Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What to do about my boho (read: messy & unstyled) bookcase

BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
Gali Cnaani photos via Huffington Post

Like the above photos? These are the books and shelves of textile artist Gali Cnaani, who decided to arrange her reading material to resemble the end-product she usually designs for: fabric.

It was a temporary arrangement, and she enjoyed watching friends discover what it was they were really looking at. She told the Huffington Post the epiphany came while she was working on a Tel Aviv exhibit about construction and deconstruction. 

“When you examine a physical book apart from its usual function, you find a complicated and versatile object,” she said. “It has six different faces, it can be soft and hard at the same time, it is colorful even when it is monochrome, it can double its size when you open it, it can change its thickness while you’re turning pages.”

Cnaani admitted no one in her house could actually READ a book during the time she kept the display up—even though she’d inadvertently arranged the tomes by genre—because all books were "occupied" in the service of art.


Despite its impracticality for everyday living, the experiment lives on in a trend...


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
Our Fifth House

…Shelving books spines to the back and leaves to the front. It’s great for those who want to soften the look of their books, add consistency, or stick to a neutral palette. But it’s not so handy for finding what you want to read when you need it.


Here’s another option…


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Viv Yapp photo via Apartment Therapy

…Arrange books by color. I used to make fun of people who did this, but then I read another blogger’s post about how she actually remembers her books by color. So if that’s how your brain works, then that’s how you should do it. I confess, it does look pretty—like a pointillist painting.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
SF Girl By Bay photo

A variation on this might be to make paper or fabric covers for all your books in matching and/or coordinating colors and patterns. But it will take a lot of material if you, like me, have a lot of books. And make sure you label the spines so you know what's under wraps, okay?


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
Lonny photo

I can't help it, but camouflaging books seems a thousand kinds of silly to me. Because displayed spine out or cover up, books are so beautiful in and of themselves. That said, a shelf of oft-used books, regardless of how it’s organized, will get messy over time and need tidying up. And that’s where I’m at—the tidying-up stage. Or where I WAS prior to this weekend.


Some background…


We had built-ins at our previous house, which Chris designed and built. They took up an entire 15-foot wall, floor to ceiling, and we had no trouble filling them. When it came time to put the ol’ homestead on the market, we pared down, donated, and packed away a lot of our (mostly MY) books. I pulled from my stash of excess home décor items to style the shelves so they looked spacious, decorative and tidy, like the asset they were. What prospective buyer doesn't love a built-in, right?


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

When we bought our condo we purchased these three matching shelving units to fill one partial wall in the room that would be my office. My desk is to the right of the chair, and the front door is to the right of where I’m standing to take this picture. So these shelves are one of the first things a visitor sees upon entering.
The arrangement isn't too horrible, but neither is it anything special.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

The matching baskets I bought add storage for items other than books—craft supplies, my stash of décor stuff, office supplies, and what not. But they eventually get overfilled and look a little messy, as you can see. Every year or so the entire storage unit cries out for rearrangment, and it generally takes me another six months to figure out a solution and implement it.


Here’s what I’ve been seeing that I like…


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
Clements Design

Gracefully unstyled shelves.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
Via Little Green Notebook

Here’s another one. Notice how the books rotate vertical and horizontal, vertical and horizontal, thus breaking the monotony of traditional book shelving. And still the books are findable, usable, re-shelvable, and show evidence of interaction with daily life.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
Via The French Tangerine

This variation mixes in a few more décor items, but all books are displayed spine out, either upright or on their backs in stacks. Magazines are organized neatly in matching sleeves.


The reason this is a tough chore for me…


I'm a wee bit of a purist when it comes to organizing my books. I taught English, okay? I majored in journalism and English. My library—any library—is a friend

So I arrange my own collections of poetry, fiction, biography, and creative nonfiction by genre. That’s what I have the most of, so within those categories I arrange alphabetically by author. Anal, right? Actually, it makes it possible to find what I'm looking for because I have another weird habit: I actually refer back to books previously read, over and over.

All my reference books are shelved together, and the remaining nonfiction books I organize by subject—history, interior design, gardening, cookbooks, mythology, whatever. Like a library. (No, I do not put Dewey Decimal numbers on the spines, and no, I don't own a card catalog, though I'd like to.) 

You see, I have a natural fear of arranging books as if they were mere objects. Heck, when I buy coffee table books I actually read them as well. Weird, I know. But I see this alternating horizontal/vertical arrangement as a compromise that will keep the structure of my library intact but give it some pizzazz.


Let’s see how it worked…


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

Ta-dah!

I tidied up the baskets and changed the directions of the stacks. See my sundry shelf next to the chair? Now all my desk-side paraphernalia is IN that basket so it doesn’t look like I’m running a drugstore.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

In poetry, I kept the arrangement alphabetical by author, regardless of whether the book itself was vertical or horizontal, and the anthologies got stacked vertically at the end.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

Fiction and creative nonfiction share a shelf with the rest of the poetry. (Alas, I adore poetry!)


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

And just a few shelves—usually ones less full of books—sport a trinket.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

Nothing too busy, outlandish or hard to move, mind you.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

Just some pretties I bought because and couldn’t find the right place for.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

My favorite shelf is my interior design shelf, of course, which thankfully has room to grow. I do have other design books that might fill this shelf but are being used in vignettes around the house.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

I just love this white ceramic ampersand, which makes a great bookend or break. And I've been looking for matching typographic pieces but can't find them in white ceramic.

I actually loaned this beauty to my daughter because she was short of cash and needed some décor items to get her new house in shape for a party. I really hesitated giving her this one because I really like it, but I made the supreme sacrifice because I know how much she loves white accents. Turns out it just didn’t work for her, and I’m better than okay with that. It's found it's forever home, again.


Here’s before and after, side by side...


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

It’s a subtle change, but I like it. I can still find what I want when I want it, and Chris, who only objects when too many décor items clutter the shelves, approves as well.


BoHoHome.com @bohosusan
BoHo Home photo

And so what if Maisie says meh because she can no longer get behind the shelved books and push them off. Sometimes a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.


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