Neale Whitaker: Adds some soul to your space
ADD SOME SOUL TO YOUR SPACE WITH A LOVINGLY CURATED BOOKSHELF
Somebody once told me that “a room without books is like a face without eyes”. It seemed both profound and uncannily accurate. Over the years, I’ve realised that what I heard was actually a corruption of Cicero (the Roman orator, you know the one), who said “a room without books is like a body without a soul”. But whether you opt for Cicero or the misquote, the sentiment is the same. Books, like art, add personality and soul to a home. Old Cic was totally on the money.
I’ve lived in more homes over the years than I can remember. Furniture has come and gone, but my books have remained a constant. Sure there’s been the odd cull, but the majority of books on my shelves have been with me across two continents and half a lifetime. They tell the story of my life. Travel guides; novels read, re-read and read again; a whole shelf devoted to the Dalai Lama (a story for another time) and another to India; treasured cookbooks from my days as a food magazine editor.And while I might struggle to find this morning’s taxi receipt, I can always put my finger on each and every one of my books.
Fortunately, the design world agrees with me on books. There are some superb bookshelves out there at the moment, whether you go for freestanding or wall-mounted. Modular shelving, such as mine from UK-based brand Vitsoe (vitsoe.com), seems particularly on point. And not surprisingly, those no-nonsense Scandinavians do it best. Check out the String System (greatdanefurniture.com), Menu’s Stick System (designmode.com. au) or Hay’s Woody system (hayshop.com.au). And IKEA’s Svalnäs wallmounted shelving is a good-looking and affordable option (ikea.com/au).
A word to the wise, bookwise: don’t be tempted to go out and buy secondhand books in bulk, just to fill a space. Your books won’t tell a story unless it’s
yours. Let your collection grow slowly, organically and authentically. Some people love to colour code their books and if that’s your thing, then go for it. Personally I prefer to group books according to subject matter. Novels, guides, reference books and so on. Coffee table books look good stacked vertically and horizontally (put your least favourites at the bottom), but never by size.And allow for some negative space – the odd gap is like punctuation for busy shelves. Then sit back and let your books do the talking because, believe me, they will. Neale Whitaker is editor-at-large of Vogue Living.