The Allure of the Library

The Allure of the Library

“I just love books, they’re so decorative!” When Rosalind Russell said that in Auntie Mame, she was perfectly correct. Now don’t get on your high horse, of course books are much more than merely decorative but one must admit, besides their power to educate, entertain and otherwise enhance life, books certainly do warm up a room. The walls of a library are not just visually appealing; they are layered with meaning. Design with depth.

When books are collected and placed one-by-one on shelves, the private library becomes a sort of biography, one not written, but acquired like moss on a stone. Each book becomes an experience, a part of one’s unconscious, a layer of understanding. From the design perspective however, they fill a room with a richness that can’t quite be qualified in “decorator speak”, even by quips from Mame herself.

There are those designers who have a habit of covering books in matching paper (you know who you are). That’s just silly. Sure, it may create a chic surface, but it kind of misses the point, doesn’t it? Why strip each book of its own personality and presence? We’ve even heard of people organizing books by size or color (no comment!). Or there are always those who fill their empty shelves with “books by the yard” ~ publications purchased en mass as a sort of expensive wallpaper. Ugh, now why would anyone actually advertise his or her shallowness by doing something so shamelessly, er, shallow?

Photo: Art Gray

Photo: Art Gray

If you don’t have your own library, it’s never too late to start one. Used bookstores are treasure troves of out-of-print titles. Of course there are always great private libraries to visit for inspiration, such as the resplendent, and recently restored Morgan Library in New York. But most of us have more humble libraries. Pictured here are a few that we designed.

The key to an organized and attractive library is to group books by topic so when seeking a beloved passage, or a remembered image, or when doing research, one can step up to a bookcase, find the desired book and crack it open. It’s an absolutely ancient and extremely satisfying act. Sure we all love Google, but if you want to feel great, do it the old-fashioned way. Your IQ will ascend without even trying!

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