I think this image of colour-coded bookshelves is the bees’ knees from a visual perspective. But organisationally? Chaos! Unless you know the spine colour of each of your books, this is a recipe for losing them and sacrificing utility upon the altar of appearance. It also contravenes a key organisational principle, which is to keep like with like. The reasons for this principle are manifold: because it’s nonsensical to keep the same kind of item in multiple places if you reach for it often; because it helps create ‘mental order’, meaning that you can think of the type of thing you’re after and imemdiately know where it will be kept; and because grouping objects is an easy way to reduce random clutter.
And to me, organising geek, one of the joys of my bookshelves is that they are cross-referenced by genre *and* colour, meaning I have the double happiness of having my bookshelves make sense both conceptually and visually. Yes, mega-nerd!
However, there are some areas in which colour blocking can be both striking and useful. In kids’ storage for example, where objects are often brightly coloured, keeping colours grouped can help kids identify things quickly (and also know where to put them away again!), and you are also much less likely to want to store picture books by genre as you would be with your own (puppy books vs truck books anyone?). It can also help create some sense of visual order in an area in which chaos tends to (rightly!) be the order of the day!
Another excellent way to display by colour is when you are displaying coffee table books, whose main purpose is decorative, and other objects of beauty or sentiment.You’ll also notice that in these pictures I’ve used some examples of my fast-becoming-favourite-piece-of-furniture, the Expedit from Ikea. It’s a fantastic piece because it creates little cubbies which make homes within homes – but it also provides versatility by creating ‘free space’ within confined areas. The colour of the Expedit draws it all together into a visually cohesive whole and provides an overarching sense of visual structure.
Lesson? Use colour when you want to create a visual display, but not when you need to regularly use the items you’re displaying!