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Colour co-ordinated books:
never thought I would

It's been a productive bank holiday. Time at home to hang around at home, tidying, sorting and making things look pretty. Last weekend I finally painted the shelves I had built in my hall over two years ago. When it came to filling them with books, I was inspired by a book that recently arrived through my door...

At first glance, Books Make a Home, by Damian Thompson (Ryland Peters & Small, see left) seemed a bit extra. A whole book about, well, books, and how to display them... really?

But it's quite a nice book, in fact – with some inspiring ideas, such as using salvaged doors, halved, as shelves, making book 'blocks' (four towers of tomes, pushed together and positioned at 90-degree angles to show off the spines), and books used as a prop for a battered old wooden drawer to sit on top of, with colourful jewellery spilling out. However...

... there was one page that kept catching my eye (right): colour co-ordinated books were something other people, more disciplined and design purist than me did. But I kept flicking back to the page... and finally committed to the idea. It just looks so slick, it seemed worth the effort.

So over a couple of days, I went from this:

To this!

And it was HARD work. First, there's the issue of categorising your books. Elsewhere in the house, books are sorted – very loosely – by type. All those old literary theory textbooks from college that I might just need again (but let's skip over my hoarding issues for now) would be grouped together; books by the same author; vintage Penguins (actually, they'd still work in the orange section if they weren't happily living on some other shelves). But with colour co-ordination, you have to let go of all that, and it feels a bit wrong.

One nice surprise was that in mixing things up so radically, I re-discovered heaps of beloved books I'd forgotten I had (like the only other Iris Murdoch book I own, which I'm looking forward to reading for the first time, and the book about the French wind artist, ahem, Le Petomene (if you speak the language you'll understand his unusual instrument).

Sorting which colours went next to which was tricky. In the end I went for a rainbow theme at the top; moving from violets (and some gratuitous pinks) into greys, whites, off-whites and – for the bottom shelf – a row of neat, anchoring black.

Unusually, I have a very ancient light-switch on the side of the shelves (I got the electrician to move it there from the wall rather than put it on another wall when the shelves were built because I like it so much and wanted it to stand out). Now the wood is all freshly painted, it's come into its own – so I thought I'd decorate it with this lovely lead horse, below, that my friend Camilla gave me last week.

And books alone, I think, are dull. I always like to throw in some ornaments. The ones above are probably a bit more sophisticated than this one (though, admittedly, there is a twee, technicolour picture of a dog...). But I love my mini Run DMC!

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