Books and Their Shelves: A Love Affair
I have had a love of chock-full bookshelves since I was a little girl. My parents are Readers. Stacks of New Yorkers used to clutter the top of the old wood stove in our kitchen. When they built the house (coming up on 40 years ago now), my parents built in bookshelves going up all three levels of stairs.
My dad categorizes but doesn't alphabetize: cookbooks; books on Buddhism, Shinto-ism, Christianity, Judaism; Agatha Christie novels; how to raise poultry. My mom funds my Amazon Prime account, so I get all her purchase confirmations, inadvertently staying abreast of what she's reading: Barbara Brown Taylor, Mary Oliver. Even now, long after I quit my grad-school part-time job at the Seminary Coop Bookstore (sadly no longer located in the labyrinthine church basement where it used to be), they swing by Hyde Park any time they go to Chicago and stay for an hour or two browsing (and yes, buying).
Now, in my own house and studio, as piles of books and magazines accumulate on end tables and nightstands (and not just mine: my kids'!), file cabinets and the kitchen bar, I don't hurry to put them away.
Luckily, I'm a decorator in a college town. People have books - and not books they just bought for show. I love this about my clients.
This client needed warmth and a place for her books. Come on! This can't possibly count as a job! It's too fun. It's not fair. A few months and a great contractor later, this before:
Here's the Executive Summary of Things You Must Do to have great bookshelves.
- Read. You are not allowed to have fake books on your shelves. Sorry. But magazines make lovely stacks! Think of Dwell and National Geographic and the New Yorker. Beautiful covers, interesting reading. Whatever it is you love, a collection has to be authentic, or it will feel, well, inauthentic.
- Create intentional space for your reading material. Whether it's built-in or simply painting and wall-papering the back of an existing shelf. Museums worry about artifacts' display as much as they worry about the artifacts. When your kid does a science project, half the effort of the thing goes into the poster. Presentation matters.
- Arrange. We live in the glorious Age of Pinterest, kids. Spend five minutes (put a timer on or you'll get sucked in and forget to feed your offspring) and get yourself a good image you can use as a recipe for shelf staging. Alternatively, hire SYI. We are unashamed and maybe a bit pushy (but lovingly so) about staging bookshelves. A friend (mind you, a good friend) recently left me in her living room for a few minutes while she went to deal with children or pee or something, and I organized her little bookshelf. It looks great. She appreciated it (she said).
That's it! The moral: Display your books. Forget Kindles. And follow me on goodreads* so I can add your suggestions to this pile on my nightstand.
*Do you like my goodreads profile pic from, like, 1999?