Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Art of Designing with Books

As a designer and a bookwoman I am fascinated by the way people display and care for their books.  As an avid reader and book collector I have more than a 1,000 books in my home, so books and book related issues are always a part of my consciousness.  Over the past few years I've given some away to other readers so that I can, of course, buy more books.  It's an addiction, an obsession, a passion and it's wonderful. 

Book people like seeing their books.  It gives us a feeling of comfort, of warmth and a sense of being home and surrounded by old friends.   We tend to have books  in every room of the house as well as a home library.  If this is the case then you need to decide if you want them to appear as clutter or as decorative art. A wall of books can furnish a room and look like a work of art or it can be a disorganized nightmare.

Regardless of where books are in your home they should be kept our of  harms way.  There are three elements that can damage books: dust, sunlight and moisture. That's why you often find collectibles behind glass doors or wrapped in Mylar.  Another aspect that comes into play is how to estimate shelf size for books.  I prefer 24" wide shelves but as long as you don't go further than 40" you will be fine, but books are heavy so keep that in mind.    As a point of reference you can get about 10 hardback novels on one linear foot of shelf space, oversized hardbacks will yield less and paperbacks about 18 to a linear foot.   If you just want shelves for paperback and trade books only than a 6" to 8" shelf depth works, otherwise a 12" works better.  However, in a office I often  design   13" or  14" depth  shelves depending on the storage needs of the client.  Binders require deeper shelves.

The purpose and shape of every room will dictate how you can display your books in that oom.
 In a large room bookcases can ground the space and add warmth to the room. Bookcases are fabulous because they can store a great deal of books. If the room is too narrow for a bookcase then another option would be to build small, maybe 4", shelves to be used only to display books with fabulous bookcovers placing them with their fronts facing the room similar to placing plates on a plate shelf. Then paint the wall that's behind the shelves a richer color than the rest of the room.  There's all kinds of options but available space is the key.

 In a small room books can be artistically arranged  on an unused surface areas like a built out pony wall.  They can also be arranged on any extra side tables you may have in the room or you can stack them high enough to create their own  table and place a small art object on top.  I would be conscious of creating piles that look appealing, meaning maybe you want piles of the same size or of the same color.  Color is an interesting away to arrange books though not a very functional one.  But as an accent, arranging by color can add drama or jazz to the space because that is what color does.  Another option if you have limited wall space and want a book shelf than you may be able to incorporate bookshelves around the entry door of the room, the window in the room or around the closet door. 

Displaying books randomly around a room is much different than arranging them in a den or a nook dedicated to reading.  In a dedicated area you must decide  how you want to organize your books.  You need a system that best works for you whether it's author within subject or just by subject or by reading date.  Use whatever system works for you and understand that no system is perfect and that  you will still wander around wondering where that book is that you just had in your hand.  It happens.

Arranging books on a bookshelf is an artform.  Take time with this.  It's like hanging pictures on the walls.  Do you like the look of a straight row of books?  This works well in a traditional library.   Do you want to break up the row with pictures or art objects?  Do you want them arranged high to low or by author within subject only?  Do you prefer floating shelves randomly placed around the room?  However, you arrange them just make sure you can get to them.  This is fun but it does take a little time.  If you have collectibles then you may want to go with glass doors, Mylar covers or maybe a climate controlled room.  

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me via my contact page.. In our business we build allot of bookcases for rooms as well as build-ins for those nooks around fireplaces and other places in the room.

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