Monday, June 14, 2010

Hit The Books: Having and Displaying Them in Style

In My Book
In the 70s, there was no Google. If you wanted to know about something, you either asked your folks or you crack open a book. In the 70s, there was no Wii. If you're really bored at home you either go out and play or you crack open a book. In the 70s, there was no Nintendo DS. If you're on a long car trip, you either talked to your folks or you crack open a book. The possibilities weren't endless as they are today and I mostly chose the latter. Ever since I can remember, books were the one thing that truly held my fascination. I was quite a bookworm, and I on those days when I was not in school, I thought that there was nothing else I needed as long as I had some food and several good books to read. Whatever books I owned I read in their entirety. When I was six, my mother bought me a wonderful collection of an illustrated children's encyclopedia called, "Childcraft." It had 15 volumes in all, and I read them all, including the Parent's Guide. When I had exhausted that I moved on to our neighbor's Disney Encyclopedia, and their collection of Dr. Seuss books. I was allowed to check out several books at a time, or hang out in their family room and read. By 6th grade, I had read nearly all of the Nancy Drew Mysteries and had sampled a few juvenile romances. In high school I mostly stuck to the reading material for literature class, including Greek and Roman  mythology, read a few Jane Austens and suffered through epic poems like Beowulf. During college I discovered Sydney Sheldon and because of that went on a crime-mystery phase that lasted through my mid-twenties. 

Around that time I had my son, and if there ever was a person I knew who loved books more than I did it was him. It was fascinating to watch, the way he was just drawn to them. It was like food and water to him, and even as a baby, he was insatiable. We could go on for hours reading book after book, and he would not tire of them. Thus the books came into our home, slowly but surely. By the time he was five and I had my daughter, we were moving into another home, and while packing our things I realized we had more books than anything else. 

If I kept them all they would probably fit an entire wall. However, I have always weeded the shelves out to make room for new ones. The baby books are long gone, and so are the Sheldons, and the Danielle Steels. You get savvy and more discriminating after a while, and you come to know that the Paul Coelhos, Mitch Alboms and Toni Morrisons make a better collection. I make sure I have on standby a few classics like Austen, Thoreau, Whitman and Dostoyevsky, because like always having fresh fruit on the kitchen counter, a mother has to make sure of this, just in case one day the children decide to reach for them.
How To Keep (Most of your) Books in Style

If you have not discovered it yet, great books, like good food, are nice to have around. They make cool personal statements of taste (and intellect), can be really colorful, and take up a lot of space. Thus if you don't have much in the way of art or knick-knacks, books make great decorative items too. You want to keep and arrange them in a way that is attractive and accessible. The key words are balance, organization and visual interest.

The most interesting look is to stack a few books horizontally, then place a porcelain plate or small framed drawing on a stand on top of the books. Try to vertically fill the shelf, pulling the items and books forward toward the front edge of the shelf as you go. Always bear in mind that you need to be able to easily pull a book from the shelf when needed, yet, arrange them in a way that is visually appealing.

A zigzag approach also is effective when arranging shelves. Tracing the letter Z, place a large accessory at the upper far left position of the top shelf. Then place another large object on the opposite, or far right position on the next lower shelf. Beneath that shelf, place a dense object or stack of books in the far left position, until you have zigzagged your way down the shelves. Reverse the zigzag pattern on the adjoining or flanking, set of shelves. Lastly, fill in the Z-shape you have established with alternating stacks of visually dense accessories or stacks of horizontal and vertical books.

Making a full row of books on a shelf or several shelves is called the library look. This is also a great look. It's hard to beat the look of books lined up neatly. It creates a warm, inviting and cozy atmosphere. One feels compelled to sit down and read. Pull this look together by placing similar items together. Separate paperbacks from hard bound books. Put the largest and tallest books on the bottom shelves to anchor the bookcase. Vary the heights with the tallest books in the middle of the shelf and don't place tiny books next to tall books. Descend in gradual increments. Putting a row of encyclopedia books that are all one color and style on a bottom shelf is a great way to anchor the bookcase. It also brings a lot of unity with the repetition of the books. Place your most attractive books at eye level.

Leave some room between displays of books or other items. Small amounts of space give the eye room to breathe, and allow the beauty of your books and collectibles to shine. Introduce items other than books! Collectibles, small potted plants and framed photos add character and interest as well as texture and color.

Top: Kiva Shelf,
Bottom, l-r: Zig-Zag Modular Shelving, Rectangular Cutout Bookcase,, Elton Bookcase, Network Shelves,, Totem Stacking Bookcase,

Shelf Expression

These bookcases are design objects in themselves.

Book Links

Buy, borrow (or download). Here are links to the new top reads.

My next top picks out of this list are 'Eat, Pray, Love.' by Elizabeth Gilbert (so I can see the film soon to be released), 'Blink' by Malcolm Gladwell and 'The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' by Aimee Bender.

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