How, then, to devise the ultimate bookshelf design? People with means took actions to make sure their bookshelves were not only up to par, but also highly visible—whether on screen or off.
Ashley Tisdale, for one, caught attention earlier this spring for admitting that her bookshelf had been staged for AD’s Open Door shoot. But as Tisdale herself pointed out in the press that followed, designers have been doing this for years. Specialists such as On Clarendon Road, who promise to “curate a library for your home to reflect your interests, passions, and everything that you find utterly delightful,” have been hired to deck out yachts, nurseries, and hotels.
As The New York Times recently uncovered, stars are intentionally setting up photo ops to show off the latest It book (hand-picked by a celebrity “book stylist” of course). Some books—such as the black Tom Ford tome—have become so sought after as eye-candy for coffee tables that they are being faked and sold on Alibaba.
If the contents of a bookshelf are so important, the question is: When should designers enlist professionals to help? Freudenberger turns to experts for a hand in bookshelf design once “it gets deeper than putting some books on a shelf or finding a big book for a coffee table,” she says. This is especially true if a client wants a wall-to-wall library or an heirloom-quality collection that can be passed down.
Hiring a sophisticated service like On Clarendon Road is an option, but Freudenberger also recommends recruiting local help. “You can go to your local bookstore, and ask the owner to consider helping a client,” she said. “You can also get the help of a librarian.”
Christy Shannon Smirl, owner of Foxtail Books & Library Services, a company that curates home libraries, says clients approach her when bookshelves “need some wrangling”—that is, when they are very large and require many volumes to fill, or when publications need to fit specific dimensions. “We are able to efficiently organize and arrange hundreds or thousands of books into a design-forward space that is both beautiful and useful,” Smirl says.
She adds that designers also tend to come to her when they don’t have the time needed to be thoughtful about a book collection. “Designers already have a thousand or more decisions on their plates to create a beautiful home,” she said. “This is an easy outsource.”
Wine’s expertise is creating a library that has both style and substance. His company buys books from publishers, estates, and other collectors that reflect a client’s passions and interests, and transforms them to fit a specific aesthetic by printing custom book jackets. “You can send us a paint chip or a carpet sample, and we can make book jackets that have a certain color and texture,” he says. “If a client wants a classical, elegant feel, we will make jackets to reflect that.” A popular request from clients, for example, is to make beloved cookbooks look prettier in the kitchen.
“It used to be that you had to choose between wanting a book that was red and a book on a certain subject. Now you don’t have to settle,” he added. “For the first time ever you can have great books as well as beautiful designs.”
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