Monday, March 25, 2013

Diana Vreeland's Bookshelves

Diana Vreeland's Bookshelves
The late, great Diana Vreeland (1903-1989) brought singular style to every aspect of her life.  As the Editor in Chief of Harper's Bazaar from 1936 to 1962, and of Vogue from 1963-1971, then later as the adviser on costumes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she lived an exceptionally glamorous life. Her clients ranged from Jacqueline Kennedy who adored her, to major and minor royalty, movie stars and the very wealthy. The surroundings Vreeland created for herself, notably the red living room she described as "a garden in hell", became part of her legend.

This glimpse of her bookshelves that I found on Pinterest* tells you quite a bit about her worldly, creative, complex, rich point of view, and provides a few design lessons, as well. When you study the shelves, you'll notice that they aren't neat and tidy, or obviously styled. Vreeland placed some things with intent, while she placed others just because she found a spot for them. You can tell that she wasn't a design snob, because you see art and treasured photographs, along with quirky mementos. The drawing of her by famed photographer Cecil Beaton is behind the horn on the right side. 

Notice that the basic structure of the shelves didn't limit how she used them.  She hung things on the back and on the outside frame, and she placed some things horizontally and other vertically, with things on top of other things. There was a similarity of hue in the contents overall, but with a pop or two of red, her signature color. Of course there are books, but a couple of books appear to have post-it notes! Diana Vreeland's bookshelves reflected who she was, and they served her well. 

Here's what I learned from Diana Vreeland's bookshelves:
  • DO: Use every side of the structure. Don't limit yourself to the shelves.
  • DO: Display a variety of objects, but choose ones that relate well to each other.
  • DO: Use repetition of color, content, form, etc. to create a cohesive look.
  • DO: Make it personal. Choose things that have meaning to you. 
  • DON'T: Be too serious. Allow room for a little humor or whimsy.
  • DO: Allow more breathing room for the contents of your shelves than Diana did.
DV in her famous red living room. 

In this room, too much wasn't enough, but considering the name she gave it, you know that she was in on the joke. 


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