The glossy ripe red wall behind the shelves livens up the display and makes it a focal point in this all white room.

Dear Debbie;

We are big readers and our bookshelves are overflowing. We are taking this down time to edit the piles and would like to create a more visually attractive display. Where would you start? Thanks.
— Robert

Dear Robert;

I am sure you are finding it difficult to decide what to keep, which books are special to you and those that perhaps you can part with. Start by sorting books into separate piles and think about who would be happy to have those that you are ready to give up. There are many places that would love to receive your gently read tomes including hospitals, schools, libraries and used bookstores. Separate them into categories and box them up. Next, tackle what you are keeping; personal preference here, by author, genre, non-fiction, size etc.

How you decorate your bookshelves should relate to the room. Before you reload your shelves, why not freshen them up with a coat of paint? Or paint the wall behind the shelves as shown here. This all white living room is infused with energy and spirit with touches of red on cushions and drapes and featuring one bright red wall that backs the shelves. Bright primary colours suit a child’s room. For a den or quiet reading space nature’s palette of greens will underscore the tranquil mood.

Lighten the heavy book load by interspersing some personal objects. A few framed photos, a group of noteworthy items you have collected and small plants are attractive and stimulating additions. Try not to overcrowd the shelves; build more if you need the space. Aim for a display that captures your imagination as much as the books that you love to read. This is a wonderful place to bring out your unique character.

Dear Debbie;

Have you got any suggestions for separating an open space? We’d like to use bookshelves but don’t want them too high. One of our walls is slanted, which makes furniture placement tricky. Help please.
— Veronica

Dear Veronica;

A tall bookshelf in the middle of your room would look unwieldy and could even be dangerous if it wasn’t properly secured and balanced. And with that sloping ceiling it’s best not to break up the room’s space with too many differing site lines. However, waist-high shelving units would be fine. You could stack them back to back so that each room has a particular view. If you are looking for a break between the sitting room and dining area, then place books and magazines about cooking and travel facing the eating area. The shelves facing the living space can be for your favourite reading books and games.

Another option is to choose a dual-purpose piece of furniture that serves as a low partition. I have seen a custom piece where one side is a wooden bench backed by a waist-high bookshelf. It can be placed in two ways. The bench side could face the living area and offer extra seating. Or turn it around so that the bench can be part of the dining table seating. Place a reading lamp or a row of candles along the top of the bookshelf depending on its position. It makes a welcome surface for serving dinner.