Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Make Room for (Real) Books

   "In addition to their own worth, books do a lot of decorating. Old books add the same patina to a room as do good antiques."

David Easton, Charles Faudree Home

I can't imagine living in a house that didn't have lots of books, because they've been an essential part of my life since I learned to read. In this house there are books in nearly every room, and I love many of them for their beauty and history, as much as for the information they contain and lie waiting to share. Although I appreciate the virtues of e-readers, and use one, it will never completely replace what I consider to be the real thing. 

Living With Books

Gardening Books in the Family Room
Over the years I've collected the classics, as well as books on gardening, art, design, travel, poetry, computers, crafts, business and more, and keep them in the room where their presence makes sense, like cookbooks in the kitchen, business books in the office, and the gardening, reference, poetry and children's books at my fingertips in the family room. It also helps me to know where to search when I want a book on a particular topic.

During the year, I bring some books out of their slumber on a shelf to more prominent positions, choosing them because they're appropriate to the season, like the pumpkin cookbook or the Christmas books, or because the cover adds a particular color.  The decorative role of books is well known, and designers often buy libraries of books, or books by the yard, because the bindings are beautiful and they're an essential prop for staging shelves.  

Some Antique Books From My Family

There's a special place in my heart for my small collection of antique books, and I keep them out most of the time for personal and decorative reasons, even though many are in pretty bad condition. Some were birthday presents from my Uncle Bob, who placed an index card in each describing the book and which ancestor it came from. One of the oldest, "Cobb's Spelling Book", belonged to Elizabeth T. Lines of Oxfordshire, England (mother of my great grandmother Medora Warner LeRoy), who signed and dated it in 1833.

"Cobb's Spelling Book" (1832)

The history book below belonged to my great great grandmother, Abigail Carpenter LeRoy, who gave birth to twelve daughters before having a son, whom the jubilant parents named George Washington LeRoy. I can't imagine what it was like for little George to have a dozen sisters...

"History of the United States "(1841)
Although they certainly have the patina of age that David Easton mentions, I don't know that these battered and tattered antique books measure up to the level of quality he had in mind, but it doesn't matter. To me, they're beautiful and I love having them around. Since they're fragile and can't be read very easily, I stack them to create little platforms, and sometimes put something on the top, like a small vase with fresh flowers.

Whether your books are old or new, there are many creative ways to use them in your home, including the simple approach of treating the cover as a work of art by leaning it on the back of a shelf. If you need help, there are books on how to decorate with books, including artistic shelving systems. You also can find inspiring pictures on Pinterest and Houzz. 

Have Your Virtual Books and Real Ones Too

By all means use an e-reader, but appreciate real books too, and bring them out now and then for the pleasure of their company. Be selective about the ones you display. Text books, paperbacks, manuals aren't very decorative.

This quote says it all:

"A room without books is like a body without a soul"

If Cicero were alive today, I'm pretty sure he'd still mean it.

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