To colour-sort books: yay or nay?

September 15, 2009

Autumn is well and truly here. It’s dismally dark outside – the London sky is dark grey and it’s pouring with rain. The office has that yellow, artificially-lit glow, that makes you feel as if you’ve gone back in time to school and it’s ‘wet play’. Since we’re stuck indoors – in my case, eating mushroom soup that looks and smells like sick – let’s cheer ourselves up and pass the time by addressing one of the oldest design dilemmas in the book. Every stylist’s nightmare. The one that rumbles on, day after day, nagging away, keeping me awake at night. Nevermind world peace, crime, society, the future, health, religion, or the meaning of LIFE. It’s whether or not to colour-sort my books that I fret about. (Of course).

books-sorted-by-colorThe internal debate runs thus: Do I sort my books into tidy blocks of colour, creating a pleasing visual display – an organised, stylish, veritable rainbow in my living room? But then, endure the inevitable moans and groans as the boyfriend claims to have spent days if not weeks searching for the Rough Guide to Paris, because he believed it to have a blue cover when in fact it was green all along… OR, do I store my books in a boring, untidy, visually pants, library-esque alphabetical A-Z order which looks awful, but means he can find any book, any time, in about five seconds flat, and, crucially, without having to ask me to find it for him?

colourcodedbooks1It’s a toughie. But I’m afraid aesthetics triumph over practicality any day for me. There’s something so lovely about books that are sorted by colour, even though I know it’s a bit pretentious and/or impractical in reality. But, once you’ve rearranged them into meticulous colour order (which takes the best part of a day if you’re a hoarder like me), the problems don’t stop. What order should the colours go in? Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain? This is all very well, but looks a bit like an actual rainbow…and where should all the black, brown, beige and white books go? Should I just arrange the colours randomly? Alphabetically? Sometimes It’s all too much. Sometimes there’s a fine line between stylish design and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

book shelf

Don’t even get me started on the patterned covers, which could be classified as any number of colours and ruin the whole system completely. (FYI, these pesky books are probably best banished to a cupboard in case they send you completely insane). And there’s nothing more annoying than noticing a fuchsia pink book in the lime green section, because SOMEBODY doesn’t ‘get’ the new system. SIGH. So, what do you think? To colour-sort or not to colour-sort? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please: ‘yay’, ‘nay’, or ‘get a life’. – Ellie

colour coded book piles

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5 Responses to “To colour-sort books: yay or nay?”

  1. Megan Says:

    I think colour code. It looks so much nicer and hey if you have enough time to sit down and read a book i’m sure you have enough time to find it first.

  2. amy Says:

    I love the look of it, I’ve always got a good memories of covers anyway! Also a good reason to buy even more books (not good if you start buying them simply to coordinate though!)


  3. It’s a yay from me… mainly because I already do it. However it tends not to look as good as these pics as I’m always taking books out and not putting them back where they were. Never mind!

  4. Hum3 Says:

    Try ordering by publisher – see how well the ‘house style’ hangs together

  5. Clare Says:

    I work in a library and, although it goes against the laws of God and man, one day I’m gonna flip and sort the entire library this way! Thanks for sharing!


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