Decorating & Design

December 24, 2009

Stunning Bookshelves

There’s something to be said for the unstyled bookshelf. Free of embellishments, books plainly piled recall the modern beauty of a Donald Judd stack. Like in this beautiful image from Oly Studio, I change up the look every once in a while by arranging books with the pages facing out. It creates a quieter, more uniform look and is significantly less time consuming than covering your collection in kraft paper. (H&H style editor Sarah Hartill and I once did this for a photo shoot and it took FOREVER.) It also puts the character and charm of dog-eared pages on display. The approach works here because you can read the spines from the side.

bookcase with white couch

While we’re on the topic of books, how many is too many?

An architect friend of mine limits herself to one small bookshelf. If a new book doesn’t fit, an old one must be given away. On the other hand, J, a book editor, lives in a tiny apartment crowded with books. I’m constantly encouraging him to purge. He’s constantly ignoring me. If he had stairs, they would look like these:

staircase book display

J might find a hero in architect Richard Meier, who has books stacked all over his apartment.

portrait of Meier room

I kinda love the zaniness of this excess in Meier’s otherwise sleek New York space. Just don’t tell J I said so.

landscape Meier room bookcase wall

Photo credits:
Oly Studio Stella Shelf
2. Stairs, photography by Prue Ruscoe from
Desire to Inspire June 5, 2009
3. Photography by Oberto Gili from, shot for the November 2007 issue of House & Garden
4. Photography by Oberto Gili from, shot for the November 2007 issue of House & Garden