File this under unlikely design inspirations... I'm currently reading the book Pie Town Woman, which tells the story of Doris Caudill, an intrepid homesteader in 1940's New Mexico. This passage describes the inside of her dugout home: "Behind the dressing table is the foot-wide shelf that went the whole length of the dugout." (They placed their Montgomery Ward radio, the only one for miles around, on this shelf.)
As we I plan for storage space in our new apartment, this struck me as a unique way to solve our book, and maybe CD and LP storage needs, while providing a chance to display these things as the cool objects they are - install one long shelf that runs the perimeter of the living/dining room.
I've been unsuccessful in finding examples of this online (is "wraparound shelving" the right term?) and don't know what issues this might present given the different weights of the objects we'd like to place on the shelves. (Like: Is this really only a good idea for books, since 1500 CDs and 100s of LPs could get too heavy to be supported by a single wall shelf?) Would love some guidance, cautionary tales, or product suggestions!
Not knowing the shape of your living room, we can't say for sure if this good for you, but we certainly like the idea. While not many living rooms have single shelves around their rooms, many have ledges, extended window sills, and low bookcases that perform this function.
With a continuous, low shelf (say @ 30", which is table height), you will be creating a terrific display surface, but it won't be one you will want to have filled, clutttered or storing things that are not sightly. For example, if you do have a lot of CD's - which are not the best looking things in the world - we would recommend not one shelf around your room, but two. One of these would be just below the other and would be the place where you can store the less sightly things, but still get to them easily.
For good, affordable shelving, we recommend Elfa Solid Shelving from the Container Store and have also seen Ikea Lack Shelves used continuously to great effect, though they are not as strong.