I really should do more to display my ‘real’ collection in a better way.  Of course if I had a living room the size of a gallery, this would not be hard to do.  Space is always going to be a major factor when you have a lot of books in a small house. Most will have to stay stored in drawers and on shelves, showing only their spine.  But now I want to take my ‘A-Team’ collection and make a bit more of them.

The ‘A Team’

Got a fairly small collection? Then these original table-top carousels are lovely ( I don’t know if you can still pick them up easily; I found them both cheaply on eBay a few years ago) but are no use when your collection grows in size.

 So I’ve started looking around at what other people do with their collections – large and small – and there’s some real inspiration out there.

Visiting the home of Caroline Alexander recently I saw her collection beautifully grouped around a doorway (with a portrait of her father Douglas Keen, looking  down approvingly).  What added to the visual impact was the way she had combined efficient spine-forward storage with occasional cover-facing – as they often do in libraries and book shops.  This works really well and it’s something I’d like to try.

Some people ‘colour-code’ their books on the shelf and, if you have enough of them, it can have a real impact.  

@sophiefielden’s shelves

The trouble is, I’d never be able to find anything this way – I want to be able to display them in terms of series if not chronology and that would work against a neat colour-scheme.

Here are some more shelves I’ve seen online: asymmetric shelves; glass cabinets; custom made for a snug-fit; shelves where only the smartest covers are displayed; shelves where spine-less, well-loved books are proudly intermingled …

(clockwise from left – From the collections of @geekisnewchic @muzzerdaftbat @hwarlow  @navyandbrown)

Have you found an interesting way of displaying books?