Thursday, January 13, 2011

Decorating with Books

The new Pottery Barn catalog came in the mail yesterday. I like the direction they're going, but couldn't get my mind around the "bundle of books" above. This is what Pottery Barn says about the description:

"Avid readers know that a stack of books can be a comforting sight. We've taken authentic vintage books and turned them into art objects by removing their covers and binding them together in sets of four. Neutral in color with deckled and uneven pages, they bring relaxed style to a bookcase, mantel or side table."

Ok, why remove the covers on vintage books? And why bundle them together? I don't get it!

Here are some authentic vintage books on my bookshelf that are neutral in color. It's true, they are a comforting sight for this avid reader.

Pottery Barn continues the description:
"Each bundle features four real books with covers removed so that they are all paper.
Pages are glued shut and books are tied together with twine....

....Purely decorative; content and title are not important."
Although the cover fell of this book, its content and title are still very important.

This avid reader is not comforted knowing the pages are also glued shut!
So why pay $39 for four books that are completely unreadable? Oh, I forgot, they are "purely decorative....."

Pottery Barn was right about the comforting sight of a stack of books.

Which brings me to the subject of "Decorating with Books."
Books have always been an integral part of the decor in our homes.
Even if it's just a dictionary or a Bible, they are an important part of our lives.
They can also be the anchor in a room, like the library above.

Libraries are also a comfort, at least for me.
Alassandra Branca's red library is simply wonderful!
I hope to someday create a room like this in my home.

Another favorite image is this library designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber.

There is definitely an art to arranging books on a shelf. I came across a great tutorial by Elizabeth Mayhew of House Beautiful on how to design a bookshelf so that it is more than just a bunch of books all lined up.

Step One: Empty your shelves. Then paint the backs, or line with wallpaper.

Step Two: Sort books by size and color. Line books, some vertically, some horizontal on the shelves.
This will alleviate the monotony of rows.

Step Three: Fill unused space with attractive boxes that can also be used for storage.

Step Four: Start adding family photographs, ceramics or other objects d'art.

Step Five: Be daring and hang a print on the shelf moulding.

The finished bookcase. Isn't it beautiful?
This is what I call "Decorating with Books!"

(Disclaimer: No books were harmed in the process. Their covers were not ripped off, their pages were not glued shut and they were not tied up with twine.)

Now, go read a book!

PS: I still love you Pottery Barn!

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Tardevil said...

Couldn't agree more. I much prefer the books w/ covers, that aren't glued shut. Guess it goes w/ all the neutral colors that are out there now.

Thoughtfully Blended Hearts said...


Kathy Walker said...

Boo Pottery Barn....I cannot imagine destroying bound books by removing the covers and gluing them! I prefer the real thing!

Anne said...

Well put! I couldn't agree more.

Julie Harward said...

I so agree, makes me think of the saying, "A fool and his money are easily parted!" And, "Some people have more money than brains!" Who would buy these? Just to say, "I got it at Pottery Barn?" Crazy! ;D

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Delores,

You certainly deserve to be applauded for speaking up for READING REAL BOOKS! They are never 'only' decorative. The saying of: 'Show me your books and I will tell you what kind of person you are...' speaks even louder to the sealed up and glued SHUT Pottery Barn bundles of $ 39.00.
What statement are they trying to make? It's a looser in a society with highly educated people!

Lots of love,

Mariette's Back to Basics

Sue said...

I agree with you about the absurdity of removing beautiful book covers and going one step further to glue the pages together rendering it unreadable. Who are the people that will find these things desirable?

Donna@Conghaile Cottage said...

"THANK YOU SO MUCH" for this post!!! I have been FLOORED by them doing this for some time... I'm also sickened by the reverse book look! DUH, Isn't that like having FILES WITH NO Identification... SHAME on them! I own an extensive library and am PROUD of every edition and addition I make to it. LOTS of antique books, some first editions and LOTS autographed. I call these pottery barn bundles, BOOKS for the "Illiterate"...
Thank you for posting this!!!
Hugs to you, Donna

a quiet life said...

why not just tie a ribbon around blocks of wood and sell them...

Glenda/MidSouth said...

Thank You!! :)

Tammy@Beatrice Banks said...

Agreed. I love to decorate with books almost as much as pillows. ;) Great post!

Gerry said...

Amen!!! I couldn't agree with you more.

Millie said...

Hear! Hear! You are so right!
I just couldn't understand why anyone would lay out hard earned cash for that!


