Saturday, August 08, 2009

books objectified

I'm a fan of the concept of books as objects. I like the way books feel and the way they look and the way they smell. I'm a sucker for Victorian books that are pretty for no good reason. (Say what you will about the Victorians, but they made some very pretty books.) That being said, I don't buy books just because they're pretty; I buy them because -- prepare to be astonished -- I want to read them. So I was strangely fascinated, and yet kind of shocked and appalled, by a post about decorating with books that I came across at an interior design blog.

I should explain that interior design is not exactly my thing. The closest I've come to "decorating" anything in my house in the three years I've lived here was to make some curtains for Peach's room, and even then I only did it because we were hoping to get her to sleep in longer by blocking the light from her window more effectively. Every wall on the inside of my house is beige, because that's what color it was when I moved in. I have not hung one single thing other than a clock on the walls -- no art, not even pictures of the kids. So it's unlikely that I would get much out of an interior decorating site; clearly I do not have the vision, as they say.

Anyway, the post started innocently enough, with a picture of a very tall built-in bookshelf with a step-ladder in front of it. The blogger comments that it's one of her favorite images of bookshelves. Fair enough; I like built-ins myself. Then there's an image from an interior designer/personal shopper named Phoebe Howard:At this point I'm starting to get a little suspicious. Is this a bookshelf, or a china hutch, or what? By the way, this item sells for about $14,000 and change for a pair of them. The website does not indicate whether it is possible to buy one of them for $7000.

Several other pictures followed, with the blogger continually referring to the books as "displays." This, for example, she described as a "color blocked book display" by Joe Nye:I still hadn't quite caught on. My response was, "Who organizes their books by color? And why would you put big glass vases like that in front of your books? You'd knock the vase over every time you tried to get a book out."

Then there was this image, which the blogger took from French Country Living magazine: She comments that the "randomness of the stacked books has a romantic quality to it," and that she likes the effect of "light neutral colored books mixed with other vintage treasures." OK, but I could not have a "display" like that in my house -- it would drive me slowly but surely insane, until one day I would break down and unstack it and derandomize it and organize it by genre and then by author's last name, alphabetically.

I thought the concept of books chosen and displayed solely for their aesthetic qualities was hard to wrap my head around, but I was really unprepared for this:The designer, Annie Brahler, has hung the painting directly on the bookshelf, thus physically preventing anyone from using the books behind it.

As the inimitable Adam Horovitz once remarked, "Something's going on and I'll prob'ly never get it."


Anonymous said...


triple wtf?

Heidi said...

You know what's even worse? When you go to someone's house and there's no bookshelf at all... I always wonder, "What on EARTH am I going to do when I get bored here?"

sara said...

oooohh... now I want to show you MY bookshelf!!!

Nicole said...

i too tend to actually read my books, though i confess that my bookshelves do display the occasional (small) picture frame. however, i would never hang a picture in front of the books. that truly is ridiculous.

Resha Valentine said...

LOL i know what you mean...

one thing i also dont get it why would one buy a book just for show. someone would go "oh you have a copy of blah blah blah" and you can go all smug and be "oh yeah" but then when they ask you what its about and you go ". . . "
ya know