The Bookshelf: the mirror

August 3rd, 2010



Upon first visiting the home of a friend, colleague, or romantic interest of sorts, I snoop. We all do, so admit it. I don't go as far as opening cabinets and closets, but I assess the order of the room, the art on the wall, and if there is a bookshelf, I am drawn to it with an almost irrepressible curiosity.

Aside from multitasking as efficient insolation during the blustery winter months, a wall of books intimately reveals the personality and interests of the person who stocked it. Upon a quick glance, one can gauge the owners level of education, the span of their interests, and to an extent, their ambitions in life. Are their shelves filled with travel books [and have the pages been dog-eared or the spines broken, indicating that they have actually traveled to these places]? Are they from Barnes & Noble or are they the type to get lost in secondhand bookstores? Are there any old or valuable books? Fiction? Non-fiction? Foreign Languages? Machiavelli, Edith Wharton, Capote, or Sedaris? Are there an alarming number of self-help books? Has their collection been contrived knowing that people like me will be perusing the titles and inferring broad personal conclusions from them? All these details piece together to construct a multifaceted persona that is likely to be more honest than their profile.

The words filling the pages on those shelves are as incriminating as the shelves themselves. Like any piece of furniture, the bookshelf is a bold representation of the owner's style, or lack thereof. If the shelf is of high quality, it suggests that the books, art, and collectibles they hold are prized possessions. Is it a built-in system or a midcentury modular system? This can indicate either a preference for stability or a propensity to pick up and go. At this point in my life, it is the latter that appeals to me, for its ease to assemble and disassemble, its multitude of arrangement possibilities, also for the clean minimalist aesthetic. In midcentury Danish design, Kai Kristiansen and Poul Cadovius designed the most popular modular shelving systems. Both systems are quite similar, but have notable aesthetic and mechanical differences. Kristianson's FM system or FM-reolen features metal wall standards and often rosewood storage pieces that creates a pleasing juxtaposition of utility and luxury. The Cado system, aptly named after Cadovius, is visually a bit warmer, with teak wall standards supporting the teak storage units with golden brass rods angled at a 45 to support the outer edge of the shelving units. So embrace your style, cultural knick-knacks, and conglomeration of literature, for even if your shelves are stocked with comics, romance novels, and Troll dolls, I believe it is of greater offense to have none at all.

Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics

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