LOL! I have to say, that elevates consumerism for consumerism's sake to a new level. Used to be, only the wealthy who could afford (and read) had books. Now the wealthy want books that are destroyed and "purely decorative". That's just silly. And the current trend of ripping off the covers, while giving a nice texture and color to a room, bothers me as well. I think I'll just do like you and use my functional books as decor items so they can multi-task like the rest of us!


Komali Nunna said...

Great post, Delores.I love to decorate with books.

southerninspiration said...

wow, so many more than I expected to agree! bravo, i agree completely!!!

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dear Delores,

Well, for having lost a couple of followers, that speaks book volumes about THEM; NOT YOU!

Don't worry; keep your own class and style ~ that is everlasting!

Mariette's Back to Basics

Tamra said...

I love this post but I have to say I am a fan of the "No cover" books. I just love the look of them. However, I think the price tag is ridiculous to say the least. I just grab old books from garage sales or thrift stores for pennies, rip off the covers and place them where I want.

Although I am a voracious reader and love to have many books laying around, there's just something about the creamy, neutral color of these bare books that I love. I like to mix them both.

Love your disclaimer too!

Tammy said...

I so agree with you Delores. I never really understood this "decorating style" of taking the covers off books and bundling them up with twine. I perfer seeing and enjoying books in the state they were meant to be in, with covers and not glued closed. Thank you! Tammy

Vintage Gal said...

Yay for you ~ Love this post. I love books. I have books everywhere in my decor at home. I have seen books without covers wrapped in twine and I must say I like the look. However, you can find books with no cover at flea markets, tag sales etc., ;-)

Burlap Luxe said...

Hi Delores,
I so get where Pottery Barn is coming from!

Sorry to say as a designer with so many books there is no comparison to the old vintage ones with history.

Like movies of old that are european in flavor and old warehouse shops that have tattered books beyond repair you take notice of the ones that have gathered up without covers. I just LOVE these old books in lost and found with very little life left in them but the words they hold.

I adore that natural look of used old books as a piece of artful fancy. I too am guilty of this design style, it does make ones heart fill with passion when mixed with other pieces that add to a sense of style.

I am not sure I feel so bad about that old cover that has finally fell off its binding. I will salvage the book and place it in its own special place wher it gets its own attention.
I have one with out a cover that sits on my nightstand next to my bed that I read often, it has no cover and is cream with age in keeping with my lack of color in my bedroom. I love seeing it sit there reminding me not all things have to be perfect to bring love and joy into our home.
The book is "when God winks at you"
When I read it from time to time I find myself winking back, and thanking him for all the creative beauty given to us.

Come fo a visit you beautiful soul.
Come visit my Romantic aviary retreats.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of this new trend. Nor am I a fan of a couple of other looks gracing the decor magazines of late. Such as covering all your books in an identical white paper, no titles showing. Or the one with all books facing the wrong way in the book case with the spines in and the pages facing out. Craziness. You simply cannot IMPROVE upon the look of a well loved book.

Dawn said...

I really LOVE this post!! I couldn't agree more...I have seen lots of blogs lately in blogland doing similar things to books like PB, their homes seem to much more neutral/white than mine, but I love color and I LOVE books. The reason I decide to purchase one is based off of the color of the cover...why would I want to rip it of ?!?!? :)

Terri M said...

One of the interesting things about visiting someone's home for the first time is eyeing all the books on the shelves, and gaining some insight into the persons interests and hobbies. How boring to be greeting with a wall of blank books, such as stated by someone above. Our books are windows into our souls. I hope mine is not blank

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

Good post. I don't like to read, but I do love using books for decorating. I used the same PB pic in a recent post and so did another blogger the other day. I think everyone is blown away at the price of that book bundle. I buy 50 cent books at a thrift store to tear covers off of not good ones. The good leather ones are what I am collecting. I would never rip those up.

Anonymous said...

The origins of the word 'blasphemy' include using a good thing for a low purpose...

Pinky at Designs by Pinky said...

I have to say, YES!!! I so agree!!!! I, too, am an avid reader and LOVE books. Just this morning I went through some books and made a box and labeled it "books to read", I have many that I haven't gotten to yet. I also LOVE color!!! I will never be into the latest trend of all neutral/white surrounds. It is SO boring to me, but then that's what makes each of us unique! I want/need my home to be comforatble, warm, inviting and ME! Thanks for this post!!! BTW, I LOVE your style!!!! And I also love that red library that you showed! XO, Pinky

Burlap Luxe said...

