Buying a state-of-the-art record player and dusting off the records you’ve been keeping in the basement is just the beginning when it comes to curating a vinyl display in your home. First and foremost, proper vinyl record storage is important in terms of preserving your records. After all, one of the most exciting parts of record collecting is that these collections can be passed down, becoming a family tradition of sorts. Beyond preservation, putting thought into your vinyl storage allows you to showcase an artistic home decor piece. Vinyl—whether new or vintage—is a ready-made piece of art; it’s meant to be shown off. To learn how best to store and show off your record collection, we tapped Jeff Coates, in-house vinyl expert (and sales and marketing director) for Pro-Ject USA and Sumiko Analog. Here, Coates walks us through the ins and outs of vinyl record storage and displays.
Vinyl Record Storage to Protect Your Records
Protecting your records is a two-fold process: you have to preserve both the record jacket and the record itself. To keep the record jacket safe, avoid high-humidity. Exposing your records to humidity is the easiest way to destroy the jacket, deteriorating the protective fabric and quickly fading the jacket’s artwork. As for proper vinyl record storage, make sure to stand the records on edge.
“Don’t stack them flat, it can cause warping,” said Coates.
As for the records themselves, the most important care instruction is simple: don’t scratch it. The jacket is there to protect your records from getting scratched, so make sure to use the jacket whenever you’re not actively listening to the record. There’s no need to leave the record on the player and let it collect dust either.
“Make sure you’re careful handling your albums—keep your fingers on the edges of the record only, and avoid touching the playing surface,” Coates advised.
Caring for Your Records
Caring for your records starts the minute you purchase them. Start by “removing the record from the tight-fitting color printed sleeves they ship in,” Coates instructed. “The printed sleeves can easily come apart, leaving adhesive on your records and making them impossible to play.”
You may find that rather than arriving in a tight, colorful sleeve, the records will now arrive in plain white sleeves that are slightly less restrictive. You’ll still want to remove that when it arrives.
“We’re seeing a trend that many releases are starting to ship in plain white sleeves, which is much better—not as good as a full on anti-static sleeve, but a good start,” Coates said.
You also have to “remove the stock plastic wrap from the record sleeve. Over time, the plastic wrap shrinks, and in extreme cases can cause warping to the record inside. Collectors of sealed vinyl may wish to risk it, but I open mine,” he explained.
Designing a Space for Your Vinyl Record Collection
In terms of showing off your record collection, our first piece of advice is simple: don’t hesitate to lean in and let the vinyl influence the design of your space. Record jackets really are an authentic representation of music in your home. Whether the etched image of Bruce Springsteen or full-color photo of Chuck Berry standing over a juke box represents a music tradition passed down from your parents, or you’re just partial to the aesthetics The Strokes worked hard to hone, that album jacket is art that’s meant to be displayed.
“Design and record jackets go hand in hand, and like a beautiful, fully stocked bookshelf, a record collection can easily become a focal point for a room,” said Coates. “Just make sure that wherever you’re storing your records is out of direct sunlight, and away from radiators, fireplaces, or other heat-producing appliances.”
From there, you can go about selecting a record storage shelf. The two go-to storage units are a console or a bookshelf. Both allow for an ever-expanding record collection, but if you don’t want to commit a large amount of wall space to your collection, consider out-of-the-box ways to display some of your favorite records. You could consider framing a few over your record player for a cohesive gallery wall. Or if that’s a little too on the nose for your decor taste, consider whether you could include records in your bar cart setup, as part of your floating shelf display, or set prominently on a vertical Scandinavian-esque ladder desk.
“And make sure you have enough room to easily flip through your collection to find the record you’re looking for,” Coates reminded audiophiles. “A too-tightly-packed shelf is a sure-fire way to damage the record’s sleeves, and more importantly, makes it harder to enjoy the satisfying feeling of finding just the right album.”
How to Get Started
Now that you have the basics on proper vinyl record storage and a few ideas of how to best display your collection, it’s time to get started. We’d recommend first honing in on a listening area. Where are you going to enjoy your records? Build the space around the record player itself by first identifying a storage area. And remember, you don’t need to automatically opt for a console with the record player sitting neatly on top, and the records stored within the console. You might already have a minimalist table for your record player, and choose to store your records on a floating shelf directly above your record player and speakers. Listening to records and curating your collection is meant to be a relaxing endeavor, so slow down and enjoy the creative process that comes with storing and displaying them.
“I think the best advice for people coming to vinyl records for the first time (or coming back after a long time!) is to remember to have fun with it,” Coates concluded. “Records are a wonderful way to get involved with your favorite music, and as long as they’re stored properly, kept clean, and played on equipment in good mechanical condition, will give you a lifetime of musical enjoyment.”