Thursday, August 7, 2014


When you love two things equally it's a tough decision picking one over the other. We have an area at home we refer to as the snug. When used as a noun it's an English term meaning a small cozy place where only a few can sit. Using this definition our room fits perfectly within that description. The room used to be an open porch. Over the years it was enclosed with a band of windows and a door leading out to the backyard. It wasn't heated or insulated. During the winter it was closed off only admired through the windows of the French doors leading from the dining room and down a makeshift step into the room. My mother used the room as a storage area for her cookbooks and a game room filled with toys we had all grown out of years ago. When we took over the house two years ago we added the bookcases and but in thermal windows insulating the room against the harsh winter so we could keep it open year round.
The room has a chaise and single chair, seating for two. It was our friends JoHannah and Adam, who when visiting for Thanksgiving, insisted on calling it the snug. Adam is British. The term stuck. It may seem a bit pretentious but the term embodies the true quality of the space.
We began filling the room with our own collection of books; cookbooks, gardening books, vintage editions of the classics, torrid novels and part of our photography book collection. The books now spill out of the shelves and onto the floor and any other flat surface they end up resting on. The entire series of Martha Stewart's "Living" magazines circle around the room on a ledge suspended over the windows. An eclectic menagerie of crystal balls, vintage globes, ceramic vases and floral oils painted by weekend painters began filling in the gaps to breakup the continuous lines of book spines filling the shelves and cases. We've now arrived at the cliff where we risk falling into the pit referred to as hoarding if we continue trying to cram one more thing into the snug. The dilemma pits us against the choice we have to make. Do we stop and weed, do we continue in the direction we are going knowing that one day our daughter will come back and discover one of us dead and buried under a collection of mildewing ephemera, or do we look "outside the box" at an alternative solution?
There's a whole set of designers and homeowners facing a similar situation. One solution we've been toying with, and the whole purpose of this posting, is hanging some of our artwork in front of the books. You're overlapping two creative fields when you do this. The questions that arise are: is it functional, does it position one art form as being more significant than the other, and/or does this say something about the beauty of the space being more important than the material it contains?
Magazines have shown us bookcases filled with books categorized by the color of the book jackets. Beautiful yes, but I'd be hard pressed to remember if my copy of "Bel Conto" was red or navy blue.
There are retailers, I now see Restoration Hardware has joined the fray, providing faux books you can purchase to give your library the look of books without having to actually own a book. As silly as this sounds, it's a problem I've run into recently where I thought this might be the perfect solution. As new generations move into older homes the question of what to do with the library is going to become a more valid question to ask. My most recent client is completely a product of the technological age. They don't own a single book. This in no way means that they don't read. It only means that their entire library exists on a single paperless devise. The home they purchased had a magnificent library I had to somehow figure out a way to fill. The idea of the faux books with a little space for their Kindles was high on my list of possibilities.
So back to hanging art in front of literature.
I've found some examples where the users have decided to hang art in front of books.
I don't think this means you can't get to the tomes behind the art. It only makes it a little more difficult. I kinda like the marriage of the two,
but it does seem to work best when either the library is large
or the books behind are few.
I'm afraid our snug is both too small and too crammed already for this to work, but we're still on the fence on this one.

Gertrude Stein in Her Salon Writing, 1920
Man Ray, photographer
Found at Beinecke Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT

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