Hi Delores,
REturn visit...You are going to get far more agreeing with you then not. I think that the lack of book cover craze is do to the Euro chicness of the Flea Market movement, and trend of all things natural.

Like Burlap, feed sacks, linens and such. An Anthropology/ Anthropologie look!! As well as everyone getting on the band wagon of a trendy collective style.

I am so with you on the book covers taken off for a big reason of sales. I am not sure they are taken of the famous classics, if so hmmmm! I do have mixed feelings. I hope they are abused and they are still loved for the right reasons for art and the love of the material.

I feel with the up and going trend of the Nook readers we are going to see the passion for books on the shelves lessen and this is oh so very sad to me! I could see me posting about the Nook lacking that beautiful book smell :)

Thank you dear one for your beautiful post and visit.

On Crooked Creek said...

I LOVED your post today! Like you, I thought Pottery Barn might have made more income had they sold those books with the covers intact and readable! Vintage books are becoming a rare find. Why destroy them?
Your display on your bookshelves is elegant done. Thank you for such and inspiring post!
P.S. I buy vintage books to use as risers to heighten my objects in display besides reading.

Unknown said...

I don't see any monotony in rows of books personally. That first library picture that you posted, doesn't it look like a quilt behind that couch? Beautiful! All different colors - rich looking. I'd much rather have that then a colorless stack of four glued together coverless books!

Marlis said...

could not have said it better.. glued shut? torn covers? that is sacrilege!!

Vava (aka Virginia) said...

Thank you for speaking for us! I mean-really. Give me books. Real ones. On shelves, atop tables, on the floor. But make 'em REAL!

NanaDiana said...

I wonder what someone will think someday when we are part of some great "dig" and the generations of the future see our books with the covers off and the pages glued together? Perhaps they will think that we had some sort of magical powers that allowed us to put the books to our forehead and KNOW what was printed inside. A kind of ESP for books.

I love books. I have lots of books and have read just about every one of them- except the ones on the "to read" shelf. I read to my kids when they were little and I read to my grandkids at nighttime now when they are here. There is nothing quite like the printed word, is there?

I think it is okay for people to decorate with books their own way..and there are lots of "crummy" books out there that aren't worth a second read, let alone a first..and it might serve a higher purpose to use all of those for glued shut decorations...just sayin... xxoo Diana

Unknown said...

I agree with you. I love the color of the covers and the wear from being read. That is much more decorative to me than books with no cover. Pages glued together.....give me a break!!

Lizabeth said...

I agree it's just silly... either decorate with books or dont- but why make a bundle like those? Are they for kindling? To me it's just ridiculous....I can't really imagine anybody looking at those and feeling any kind of comfort...we are getting silly when we decorate like that...I too love Pottery Barn, but nobody is perfect!

Kathy said...

I am totally with you and have yet to destroy any book, just couldn't do it...never found it an appealing look..

The Polka Dot Closet said...

I think they meant to say "We have removed all of their personality and put them in a boring bundle" LOL


Linda in AZ * said...

* Delores, while "scrolling down" to leave my comment (which is basically one of "shock n' awe" at such an "INSULT" to books in general!), I caught parts of the comments from others, & it seems we're ALL in agreement...

Sooo, my QUESTION is going to be pretty "HONEST and BLUNT"... what IDIOT would actually BUY THOSE???

...and WHAT, in heaven's name, can "THEY" be THINKING??? Oh... my... goodness!!! Books turned around backwards??? Pages GLUED together??? Taking off the original covers & "REcovering" them with say, white (or worse yet, color-coordinated-to-the-space) paper??? What WILL "they" think of next??? ~~~ "How to perform "Brain Surgery" at Home & Save the Surgeon's Fees?"...

I' ve ALWAYS wanted to turn a "formal dining room" into a library used for occassional AND "formal" dining AND reading... I can think of nothing more beautiful and fascinating, not to mention there could never be one of those rare "moments of silence" in a space like THAT???

Gotta run~~~ Have some new decorating books waiting on MY side of the bed... and YES, I CAN tell them apart because they DO have their "covers"... (Geesh, huh???)... (AND BTW, I LOVVVVE it when I've READ a book sooo many times that the cover is all "used n' crappy looking!"... simply love it!!!)~

Big hugs & "good reading", m' friend!
Linda in AZ *

lvroftiques said...

