Cultured and Crafted
CONJURING SPACES TO HOUSE YOUR BELOVED BOOKS
Conjuring spaces to house your beloved books
Whether you’re a casual reader or a commensurate bibliophile, Damian Thompson’s book Books Make a Home is a practical read for anyone trying to create an organizational system at home. Life is filled with reading materials, and deciding how to store all the books, papers, magazines and leaflets you acquire can become quite the conundrum. “All this getting and never-letting-go provides us with challenges of storage and display, whether we live in a modern urban loft, a Victorian semi or a Georgian villa,” Thompson writes. So when designing your home, it is important to not shove books away as clutter, but to display them as the gems of learning and the interpersonal exploration they are.
DON’T LET DETAILS BE THE DICKENS
One of the most important aspects to furnishing your home with books is to consider the details, but don’t stress about them. Thompson quotes Russian-american novelist Vladmir Nabkov, who wrote: “In reading one should notice and fondle details.” Thompson goes on to say, “The same applies to little tableaux that can be created on coffee tables, side chairs and cabinets.” Whether it’s your children’s
bedroom, a bathroom or your kitchen, a well-organized space will frame your beloved books and balance your home with a “mixture of gravity and friction.” Since “reports of the death of the book have been greatly exaggerated,” Thompson provides practical tips on how to create spaces that are not only resting places for reading, but also adventurous and engaging spaces for the entire family.
Thompson not only explains how to keep and maintain the elements of a large or small personal library, but also how to deal with an overabundance of books when space is limited. “People who live in a house that’s 19th-century or older may well have a fireplace and a chimneybreast in their living room,” Thompson writes. Take advantage of the spaces and shelving you already have in your own Victorian-style home. When arranging your overflow of living room books as standout décor, “a single ‘skyscraper’ of 30 or more books in the corner creates a powerful vertical accent among beds, low coffee tables and sprawling sofas, but they should be arranged in strictly diminishing order of size for added stability.” In addition to arranging according to your own personal desires (size, color, alphabetical titles, publishing date, etc.), a statement corner stack of books or magazines can always act as a wonderful piece of design.
Keeping your books fresh and placing them in well-intentioned spaces not only will make your home feel smart, but it will also make it feel like home.
When designing your home, it is important to not shove books away as clutter, but to display them as the gems of learning and the interpersonal exploration they are.
THE LION, THE WITCH AND YOUR WARDROBE
When visiting a hotel, many people notice the reading materials in their room. One way of recreating this experience in your own guest room is to corral a small collection of books for visitors. “Most people who find a custom-designed library by their bedside will be bowled over by their hosts’ thoughtfulness,” Thompson writes. It not only provides rest to your visitors’ eyes from their smartphones and tablet screens, but also makes their space feel more like a home.
Some of the other ways you can store an overflow of books is to arrange them underneath a staircase. “The space underneath a staircase makes the ideal spot for a built-in ziggurat-style shelving unit—either filling the whole space, or as one section of a compact home office,” Thompson writes. If you’re wondering where to put the books you never read, or may not want to revisit, arrange them in your bathroom. Thompson gives readers the tips and tricks on how to display and set out those books: “If you box in the cistern with attractive tongue-and-groove paneling, say, you create a ready-made shelf ideal for housing all those ephemeral gift books that desperate people suddenly find themselves buying just before Christmas.” Placing these books in the bathroom on vacant shelving will ensure that these books are still read and cared for, and also provides visitors with casual reading material.
SHAKESPEARE IS SEXY
“‘Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.’ When the Congregationalist preacher Henry Ward Beecher wrote these words in the mid-19th century, most educated homes of the middling sort possessed a small library of somberly bound volumes neatly corralled into a parlor, study or alcove.” This idea still proves true throughout the rise of information access and expectations of being or becoming a well-read person. John Waters, an American film director best known for his horror films, once said, “If you go home with someone and they don’t have books, don’t [sleep with] them.” Whether you possess a burgeoning, first-editions collection of leather-bound books, or have a few contemporary American paperbacks you want to display, the ways you store your books will affect the ambiance of your home.
To make your Victorian home feel like a well-rounded, high-class and cultured space, it is imperative to maintain and care for your reading materials. Thompson writes, “As the philosopher Alain de Botton has argued: ‘We should stand to swap a few of our swiftly disintegrating paperbacks for volumes that proclaim, through the weight and heft of their materials, the grace of their typography and the beauty of their illustrations, our desire for their contents to assume a permanent place in our hearts.’” Keeping your books fresh and placing them in well-intentioned spaces not only will make your home feel smart, but it will also make it feel like home.
To make your Victorian home feel like a well-rounded, high-class and cultured space, it is imperative to maintain and care for your reading materials.
Above. Don't limit the height of your bookshelves. Simply add a sliding ladder, so readers can reach the tome of their choice. below. Handmade or vintage bookshelves add a bit of history to your library, as they do in this lovely room.
Books Make a Home by Damian Thompson, published by Ryland Peters & Small, © 2011; rylandpeters.com.