I have always been most interested in the question of what makes a house a home. What are the elements that move a house beyond its physical structure and provide the warmth that we all crave? In my fifteen years as a designer, I’ve come to understand that the answer is simple: It is about surrounding ourselves with things we love.
While exploring homes around the world for my first book, Surf Shack
, I came to the conclusion that if you start with your passions, beauty will follow. And in this case, the beauty comes from the owners’ love of books.
Books are beautiful objects in their own right—their bindings and covers—and the space they fill on shelves or stacked on coffee tables in colorful piles add balance and texture to any room. And just like any other part of a home, books require maintenance: They need to be dusted, categorized, rearranged, and maintained. Our relationship with them is dynamic and ever changing.
But our connection to them goes beyond the material. In each house we visited, the libraries were the heart of the home, meaningful to the collectors’ lives. In this book, we tried to capture what they brought to the home—the life and spirit books added. Some subjects have working libraries they constantly reference; others fill their shelves with the potential pleasures of the unread. When we visited the homes, many people could find favorite books almost by osmosis, using systems known only to themselves.
In choosing our subjects, we were not merely interested in the beautiful and perfectly curated rooms, the most extensive collections, or those shelves filled only with rare first editions—although there’s plenty of beauty on display. This book is not about unattainable libraries, any more than it is about perfectly decorated homes. Rather, it’s about the power of books to tell stories, in both the literal and figurative sense. As we found repeatedly, surrounding yourself with books you love tells the story of your life, your interests, your passions, your values. Your past and your future. Books allow us to escape, and our personal libraries allow us to invent the story of ourselves—and the legacy that we will leave behind.
There’s a famous quote attributed to Cicero: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” If I suspected this before, I know it now. I hope you’ll find as much pleasure in discovering these worlds as we did.
Copyright © 2019 by Nina Freudenberger. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.