Oh thank you for saying this! Every time I see a pile of books with their covers torn off I wonder what dear books were lost? It makes me sad. Yes I love things to look old and timeworn....because they actually ARE old and timeworn! That patina is earned.....But I guess that's just me. Vanna

Sheila said...

Covers torn off, pages glued together, tied together with twine, $39.00. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The only people goofier than the ones who came up with this stupid idea are the ones paying good money to buy them. Apparently they have money to burn, err, uh, destroy. Fools. It's part of the decor theme this season for Pottery Barn and they figured out they can actually sell this stuff to people. It's almost unbelievable.

Lori @ Dining Delight said...

Totally agree! With the introduction of all the new "techno-type" books and downloading books to read on computers, I have a feeling actual books with real covers and pages will eventually become a thing of the past. We should treasure books of all kinds and not be tearing off covers and gluing pages together as a decorative trend!


Kathysue said...

Great post Delores, I so agree with you, never take the beautiful covers off unless they happen to fall off on their own. Books are to be read not to be ripped up!!!
From all the comments it appears that the people have spoken!! Kudos to you for writing this insightful and thought provoking post, great job!! xo Kathysue

home before dark said...

I so stand up and salute you on this topic. I have been scoffed on other "so with it today" blogs for rising up in defense of books allowed to be books. I have books in almost every room of my house. They comfort me. The remind me. They entertain me. They inform me. One of the most lovely things my lovely husband has ever said to me, "A book in your hands is never wasted."

Regarding covers: sometimes I do take the covers off when I think the spine is actually more beautiful. I like the lilt of sunlight or candlelight on gilded books...

Kelly said...

I just have to say that I think you're taking this "book bundle" thing way too far and way too serious. I'm sure these are just mass produced and not actually high end great novels that were worth anything to begin with. We are talking Pottery Barn here! I think the idea of taking covers off an "ugly" cheap paperback book is fine. They are cheap to begin with and it's actually a way to recycle something. Tying them in a bundle is just for effect. What's the harm? We re-paint fine furniture and it's ALL over blogs. I don't see how this is any different. Sorry, I just have to disagree with you.

Ann in SFBA said...

Well, I was taught as a child to never deface a book in any way...don't write in it, dogear pages or anything. I still wince when highlighting or making margin notes as I read.

I've seen intact, often expensive books offered and sold by the yard for decorating purposes and imagined that the homeowners will not read or even know their titles. This feels a bit empty to me.

I am a reader and I love books. My house overflows with shelved and floor-stacked books in every room. I am often asked if I've read them all and the answer is yes, except for the ones waiting to be read.

I'm fortunate to have inherited three small antique family volumes. Two are 19th C personal travel journals with marbled covers filled with tiny almost unreadable script. The third is a small leather-bound bible that belonged to my grandmother. Her name is engraved in gold on the front cover. The bible's binding is damaged and the front cover no longer attached. I suppose it could be repaired, but it's not at the top of my list.

I wanted to display these books as objets of interest, but for the longest couldn't think how. Several years ago I saw a stack of books somewhere tied together with twine. i now have my little stack of three tied with a narrow vintage ivory ribbon. They look beautiful and can easily be untied if someone wants to read them.

I'm not a total purist, but I'm not a fan of faux. And faux books are just a bit beyonf the pale for me.

Jewel Sauls said...

I didn't look through the PB catalog yet - thanks for the warning! I am Horrified!!!! Title and Content not important.
I deplore the disposable mindset in our society. Thanks for bring this to everyone's attention.

Elise Lowerison said...

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Dee said...

THANK YOU! No a librarian and as a bibliophile..THANK YOU for this post!!! I cringe each time I see someone rip up a book on one of the decorating blogs because Pottery Barn has said it is okay. You are currently my HERO!:)

La Dolfina said...

What an awesome post Dolores!!!
Get ready to see a ton of books at the White Elephant Sale at the end of the month!! You're in right?
Call me so we can make arrangements.
Hope you are enjoying this gorgeous weekend :)

The Tablescaper said...

I agree with you completely. Why dismember a book and take off it's beautiful cover, let alone glue the pages shut?

- The Tablescaper

Sylvia said...

I'd be willing to bet that the PB books aren't "vintage" at all. With no cover, no title page, and the pages glued together who would know? We have tons of books and if I wanted to do this, I would get junk hardbacks and go for it. The same with the book page wreaths. Just use junk books.

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