Notes From the Field: The Arrangement

November 19, 2012

By Cheryl Katz

A few weeks ago my friend Claudia invited me over. Claudia knew that she didn’t need to offer coffee or hint that she had some good gossip to share in order to lure me to her house that day. All she had to do was mention that her bookcases were in need of a little rearranging.

I love arranging–or as my kids used to say when they were small, “playing store.†Arranging is my idea of a good time. Putting things in order, making sense out of a jumble, is not only relaxing and rewarding work, but often results in something that is aesthetically pleasing.

While arranging drawers and cabinets is loads of fun, arranging a bookcase is a real high point. This is due, in no small measure, to the fact that I am obsessed with books. Their bindings, especially when denuded of dust jackets, their gold-lettered spines, their bookmarked and (forgive me librarians) dog-eared pages, and their smell thrill me. (I’ve often wished that the French parfumier Frederic Malle would develop a scent called Used Book.)

Aside from the magic of stories and story telling revealed in books, the designer in me loves how books make a room feel. My cold weather fantasy involves a cozy blanket, a comfortable chair, a room lined with books and a day spent reading.

Claudia, who is a writer, shares this obsession. Our visit lasted a good couple of hours and included taking all the books off the shelf and deciding how to arrange them-in alphabetical order, by subject, by size, by color (the latter quickly vetoed as just too-too). Re-shelving them by subject, we made sure to line the books up with the edge of the shelf (a cardinal rule) and then added a few  objects and photographs to the mix.

When we were finished and I was getting ready to leave, Claudia said,  “Blog about this.†So I did.

Photo by Jeffrey Katz

NY architect Tarek Ashkar, designed the bookcase in his living room around his vast book collection, measuring the height of his books in order that they fit securely in the case. There is a ledge for his paintings and a few drawers for other treasures as well.

Photo by Lauren Leja

The bookcase in Lauren Leja’s, a local fashionista and flea market maven, living room.

Photo by Jeffrey Katz

My cookbook collection in a bookcase once used as a store fixture.

Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

A curtain can be drawn to hide the bookshelves.

Photo courtesy of House Beautiful

A perfect reading spot.

Photo by Jeffrey Katz

The well used design books at our studio.

Photo courtesy of Mineheart Wallpaper

If you can’t abide organizing your bookshelf or, prefer a Tablet to a stack, consider this trompe l’oeil wallpaper.

For more ideas on curating the perfect bookshelf, check out:

Acquiring Minds: Shelves are for more than just books.