Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bookshelves, 1: Me, 0

It's been a trying time around here, in our household. We have three kids, all currently trying to get in to institutes of higher learning.

The waiting for acceptance letters--and the worrying that maybe there won't be any--is grinding us all down.

Usually, when I'm down or frustrated or worried, I look around for something to fix up. A garage to clean, a closet to reorganize, a junk drawer to purge: it helps, somehow.

So this past week my eyes landed on our overstuffed living room bookshelves:

Now, we like books. We've got a lot of 'em. We like to keep them out where we can look at them and riffle through them. But lately the bookshelves have spiraled out of control.

Books piled in front of more books. Books piled willy-nilly. And no particular rhyme or reason to why they're on one shelf versus another.

Clearly a purge was in order.

I began by asking every book to explain itself. "Why are you on our shelves?," I demanded. "What is the chance you're ever going to be re-read?" "Who would miss you if you left?"

More than 80 books couldn't answer the questions well, so off they go to charity.

With the shelves somewhat lightened from their overload, I began to play and fiddle. First, I gathered up all my oldest books--the ones with leather binding, gold stamping, and other lovely touches.

Then I grouped some of these vintage volumes together by color:

I sprinkled in some cherished art amongst the old books:

I tried to treat each shelf like a little tabletop and make pleasing vignettes, as designer Nate Berkus suggests:

And then I realized that I don't love it.

All that vintage stuff clumped together looks...OLD. Fuddy duddy. Grandmotherly.

Dangit. So I must figure out a new plan of attack for the living room shelves.

In the meantime, I've got some great stuff for the charity pile.

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