Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Neale Whi­taker is ed­i­tor-at-large of Vogue Liv­ing.

A book­shelf can add soul to your space, says Neale Whi­taker.

Some­body once told me that “a room without books is like a face without eyes”. It seemed both pro­found and un­can­nily ac­cu­rate. Over the years, I’ve re­alised that what I heard was ac­tu­ally a cor­rup­tion of Cicero (the Ro­man or­a­tor, you know the one), who said “a room without books is like a body without a soul”. But whether you opt for Cicero or the mis­quote, the sen­ti­ment is the same. Books, like art, add per­son­al­ity and soul to a home. Old Cic was to­tally on the money.

I’ve lived in more homes over the years than I can re­mem­ber. Furniture has come and gone, but my books have re­mained a con­stant. Sure there’s been the odd cull, but the ma­jor­ity of books on my shelves have been with me across two con­ti­nents and half a life­time. They tell the story of my life. Travel guides; nov­els read, re-read and read again; a whole shelf de­voted to the Dalai Lama (a story for an­other time) and an­other to In­dia; trea­sured cook­books from my days as a food magazine ed­i­tor. And while I might strug­gle to find this morn­ing’s taxi re­ceipt, I can al­ways put my fin­ger on each and ev­ery one of my books.

For­tu­nately, the de­sign world agrees with me on books. There are some su­perb book­shelves out there at the mo­ment, whether you go for free­stand­ing or wall-mounted. Mo­du­lar shelv­ing, such as mine from Uk-based brand Vit­soe (vit­, seems par­tic­u­larly on point. And not sur­pris­ingly, those no-non­sense Scan­di­na­vians do it best. Check out the String Sys­tem (great­dane­fur­ni­, Menu’s Stick Sys­tem (de­sign­ au) or Hay’s Woody sys­tem (hayshop. And IKEA’S Sval­näs wall­mounted shelv­ing is a good-look­ing and af­ford­able op­tion (

A word to the wise, book­wise: don’t be tempted to go out and buy sec­ond­hand books in bulk, just to fill a space. Your books won’t tell a story un­less it’s yours. Let your col­lec­tion grow slowly, or­gan­i­cally and au­then­ti­cally. Some peo­ple love to colour code their books and if that’s your thing, then go for it. Per­son­ally I pre­fer to group books ac­cord­ing to sub­ject mat­ter. Nov­els, guides, ref­er­ence books and so on. Cof­fee table books look good stacked ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally (put your least favourites at the bot­tom), but never by size. And al­low for some neg­a­tive space – the odd gap is like punc­tu­a­tion for busy shelves. Then sit back and let your books do the talk­ing be­cause, be­lieve me, they will.

BOOK CLUB (clock­wise from top) Colour code your books or fol­low Neale’s ad­vice and ar­range them ac­cord­ing to type; Great Dane’s String Sys­tem; Menu’s Stick Sys­tem.

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